If you’re a student, how good a grasp do you think you have on your finances? Do you feel you have strong control, or is your financial situation causing you stress?
Around half of 18-24 year olds in Britain admit thinking about their financial situation keeps them awake at night. And according to a National Student Money Week survey, one in three young British adults is also too scared to check how much money they have (or don’t have) in the bank.
A report compiled by online and mobile financial services company Intelligent Environments, suggests 32% of young Brits have their heads in the sand where their finances are concerned, with 31% admitting they lose track of their spending and struggle to budget properly.
“We know from our own research that more than 50% of students struggle to cover their basic living costs,” comments Shelly Asquith, vice president (welfare) of the National Union of Students (NUS). “With rents on the rise and grants being cut back, we are facing a national crisis of student poverty.”
Having money or problem debt issues isn’t just bad for your bank balance, it can also increase your stress and anxiety levels – neither of which is going to help you with your studies and exams. So here are some tips on managing your finances while you’re studying:
Set your budget
It may not exactly sound like the most exciting thing to do, but figuring out your budget could be the most useful thing to do when managing your finances. This includes noting down your incomes, including your salary, student loan, any grants plus any savings you have. This will help you to work out how much you have to live on each week or month.
Next, work out your expenses. This should include everything that you’ll need to spend money on, including rent, utilities (gas, electricity, water), phone/broadband, TV licence (if you need one), books and other course materials, transport costs, food, clothes, toiletries, insurance for your possessions and socialising. Don’t leave anything out, even the things you don’t buy regularly.
There are lots of budget planners you could use to make the process a little easier, such as our handy budget planner in our Money matters guide.
Reduce your expenses
Once you’ve worked out your total income and expenses, if your income is less than your expenditure, you’ll need to try and find ways of reducing your spending to help prevent yourself getting into any more debt than necessary.
For instance, you could consider buying second-hand course books rather than new ones (you can also sell these on when you’ve finished with them). Also consider planning your meals in advance to avoid spending too much on food – read How to eat healthily on a budget for more tips – and shopping around for the best deals for your utilities, phone and internet bills (use a switch and save website such as uswitch.com and confused.com).
Socialising is an important part of life. But having regular nights in could make a huge difference to your finances. Limiting the amount you spend on luxuries such as new clothes and entertainment could also help you curb your outgoings. Also, if you need insurance for your electronics, such as your laptop, smartphone or other valuable items, find out if you can include them on your household contents insurance policy (this usually works out far cheaper than taking out a new policy).
Increase your income
If you need to find ways to increase your income, it’s worth checking that you’re getting everything you’re entitled to in terms of financial support. Our benefits calculator helps identify what you’re entitled to. And we’ll even help you apply.
There are also various grants and funds available for those in financial need, on a low income, or in need of education or training support. Our grants search tool looks at over 3,000 charitable funds to see if you’re eligible.
Switch your bank account
Even if you already have a current account, it’s a good idea to shop around for a more competitive one. Don’t be tempted by offers of free stuff – while freebies are always nice to have, the biggest and longest interest-free overdraft will reap far more financial rewards in the long term.
And remember, we can offer you financial assistance too. Our advisors can offer support with everything from planning a budget to helping you manage your debts. We may also be able to help you with interview and training expenses.
For advice and information call +44 (0) 1788 556 366 or chat to an advisor online 24 hours a day.