Expert cash-saving tips for students


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The Independent Online


Work out a budget

You will get your tuition fee and maintenance loan paid termly, so avoid the temptation of splashing the cash in the first weeks of term. You will need to budget carefully.

"I advise students to do an old-style budget on a piece of paper," says Alison Ahern, director of student services, Goldsmiths University of London.

"Spreadsheets are too complicated. On one side, put down how much money you get coming in. Against that list all your outgoings in order of importance – accommodation, travel costs, food and so on. And break your expenses down week-by-week and only take out that much money from your account plus a bit extra."

Manage your student account

The most useful piece of advice is to let your university know your bank account details well before term starts, otherwise your loan cheque could be delayed. "We advise students to open a bank account before they get here. If they don't have a bank account before they arrive then there is nowhere for us to pay them," says Alison Barnard, financial support supervisor, University of Nottingham.

Forget sales gimmicks and make sure your bank is open when you need it and offers a reliable service. "Check on the bank opening hours. Are they convenient?" says Ahern. "Our campus branch opens in the evenings after class and on Saturdays. Gimmicks to entice you to open an account are best avoided, but always read the small print. For instance, what happens to that interest-free overdraft once you graduate?"

Take a part-time job

Look at income generation to help you manage your finances. Most universities are located in big cities where there is plenty of casual work to be had in bars, restaurants and shops. "On campus we've got a branch of Unitemps which students can sign up to and find part-time work," says Barnard. "Or you could work for the university as a student ambassador. That's a great way to earn extra money."

Steer clear of payday loans

You see them advertised on the TV, but payday loans will only give you never-ending hassle. Unlike the Bank of Mum and Dad, loan sharks charge 135 per cent compound interest. What starts out as a modest cash injection can quickly morph into something the size of the national debt of Luxembourg. "Talk to us immediately or to the Student Union advice centre. We have a limited amount of hardship funds but we can offer debt counselling," says Barnard.