Managing your money at university is an art form, but one that most of us can master with a bit of effort.
Budgeting your money does not need to be a boring and time consuming task, and it means that you will have more cash to spend on books, beans and beer at the end of term.
First-year students are now racking up on average a record £6,000 in debt and are expected to leave university owing more than £17,500, according to the most recent Push survey on student debt. So it is more important than ever to know how to get the most for your money.
Before you head off to university make sure you have your money sorted. The Student Loans Company should be your first stop; they offer both loans and grants for tuition fees as well as maintenance costs. Shop around for a big interest free overdraft and stay away from credit cards if you can. Most banks offer new students freebies, but it is worth remembering that some banks will start charging interest on your overdraft once you graduate. A good place to start looking for an account is moneysavingexpert.com.
Most students forget that there is a big pot of free money just waiting to be tapped into. Universities offer means-tested bursaries between £300 and £5,000, and the Department for Education and Skills have created a bursary map to help you find the right one for you.
The good life
Being strapped for cash does not mean you cannot enjoy yourself, it just means you have to be creative with your money. The NUS Extra card will give you discounts on everything from takeouts to insurance. The web is a good place to find shopping, eating and drinking vouchers – collect some at the studentfreestuff.com and studentbeans.com.
Taking care of yourself is good for your health - and your pulling power. If you want to get your hands on free make-up, razors, hair and skin products you can sign up to cosmeticresearchonline.co.uk to review new products. Letting your creative friends cut your hair may sound like a good idea but you can often get a free semi-professional haircut by just visiting your nearest salon school.
As a fresher you are likely to be presented with daunting reading lists, but try to resist the temptation to buy every book on the list. Take the time to find out which texts are best for you, share with friends, and use the library. Buying second-hand books will save you cash, and you can get some money back by selling them after your course, sellstudentbooks.com allows you to do both.
If money is really tight then consider a part-time job. It will give you extra income and look great on your CV when you graduate. Check your university job shop where they have jobs tailored towards student schedules. If you do not want to be tied into a regular part-time job, visit studentgems.com, which allows you to specify the skills you have to offer and matches you to a suitable one-off job.