For some students this can be easily solved with a desperate phone call to parents or relatives, for others it is a harder nut to crack.
But whatever the situation, the golden rule is not to panic and not to ignore the problem.
You can take comfort from the thought that most of your fellow students will be in the same boat - it is now a fact of life that most students are in debt by the time they graduate.
A survey by Barclays Bank last year found that 86 per cent of students expected to owe money at the end of their courses, but only 30 per cent reported that they were worried, angry or upset about their situation.
The survey found final-year students had an average debt of pounds 3,883, so if you find yourself notching up a few hundred pounds of debt in your first year, don't panic - you will not be alone.
But if the problem gets out of hand and you are up to your eyeballs in debt, there are a number of avenues open to you.
The best solution is to get in touch with your student welfare officer at your university or college, your bank manager, or the student adviser at your local branch.
They won't be surprised that you are finding it hard to cope and have money problems. Over the years they will have dealt with thousands of broke students, and will be able to use this experience to give you the best advice and help.
Indeed many universities and colleges have financial counsellors who help students who find their expenses are more than they bargained for. They can suggest ways of making what you have go further, and can tell you whether you are entitled to claim financial help.
But at the end of the day, apart from cutting back on your outgoings, you may have to get a job, or if you already have one, work more hours. Many students now work for about 12 hours a week during term-time to make ends meet.
Students' unions employ students in bar, catering and office work, and some institutions try to reserve jobs for students as cleaners, porters, gardeners and librarians. Rates of pay are generally pounds 3.50-pounds 5 per hour - enough to keep the bank manager off your back for a while at least.