Clare Taylor, senior welfare officer at Leicester University, offers some tips on making a student budget stretch further: "Shopping at the big-name supermarkets can be expensive - find the cheaper shops. Remember that food shops often sell off bread and other short-life products just before they close, and you can always go to the market at around 4pm and buy up the cheap fruit and veg.

"There are also ways to stretch the clothing budget: ask the family to give you clothes for Christmas and birthday presents. Before you rush out and buy another sweater or a coat, have a look in local charity shops. Many of them have good-quality clothes at less than the new price. And always look in the sales."

Ms Taylor advises paying bills monthly, rather than quarterly, "and if you are sharing a house of flat, use electricity cards which can be bought in advance. This allows you to divide the fuel bill equally between tenants and lets you know exactly where you are."

There are also ways for students to stay in touch with the family without running up a huge phone bill. "Ask your parents to arrange for a BT card so that you can call them as often as they would like you to - on their bill. If they are generous, you could have a card on which all calls are charged to their bill - but remember that they'll be itemised!"

Negotiating a student budget can be a challenge, but all kinds of people are ready to help, including university welfare officers and student advisers at the banks. "If you do come unstuck, there are hardship funds to help you through. So don't worry. These really can be the best days of your life - learning about yourself as well as your subject. Go for it and enjoy yourself."