Wednesday, 2 September 2015

How To #22: How to Save Money for University

As a second year university student who is financially hapless, you couldn’t have come to a better place for advice about university finances. Or worse place, depending on your outlook.
It may seem dull. It may seem insignificant because your “student loan will cover it all.” The reality is that unless you’re extremely lucky (or have very wealthy parents,) this won’t be the case. Not only does university come with a hefty price tag, so does the cost of actually living. Because you know, you have to actually keep yourself alive somewhat for the next three years.

I was terribly bad with money in my first year at university. I chose the most expensive accommodation on campus, which my student loan did not cover. I had to rely on my parents, my part time job and my £1,500 overdraft to survive; an overdraft I’m probably still going to be paying off way after I graduate, so at least that’s something to remember university by.
If my story doesn’t scare you into being sensible with money whilst at uni, nothing will. So sit back, relax, but don’t bother with the popcorn because you can’t afford it right now.

1. Don't bother budgeting during freshers' week 

Freshers' Week: Keeping the drinks (and the money) flowing. Photograph: The Student Channel 

Yeah, I know all the university guides say otherwise and yeah, I’m rebelling *throws TV out of the window.* Any university guide will tell you to budget during freshers’ week, but with everything that’s going on during this time, writing down your daily allowances is hardly realistic. Or fun.
Obviously, don’t go MC Hammer in every bar, but don’t beat yourself up about budgeting either. Have fun during freshers’ week, and start budgeting seriously after your eighth hangover.

2. Don't be too strict when you do budget 

Prevent major injury to your bank balance. Photograph: Redbrick. 
Budgeting is a “learn as you go along” process; you don’t know exactly how much you’ll be spending every week, so give your budget a few trial runs to see if you need to cut back or allow yourself extra leg room, so to speak.

3. Take cash on a night out 

Don't blow it all on snakebites and kebabs. Photograph: Daily Mail. 
I cannot stress this enough. If you’re anything like me, after the fifth jager bomb, all sense will disintegrate and you'll be  yelling “TAKE MY MONEY” to the bartender. The fallout comes when you wake up in the morning and have to face the sorry state of your bank balance.
Take cash out (£20 as a general guideline, depending on how expensive the bars are at your uni) before you head out and leave your card at home, to prevent you from overspending.

4. Save money (and trees), don't buy new books! 

Save money on books and have something to smile about. Photograph: Go Study UK.

Lecturers will urge you to buy the newest, brightest editions of the books you need, but used copies are just as good unless you are planning to sell yours after you’ve used it.
Used copies are sometimes half the price or less on the internet, and keep an eye out for needy second years trying to flog you their old textbooks on Facebook; take them up on their offer and negotiate a price. You’ll save yourself money in the long run, and will be just as clever. No guarantees, obviously.

5. Cook a Flatmily Meal 

Sharing is caring. Photograph: Birthday Magazine. 

After the microwave meal supply has run out, offer to cook for everyone. If all goes well, everyone will take turns to cook, saving lots of money (and time) cooking individual meals.
In the unlikely event that the communal meal plan plummets, cook a meal for yourself and freeze what’s left over so you have meals for later in the week.

6. Don't be afraid to ask for help 

The Bank of Mum and Dad, for when all else fails. Photograph: Daily Mail. 

Yes, university is the road to independence, and yes, you’ve convinced yourself that you’re a big boy/girl now; but no one is expecting you to deal with the financial strains of university on your own either.
Chances are, you’ll be needing the Royal Bank of Mum and Dad more than ever, so don’t be afraid to drop them a phone call if you need a little extra cash. Although don’t bang your fists on the table demanding money because they might disown you.
Asking Mum and Dad for money doesn’t come easily for many people, and to some it’s also not a reliable option. If you’re struggling, look out for financial schemes on offer at your university and ask your university's financial adviser if you’re having serious trouble. They’re not going to give you a free pass, but they are human beings; and will be able to advise you on the best options moving forward.

7. Look for a part time job sooner rather than later 

A part time job can calm your money worries. Photograph: bcu. 

I would personally advise not getting a job during your first year at university unless you really need one. Although I was lucky in that my hours were very flexible and close to university, if I had had a contracted job I feel like I would have missed out on a lot. The first year of university is all about settling in and establishing roots, which a job more often than not interferes with.
If you are planning to get a job during your first year, start looking sooner rather than later. The summer before university starts is the perfect time to start looking because the third years have graduated and moved back home, and the summer temps have gone back to uni come September, meaning there will be a fair amount of positions open.
Most universities also offer a lot of job opportunities around campus; usually bar work. You won’t be earning a six figure salary or anything, but the pay is usually decent and allows you to work your hours around your studies. Look out for job fairs around your campus.

8. Do not buy everything in advance

If you come back with more than two bags, you're doing it wrong. Photograph: The Guardian 

Shopping for uni supplies is a unique experience in itself- who knew one could get so excited over a set of kitchen knives? Although it’s tempting to raid Wilko of all their Home and Living supplies, RESIST THE URGE.
I know it’s tough, but we’ll get through it together. Buy the bare essentials at home and then restock when you get to uni. Otherwise, you’ll only end up buying things you don’t need. Hey you, put down that garlic crusher.

NETFLIX 4EVA. Photograph: Netflix Life.
A Netflix subscription is much cheaper, and always there for you on those cold and lonely nights. Also referred to as "Every Other Night."

10. Always ask for student discount 

Every little helps. Photograph: Study in Sweden. 
You can get up to 20% off in some outlets, and at McDonald’s you get a free cheeseburger or McFlurry when you buy a meal- there is a God after all! Some places will accept your student ID card, but others require an NUS card, which is £12 for the year.

You can thank me later when you're the only one of your uni friends not drowning in debt. Best of luck!

Georgia x

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