My ten top tips for managing your money at uni

WTF is this blog about?!

  • Heading off to uni and not sure how to handle your money?
  • As a recent graduate (fine, it’s been four years but shhh!), I’m sharing my ten top tips for managing your money at uni, from opening a new bank account, to learning how to cook!

With Freshers Week just around the corner, you’re probably feeling a mix of excitement and horror at the thought of flying the nest and becoming a proper, real life adult. And with adulthood comes responsibility; responsibility for waking up on time, doing your own washing and, most importantly, managing your own money.

But don’t worry, I’ve got you covered! Check out my ten top tips for bossing your finances below.

1. Get yourself a student bank account A$AP Rocky!

In an effort to woo potential high-earners, banks compete to offer tonnes of perks to convince uni students to open an account with them. Make the most of it, ’cause I promise you, banks giving you free stuff won’t last for long 😩

I personally went with Santander, because they offer a five-year interest-free overdraft, which essentially means they lend you around £1,000-£3,000 for free (it increases each year). They start charging interest on your overdraft after your sixth year of opening the account, so try to pay it off before then. I actually never went into my overdraft while at uni (I’ll be real with you, my parents gave me monthly pocket money so that I could focus on my studies, which is a huge privilege I know), but it was a huge help after I graduated and moved to London!

Santander also offers a free four-year railcard worth over £100. Check out the Money Saving Expert’s top student accounts to find the right one for you.

2. Don’t rinse your student loan in Freshers Week

I know it’s tempting, but trust me, your uni house will be bad enough as is, you don’t want to add an angry landlord to the mix just because you spent your rent money on Russian vodka! IMO, the best way to manage you money at uni (and I really wish I’d figured this out when I was there 🙄) is to:

  1. Calculate your essential expenses for the term (I’m talking rent, bills and food)
    • For example, £600
  2. Subtract this from your student loan (and any additional income – such as a part-time job or pocket money from your parents) for the term
    • For example, £1,000
  3. Divide what’s left by the number of weeks in the term
    • For example, £1,000 – £600 = £400 / 10 weeks = £40

This is the money you have available to spend on non-essentials each week.

3. If you plan on leaving campus, you need a railcard!

A 16-25 railcard gives you one third off all your train travel – I’ve saved an absolute fortune over the years using mine! I personally have the digital version (just download the Railcard app and apply for a card online), which means there’s no chance of losing it on a drunken night out (unless you lose your phone of course, in which case you’ve got more important things to worry about!).

If you can afford it, I recommend buying a three-year rather than a one-year railcard, because you’ll save £20 (or just open a student account with Santander and you’ll get a four-year card for free!).

4. Sucker for a freebie? Make the most of student discounts!

Open a free account with UNiDAYS and get yourself a TOTUM card (AKA the new and improved NUS Card) to access tonnes of exclusive student discounts, from 10% off Urban, to cashback on your weekly food shop – you don’t want to miss out!

5. Stop living off Deliveroo

Learning how to cook will save you so much money it’s unreal! Cooking together, or for each other, can also be a super fun thing to do with your housemates. You can find tonnes of awesome recipes online (try BBC Good Food, TikTok and Pinterest), or go old skool and get yourself a cookbook! I had The Hungry Student Cookbook*, which came in a Vegetarian* and Baking* edition too!

6. Don’t be fooled by those expensive textbooks

In all seriousness, for the entire three years I was at uni, I think I only ever needed to buy one new book. The rest were all either not used at all, available for free in the library or as an earlier edition online – so it’s safe to say I wasted a lot of money in first year buying them all brand new!

Check with your lecturer at the start of each term to find out which, if any, books you actually need to buy and try to source them from the library, online or from older students if you don’t need the latest edition. Better yet, why not organise an event where students can swap/sell books they no longer need? This’ll help you save money and look great on your CV (sit back and let the internships roll in bby… 👩‍💼).

7. Get techy when it comes to saving

Saving is almost impossible at uni. If you’re not spending your money on rent and bills, it’s being used to fund Jägerbombs and midnight munchies – understandably because YOLO! But using an app like Plum* can help you save money without even noticing it!

Plum* has tonnes of cool features to help you save, like its automated saving feature (which sets a little bit of money aside each week), round ups (this rounds up whatever you buy to the nearest pound and sticks the extra in a savings pot e.g. if you spend £1.80 on a pumpkin spiced latte, it’ll put 20p in your savings pot) and rainy day funds (it does what it says on the tin – sets money aside every time it rains – so you should have about £1million by Christmas… are you really British if you don’t complain about the weather on a daily basis?!).

8. Klarna’s a b!tch!

As tempting as it seems, please don’t split the cost of a bodycon dress for the SU over three payments just because ASOS tells you too 🤦‍♀️ Use your Plum* savings to pay for it instead! I’m soooo glad that buy now, pay later (BNPL) wasn’t such a thing when I was at uni because the temptation to Klarna a Zara haul before a big night out would have been real! But trust me, it’s a debt trap that you don’t want to fall into.

I don’t want to deprive you of a new outfit (after all, you’ve got to look good for the gram right?), but maybe try these other options instead:

  1. Second-hand websites like Vinted or Depop
  2. Charity shops (or thrifting if you wanna sound trendy…)
  3. A clothes swap (what’s a pair of faux leather trousers between friends?)

9. Can you pay my bills? Can you pay my telephone bills?

One of the biggest expenses when it comes to moving out is bills. I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t realise that we had to pay for heat and water before I left home – they’re just basic human rights, surely?! 🙃 Anyho, that hit hard. Especially when my housemates would insist we wear a dressing gown, scarf and gloves (try typing on a laptop with mittens, I dare you) before we could turn the radiators on (I’m still not over it – see exhibit A below).

Exhibit A

So, make sure you’re negotiating your energy/internet/phone bills each year to get the best rates – don’t just go with whichever provider the previous tenants were with. Heck, check for student discounts on TOTUM while you’re at it, you never know!

There’s also a few bills you can avoid altogether – such a TV license fee (you can opt out if you don’t watch TV, or if you live with your parents outside of term time, and they pay their TV license fee, you don’t need to pay it at your uni house if you only watch TV on your laptop/tablet). You also don’t need to pay council tax as a full-time student living alone or with other students 🙌

10. Live your best life!

Ok, this isn’t exactly a money saving tip, but what I don’t want you to take away from reading this blog is that you need to be super frugal and you can’t spend any money on non-essentials at uni, because you absolutely can, and you absolutely should!

Uni is an incredible experience and whilst you don’t want to graduate in debt up to your eyeballs because you spent too much money on Weatherpoons’ cocktail pitchers, you also want to look back and remember your time fondly, not regretting that you missed out on hanging out with your mates because you were too focused on saving money.

So what?

For most of you, uni will be your first experience of being self-sufficient and managing your own money. And that can be scary AF! But by following my top tips above, you should have the managing your money part down (and, if you’re lucky, you might even have some Plum* savings on the other side!).

Let me know your top tips in the comments #sharingiscaring 👇

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Now for the serious part: my blogs are for educational purposes only – speak to an independent financial advisor for information on your specific circumstances. And remember, investments can go down as well as up. This blog contains some affiliate links*. I only advertise companies and products I use, or have used, myself.
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