Freshers' week: avoid the big blowout

Even the best budgets can fall apart in the first days of university, Andy Sharman finds out how to stop the rot

This freshers’ week, go to a hole in the wall and check your bank balance. You’re likely to be in command of more money than you’ve ever had access to. And there are no parents there to check on how you’re spending it. And you have literally no official commitments until lectures start. The world is your oyster. Which, financially speaking, is the problem.

“There does tend to be a full wallet at the start, and students think it will last for ever,” says Michael Lees, who is co-ordinating activities for the Nottingham Trent (NTU) Welcome Week – the university’s 10-day freshers’ week. “They come down to earth gradually – or with a bump.”

This year, student unions up and down the country will be issuing freshers with a stark warning: spend in haste, repent at leisure. “We try to wean them off the perception that it’s just socialising through nightclubs and drink,” says Lees. “We put things in place and offer them something different to try to lure them away from the abyss of 20 drinks a night, takeaway pizzas and taxis home.”

This “abyss” can often stretch into the next day when students end up hung over, craving greasy food, and too comatose to cook. “The next day it’s so easy to just not bother cooking food – to go out and have a pub lunch, which obviously costs yet more money,” laments Ross Murchison, union president at the Robert Gordon University (RGU).

The money factor often ties in with other issues – particularly health. It’s cheaper not to binge drink; and it’s cheaper to eat healthily. NTU is trying to be creative in making students think about budgeting. A local chef comes in to teach the newcomers about how to cook cheaply, and healthily – while giving them a good feed. A fruit and veg market also comes onto campus to teach similar ethics of healthy and frugal eating. “We’re not trying to preach. We’re just offering some tips about how to live cheaply,” says Lees.

NTU Welcome Week also features so-called money matters talks, where students attend sessions on how to budget, which is okay in theory, says Lees. “But they’re still quite hedonistic and not quite ready for that yet. Those that go to the talks tend to be better informed. But it’s a case of reaching out to those that don’t.” NTU is also setting up a “cashless campus”: a system used at many American univeristies, where parents can top-up student cards with money that can be spent on food and supplies on campus – though not at the student bar.

Gavin Jones, president of the University of Central Lancashire students’ union, knows about having access to potloads of money in first year. “I was lucky,” he says. “I had a gap year to save up for university, so I lived the life of Riley throughout my first year.” But that’s not to say that the key to managing your money during freshers’ week is simply to have bundles of the stuff. “With the greater cost of tuition fees there is a lot more awareness of student finance. But it’s still a real issue because, during freshers’ week, you can get carried away,” says Jones.

As part of “Intro Fortnight”, freshers at UCLan will have the benefit of a Student Life Fair, which covers all aspects of life at university – including staying safe in the town, and keeping a handle on your finances. “From my perspective, it’s important to make the new students aware,” says Jones. “Think about what you’re spending your money on – are you really going to get the most out of that society you’re about to join? Do you really need a TV?”

Jones also says that, while you need to get out there and network, meet people and take advantage of all that’s going on in the first week, you should also try to moderate yourself. “Take it easy,” he says. “You don’t need to go out every night. Yes, we promote our nights at the union, but we don’t put stuff on every night.”

The RGU union also seeks to put on as many cheap or free events as possible, such as days at the beach. “It’s not expensive at all but it’s something to do during the day,” says Murchison. For instance, there are free football and basketball tournaments for the students. “They just have to turn up and get to know people.”

The good thing for students is that so many of their union chiefs have had their fingers burnt first time round – and so are desperate for future freshers to avoid their mistakes. “I know from my own experience how much money can really disappear during fresher's week,” says Ben Hallett, president of the Aberystwyth Guild of Students.

The Welsh university produces a freshers’ week handbook full of useful tips. “Telling students what to do rarely works,” says Hallett. “So we try to package our advice in a fun and entertaining manner.”

It’s true: it can be difficult to get the moderation message through to students during freshers’ week, when there are so many other things to worry about. And as much as the unions can help by offering cheap activities in the day, the night time is a different matter.

“I’m not sure there’s anything you can do about it – there’s so much pressure to go out,” says Murchison. He says that simple tips can make the difference. “What you can do is have a set amount that you take out with you. If you take out £40, then you’ll end up buying drinks for all your friends. Just take out what you need, which will also stop you getting so drunk that you can’t look after yourself.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
filmIdris Elba responds to James Bond rumours on Twitter
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
film
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: 1st Line IT Support - Surrey - £24,000

£20000 - £24000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Graduate IT Support Helpd...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Audit Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Audit Graduate Opportunities ar...

Guru Careers: Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing Exec (SEO / PPC)

£18 - 24k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing...

SThree: TRAINEE RECRUITMENT CONSULTANT - IT - LONDON

£20000 - £30000 per annum + OTE £50k: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 bus...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015