Saving your money in a piggy bank

Before you set off to university you will need a bit of financial planning in the hope that you  avoid spending all of your student loan in Freshers’ Week and therefore can’t afford the train fare home at Christmas.

You’ll have about £12,382 (2021-2022 academic year) in a maintenance loan to last you the year if you live away from home in London, but the amount will depend on your household income. This may seem like an eye watering figure, more money than you’ve ever had in your bank account, but trust me, unless your parents are prepared to prop you up you’ll need to budget and count those pennies.

If you live at home, penny pinching may seem like an alien phrase, while you’ll have absolutely no idea about the price of anything. And having to pay utility bills will just sound foreign. 

Free budgeting apps

Don’t worry, give it a few months, and you’ll be a savvy spender in no time. The first thing to do is budget. Luckily, technology has advanced and there are plenty of free apps out there to help you along the way. They offer you the ability to set a daily/weekly/monthly budget, and give you a breakdown of your overspending if you end up exceeding it. 

Your budget should be made up of your essentials: first year students can expect to spend as much as £160 per week on rent in halls (in London), while you’ll also have to factor in food and essentials (shampoo, soap), going out, university bits and bobs (books, photocopying, art/design materials), the gym, society memberships, perhaps a weekly bus pass if you live far away from your lectures or town, and travel to and from your home.  

If you are in halls your internet, electricity and other utilities will be included in the price, however if you are living in private accommodation you’ll also have to pay for these and factor them into your budget.

Work out approximately how much you’ll spend over the year, remembering that your university accommodation won’t last the full year, while you’re student loan also has to get you through the holidays. 

You can also work out how much money you’ll have each year - this can include money from your student loan, a part-time job, holiday jobs, your parents and family, scholarships and bursaries.  

Once you’ve worked out how much money is coming in and how much is going out (you might have to approximate a bit if you’ve not got a term-time job at this point, and are intending to), you can work out, per week how much money is left over. This will be for socialising and clothes, birthday presents, and any small emergencies. You might also want to set aside some to use for a holiday. 

UCAS has a nifty calculator which gives you a monthly breakdown of how much you'll roughly need to live on for your university.

Where should I go if I need help?

Your university will have a Student Advice Centre to offer you advice if you’ve got any problems and will show you where to go for extra help if you need it. Many have support funds and bursaries you can access if you are in dire need. 

A few quick money saving tips

Food shopping - 

The average student spends between £30 and £40 on food per week. This might not sound like a lot of money, but it does add up quickly. You can save money on your food on a number of ways:

  • buy reduced food. Supermarkets reduce their prices approximately an hour before they close. Check out where all the supermarkets are near you so you can stock up cheaply before they close.
  • don’t listen to sell-buy dates
  • you might be used to the fridge being stocked up with food only from Waitrose, however supermarkets such as Lidl and Aldi offer quality products at much cheaper prices. If you’ve a cheaper supermarket near your university go and check it out
  • buy in bulk and cook in bulk - ingredients go much further when you plan what you are going to eat for the week.

Travel -

  • Invest in a 16-25 railcard which costs £30 a year (£70 for three years) but gives you a third off all train travel and the savings quickly add up - this is especially useful if you travel by train to and from university and home. 
  • If you find you’ve got to use a bus to nip around town on, perhaps your lectures are a good distance away from one another, you could think about investing in a bike - it’ll be an approximate £100 upfront, however you’ll be reaping the rewards a couple of months down the line

Pre-drink -

  • We shouldn’t really be advocating it, but drinks bought at the supermarket and drank at home are cheaper than those bought in clubs and pubs.