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Making the most of your cash

Week 32

15 April 2024

Bank accounts and budgeting. It's probably not the most exciting thing to be thinking about while getting ready for uni, but it's pretty important! Starting to think about it now, and being aware of what's available to you, might just help you through your first year, and beyond.

Student bank accounts

You might already have a current account, but it’s advisable to open a student bank account as these are set up specifically for students and often come with added benefits that could come in handy during your time at uni.

It goes without saying that you should do your research – to help you get started, we’ve provided links to some of the main high street banks in the useful links box on the right.

Student bank accounts often come with additional offers to get you to sign up. While these can seem like really good offers, don’t be swayed by them. Take time to look at what each bank is offering and how it might best suit you financially (like a rail card if you’re going to be travelling to and from home by train), rather than signing up because you’re getting free concert tickets or something. It sounds super sensible, but you’ll thank yourself in the long run!

One of the first things you’ll probably notice is that most student bank accounts come with interest-free overdrafts of varying amounts. But, and sorry to be a party pooper here, try not to take the largest amount you possibly can in your first year. Let’s face it, you’ll probably get excited and use it all up straight away and be left with not much at all for the rest of the year. (and it's always a good idea to try to avoid going over your agreed overdraft limit). Instead, try looking for an up to £500 overdraft in first year, up to £1,000 in the second year and up to £1,500 in your third year (if you need it). It spreads it out, and also helps to reduce the additional amount of debt you’ll have at the end of your studies.

Money coming in

Student loans

Apply for your student loan as soon as possible. Remember, you don’t have to have a place on a course to apply for a loan.

Make sure you send your declaration form back on time. And use recorded delivery. Also, keep checking your online account with Student Finance England as they may ask for extra information, which if you don’t provide, may delay you receiving your loan.

Grants and bursaries

You may also be eligible to apply for a grant or bursary to support your studies and help with general living costs. Bursaries and grants are often non-repayable and are there to help students from all backgrounds, but particularly those from under-represented groups or who experience financial hardship while at uni. If you want a bit more info, check out Solent’s pages on bursaries and grants.

If you think you might be eligible for a grant or a bursary, get in touch with the student funding team at your chosen uni to find out what they can offer you.

Ultimately, the key thing is to make sure you’re getting the right funding! If you don’t know or want to find out more, your chosen uni’s student funding team will be able to help you. They’re there to talk all things finance and funding and will be able to give you some great advice on what’s best for you during your studies. You may also be able to get some tips on budgeting.

Earning while you study

If you’re a regular visitor to 52 Things To Do, you’ll surely have read last week’s post on working part-time while you study. Getting a part-time job while you’re at uni has double the benefits – not only will you earn some extra cash, you’ll also be gaining valuable experience, which will look great on your CV for future employers.

Keeping an eye on your spending

Your income as a student is likely to be made up of a few things: student loan, part-time work, any grants or bursaries you might be entitled to, or maybe even an allowance from your parents, etc.

It’s great to have this money coming in; and it’s easy to get carried away by how much you have in your shiny new student bank account at the start of term! But, if you start thinking about what money you have and how you’re going to spend it, you may just thank yourself at the end of term if it means you’re not existing on beans on toast for every meal for the last few weeks. UCAS has a handy budget calculator to help you get started.

A good thing to remember is to budget your student loan over 39 or 40 weeks – you’re not physically at uni for 52 weeks of the year!

One final tip – and it sounds almost too simple to be true: look at your bank statements! This, or using a bank card like Monzo, is the easiest way to see how much money you have and track your spending habits. Contactless payments are great, but the two pounds here, and the five pounds there soon mount up – believe us, we’ve seen it happen!

Tasks for this week

  • Start researching student bank accounts to see which one works best for you.
  • Apply for your student loan as soon as possible - and remember to keep an eye on your Student Finance England online account in case there are any updates or requests for further information.
  • Have a look to see what grants or bursaries your chosen uni offers, and if you might be eligible.
  • Starting thinking about your incoming and outgoing cash with UCAS's budget calculator.