It’s that time of year again: the students arrive at university, the Student Finance loans hit their accounts, shiny new student bank cards hit wallets – and all that money trickles out again, like water through a sieve. University life can be expensive: those graduating from universities in England now have average debts of £44,000 each.
If you follow me on Facebook, you will know that I recently wrote a post for Matalan’s blog, with some of my top money-saving tips for students. My number one piece of advice? Don’t bother keeping up with the Student Joneses:
It doesn’t matter who you are, where you are studying or with whom you are hanging out: I can guarantee that you will meet students with budgets that dwarf yours, and others who spend money like water. Don’t try to keep up with their spending: it simply isn’t worth it. You wouldn’t believe how quickly a debt-ridden lifestyle can come to feel normal. When it doesn’t seem like such a big deal anymore to borrow more money, begin racking up purchases on a credit card or begin spending your next student loan instalment before it arrives, you enter a danger zone of escalating debt. Debts are tough to live with and they take a long time to pay back, so don’t spend frivolously – in the long run, you’ll regret it.
(You can find the rest of my tips here.)
I’ve seen a substantial amount of advice for new students floating about in the past couple of weeks. Some of it is good, but some of it is woeful. For example my pal Jenni, over at Can’t Swing a Cat, spotted one web article advising new students to set up a joint bank account with their new housemates. Having collected my jaw from the floor, I am NOPING on out of there – for all the reasons Jenni describes.
However there are also some tip-top recommendations out there, including some money-saving advice I wish I’d had when I became a university student. I’ve rounded up the best here:
1. Don’t squander your student loan on fripperies.
I can’t believe I’m even having to write that. According to research from Nationwide, however, two-thirds of students spend loan money on “nice clothes” and a third spend student loan money on holidays. This isn’t just a dumb way to spend money you don’t have, it also stores up unnecessary problems down the line…
2. …Student loans are big and ubiquitous – but they still count as big ol’ D.E.B.T..
Recent research from the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association revealed that more than half of 18-35 year olds with a student loan don’t consider that loan to be “debt.” Almost two thirds believe a student loan will not count against them when applying for a mortgage.
I understand that property ownership – that distant pipe dream – isn’t on a lot of students’ radars. However the presumption that down the line, a student loan wouldn’t affect your mortgage application, is downright mistaken. Student debt doesn’t affect your credit rating – but that isn’t the same thing. Since 2014, lenders have been permitted to incorporate student loan repayments into mortgage affordability calculations. In other words: student loan repayments may affect your eligibility for a mortgage.
Once you have graduated, get cracking on your student loan as soon as you are able: pay that beast down!
3. Before you take out contents insurance, check you aren’t covered already…
I always recommend contents insurance for students: halls of residence and shared houses aren’t always as secure as they should be, and can provide rich pickings for burglars. However one insurer, NFU Mutual, has emailed me to point out that 78% of home insurance products cover students’ belongings as standard. What does this mean? It means you could well be covered under your parents’ contents insurance, without needing to take out a policy of your own. Do check the small print though – and double-check that your expensive and essential gadgets, such as your computer and smartphone, are included.
4. Work out your costs and see what grants you can get, with this clever tool
Take a look at the Brightside Student Calculator. It is free to use and, for those who are new to budgeting and money-saving, it is brilliant. If your budget doesn’t add up, you need to know sooner rather than later. If you are headed for the red, Brightside will also show you where you can cut back.
5. Take advantage of this TV Licence loophole
You don’t have to purchase a TV License if you:
- live with your parents outside term-time
- watch BBC iPlayer on a battery-powered laptop or mobile device, which isn’t charging at the time
More information here. When I was a student, TV Licensing tried to come down heavy on us, sending terse letters to every student in my halls of residence, so this loophole is good to know.
If you know somebody who is about to start university, please share this post with them. A new chapter in life is always as exciting as it is scary, but a few minutes’ reading could save an awful lot of money (and sanity) down the line.