Student life is no easy ride. It’s very difficult because often you’ve never been away from home before.
However you’re financed it’s always hard to get by as a student.
Being a student is your first time being away from home. It’s not just about getting your degree, there’s the social aspect too. However there’s a third aspect that every student neglects: financial management. It’s the first time in your life you’ll have to do it and it’s an excellent time to learn how to do it well.
Below is our guide to living life as a student:
1. Student Loans
Importantly if you’re receiving finances from the Student Loans Company, then you must always apply as soon as possible. The application process normally begins in early February.
You should always apply (and importantly actually finish your application) as soon as is humanly possible. All of your evidence and finished application must be completed by May.
Completing your Student Loans application by this time means that you’re guaranteed to get your money by the date outlined on your agreement. Importantly you should be aware that you do not need to have an unconditional offer to apply for a student loan.
2. Get the biggest overdraft you can find
As a student you’re entitled to a student account with all of the major high street banks. These accounts come with an interest free overdraft with varying upper limits. The best guaranteed overdraft is provided by the Co-operative Bank: with a guaranteed £1,500 in first year, £1,700 in second year, and £2000 in all subsequent years. The biggest ‘up to’ is £3000 offered by the Halifax bank—however the majority of applicants will not receive this upper limit.
Whilst extras like the free railcard offered by Santander may seem very appealing, the size of their overdraft is not. The railcard for 16-25s is only £30. You can use your overdraft to cover this with another provider.
Only consider the size of the overdraft you will receive—the rest is superfluous particularly due to the Internet driven world banking has become.
Every year you must ring your bank to inform them you will be continuing on into the next year otherwise your overdraft may be cancelled. Always do this in mid-August.
Most banks offer an interest free year after you have ceased studying, this gives you time to pay off your debts before you’re charged interest.
3. Don’t let your parents off scotch-free
The reason your maintenance loan is tiered depending upon your income is because your parents are expected to contribute!
They are not legally required to give you money, but SLC will always factor in their presumed contribution unless you are legally emancipated from them, up until the age of 25.
Show this to your parents! They should be contributing to your cost of living. They should be paying their share. Becoming a student is not the same as moving out to get a full time job. You are subsidized by the maintenance loan but it is not designed to cover your entire cost of living.
4. Don’t pay council tax
As long as you’re living with students, you are not required to pay council tax. No matter how many of you live together in one house, none of you will have to pay.
If you’re living with a non-student, all students are disregarded. This entitles you to a 25 per cent single person discount. However should you be living in a large house this would be an incredibly expensive rate for your non-student friend.
The onus is on you to apply to your council and prove your council tax exemption status to your local authority.
5. Don’t spend it all at once!
Whilst you may get carried away on the day of your first loan deposit, you must make sure not to spend it all at once. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Your overdraft is designed to tick you over to your next deposit by the SLC. However it’s very tempting to go out and blow all of your money in freshers’ week!
6. Never leave a shop without asking for a student discount
The NUS extra card may seem like a bargain but unless you plan to do most of your shopping online (which in a town or city with a university is unlikely) then you really won’t need it.
The production of your student card given to you by your university is simply enough. In McDonald’s for example you can get a free cheeseburger, free medium fries or a free McFlurry with a meal when showing your student card—not NUS extra card.
As ait’s only a mere £12, if you plan to do any shopping online get yourself an NUS extra card. Discounts vary but you normally get around 10% off your purchases.
7. Never buy a new textbook!
You can buy them from last year’s students, or get them used online. New textbooks are extortionately expensive and a complete waste of your cash.
Your university probably has many copies of mandatory course books and you can always do your required reading in the library with them—or you can loan them out and do it at home.
Never though buy a new textbook—£50 is just too much for a textbook.
8. Make sure you budget.
Money is finite now, you can’t just find more. Your overdraft has an upper limit. And I can assure you that it’s too expensive to exceed it!
9. Do not drive
Driving is extortionately expensive, especially for young people. As a student, you simply cannot afford it. Get a uni-bus pass. In Greater Manchester for example, you can get a year’s unlimited bus travel within Greater Manchester for £190 per year with a student bus pass.