It will soon be time for students to return to university or to start university. I remember it so well, that 6-hour drive with my dad and a car packed full of stuff in late September. I was ready for a life of freedom and independence studying maths at Brunel university in London. A chance to restart a life that had not exactly gone to plan during my A-levels. Many of my money saving tips for students starting university come from my mistakes. Yes, I made a lot. But also, from some sensible decisions and a few great tips from student friends and personal finance experts.
Firstly and most importantly do some money planning and be prepared for how much money you will have to spend.
Student Loans – Tuition Loan and Maintenance Loan
I no longer use the word loan when talking about these costs of university. They should be thought of as a form of taxation for obtaining your degree and (hopefully) improving your future salary potential. The student loan is a necessary requirement of attending university. There is a tuition fee element where up to £9,250 per year paid straight to the university.
In addition, there is a maintenance loan paid to students to help cover living expenses. You might expect to leave university with a student loan of £40k to £50k, but this only needs to be repaid once a salary of £25k per annum is achieved. Any outstanding loan is wiped after 30 years.
This maintenance loan is a complex beast, with many factors that affect what you can borrow. From much research and conversations with many students I know that it is not enough and is means tested, meaning a parental contribution is required (if your parents can afford it).
The current (as at Sept 2019) maximum maintenance loan, if living outside of London is £8,944. But is means tested if the household income is above £25,000. If your household income is £40k, (not unreasonable for a joint amount of income), the maximum loan reduces to £7,019.
Working through this example of a 40k parental income and maximum maintenance loan of £7,019. This amount is to cover around 9 months of living expenses (exclude 3 months over summer holidays). This is £780 per month. The average cost of rent alone according to Save The Student is £542 per month. Leaving just £238 per month to cover all other living expenses.
Leaving a Parental Contribution
£238 to live off per month is a small amount of money, and you will most likely need some parental contribution. Think of all the costs that you will need to be covered, food, electricity, mobile, broadband, social life, exercise, travel, books, etc.
Talk your parents through this information to ensure they understand how much money you will have each month from your maintenance loan. Agree on how much they can contribute or what they can pay for. Maybe they can pay for your mobile phone and broadband bills? Every little helps.
The maintenance loan is paid in three instalments at the start of each term, ensure that you budget accordingly. Split it into monthly or even weekly spending chunks.
My Top Tips for Saving Money at University
Avoid the bank sales tactics
Unfortunately, one of my first visits when I got to university was to the campus bank. Where I was encouraged to take out a free overdraft and credit card. I applied for both and suddenly felt a lot much richer, I had a chunk of free money to spend. Honestly, I thought it was free money and the consideration of having to repay the money didn’t enter my mind. I learnt a dangerous spending behaviour.
My advice is never to apply for a credit card. Avoid them at all costs. It took me until the age of 42 to finally be credit card debt free.
Save Money at the Start of university on Essentials
Earlier in the post I mentioned my car full of stuff. There is a huge list of essentials that you are going to need for university. Everything from kitchen equipment to bathroom essentials, bedding to electronics. I collected an eclectic mixture of random bits from friends and family members and made do with a lot of second hand.
But you might want some new bits, particularly kitchen wear which you might not be able to borrow/nab from home. Definitely head to my favourite shop, Aldi, for your essentials. Aldi’s Student Living Range is now available in stores and to buy online here.
Here is my pick of essentials that I would choose from Aldi. With a few pictures of my favourite items. I have got to try out a few and I LOVE this kettle and toaster set.
Here is my pick of the essentials with links to the products on the Aldi website, or click on the pictures to get to the products as well!
|BLUETOOTH PARTY SPEAKER||£19.99|
|TEXTURED 2 SLICE TOASTER||£14.99|
|3 PIECE SAUCEPAN SET||£12.99|
|3 TIER EXPANDING AIRER||£12.99|
|NON-IRON SINGLE DUVET SET||£8.99|
|TABLET LAP TRAY||£5.99
|NON-IRON SINGLE FITTED SHEET||£5.99|
|BATH TOWEL/ 2 PACK HAND TOWEL||£3.99|
|24CM FRYING PAN||£2.99|
|CHIP / PIZZA TRAY||£2.99|
|TRAVEL MUG BAMBOO AND LUNCHBOX||£2.99|
Do your grocery shopping at a discount retailer like Aldi. A weekly shop for essential could cost as little as £20 to £30. The super 6 fruit and veg offer is always great for your healthy in season fruit and veg options. The frozen food is brilliant, I always have frozen salmon steaks and chicken breasts stashed in my freezer. Best of both sliced bread is 49p. Porridge oats are super cheap and versatile. It really is a great value place to shop for tasty food.
Maybe grab a taxi with a few of your friends to go on mass and save some more money. If its not within walking distance!
Get a Railcard!
Trains are absolutely the way to get around at university. Weekend trips to see your friends at other universities are an essential. The young persons rail card will get you 1/3rd off your travel. It costs £30 a year, or you can get it free with the Santander student bank account.
Get the best deal on your mobile phone/broadband
Shop via a comparison site such as uSwitch or Topcashback to get the best deal for your essential mobile phone. Consider a SIM only deal where you pay a much cheaper amount for the just your data and calls rather than a regular phone deal where you pay for the phone as well.
The cashback sites always have brilliant cash back offers for taking out a new broadband deal. I recently got £120 cashback for switching over my broadband to Virgin Media.
University is the most amazing time of freedom and fun, don’t let financial difficulties get you down. Save money and spend wisely and you will get through it.
This is a collaborative post with Aldi.