A good budget is the secret to staying out of debt as a student

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The Independent Online

When the first dividend from your student loan lands in your bank account, it's tempting to go out and throw around your new-found wealth on the high street like there's no tomorrow. Resist this temptation with every sinew in your body. While it might seem like you're flush with cash, the truth of the matter is that that money has to last you for your first term, covering living expenses, text books, nights out and rent.

The same temptation will come around at the start of your second and third term too of course, so those sinews need to remain resilient. Also, bear in mind that any money you don't spend is money you don't have to pay back afterwards, so any unnecessary expenditure you can cut out is a bonus.

So, what's the secret? Common sense will prevail in most cases but where that fails, here are a few ways to keep your pennies pinched...

Choose the right bank account

Any magpie-like tendencies to be attracted to shiny things should be avoided when deciding who to bank with. While a free iPod Shuffle might sound like an excellent reason to sign on the dotted line, the real savings are to be made with a competitive interest-free overdraft facility. Shop around to find the best one and think about it this way: if you really have got your heart set on that iPod, you should be able to afford your own when you're not having to pay out on interest. Everyone's a winner.

Shun credit cards

Credit and store cards are not your flexible friends; they'll pretend to be all nice to you and then wham - they kick you right in the... wallet. The potential interest you have to pay on borrowing with these seemingly innocent rectangles of plastic is extortionate, and it's easy to be lulled into thinking that because you're not paying out immediately, you're saving money. Much better to spend on a debit card and - as you should in all instances at university or college - spend sensibly.

Budget

No, it's not the most exciting activity in the world, but keeping a note of your income and expenditure every month will give you a much better idea of where your finances are going and means that when you do want to go shopping or meet with friends for a drink, you know exactly how much you've got to spend. Plus, keeping tabs on these things avoids the potential for any nasty surprises further down the line; suddenly finding out that they haven't got enough money for a packet of crisps has been known to reduce grown men to tears.

Put the mobile down!

Having a mobile phone bill that runs into three figures is doing no one any favours; apart from the mobile phone company in question of course. Pay-as-you-go is the easiest way to watch how much you spend, but if you can't live without a contract then make sure you get the best deal and use your phone wisely. When you're meeting your friends in an hour there's no need to talk to them for half-an-hour first; if you're calling a boyfriend or girlfriend then be sensible about how long you spend whispering sweet nothings to each other.

Get help quickly

If things do go wrong with your finances or you have any concerns whatsoever, go straight to your bank; the longer you leave it the worse things will get. A student adviser is the best person to speak to and remember, they'll want to help you, not shout at you!

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