Warning: This post was published more than 9 years ago.
I keep old posts on the site because sometimes it's interesting to read old content. Not everything that is old is bad. Also, I think people might be interested to track how my views have changed over time: for example, how my strident teenage views have mellowed and matured!
But given the age of this post, please bear in mind:
- My views might have changed in the 9 years since I wrote this post.
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Many thanks for your understanding.
A reader has requested that I do a piece giving hints and tips for those about to go to university. It’s an interesting request, because in 2004, one of the big online portals was commissioning a set of articles around a similar theme, and I wrote an application piece giving financial hints and tips to freshers to try and get the commission. I didn’t get the job.
I came across the piece I wrote for the application a few weeks ago, though, and thought that if I was applying for the job now, I’d naturally post this kind of thing on the blog if it was rejected. So, I’ve dug it up… And with only the tiniest bit of editing, here it is.
Financial hints and tips for freshers
My first year proved to be an intensive learning experience for me in many ways – not least in a financial sense. Since I never really listen to other’s advice, it seems a little hypocritical for me to be relating the lessons I’ve learned, but then if someone else can learn from my mistakes, I suppose it might be useful. So here are my tips for making your loan stretch that little bit further in the first year…
Don’t buy every book on the reading list
I didn’t go quite as far as buying every book, but I was really excited when I started my course, and so bought lots of books that I thought would be useful – some of which I’ve never looked at again. Even the books people tell you are ‘essential’ often turn out to be rubbish. Not only was this a complete waste of money, it’s a right pain having to move so many books when it comes to the end of term.
Get a savings account
When you’re a student, ‘saving’ seems something of a foreign concept. But if you’re like me, then getting a big loan payment makes you think that you’re rich, so you go out and spend… and then have no money left by the end of term for luxuries like food. So my advice is to put the loan payment into a savings account, so that when you check your balance it isn’t there. And when you do come to spend it, you have to actually think about it. It helps a bit with budgeting.
Don’t buy loads of equipment
Ask people what they think is important, and what you really don’t need. When I started, I was sent a list of all sorts of things that I really needed to buy, from special gloves to marker pens to safety goggles. All I really needed was a couple of labcoats. And remember that a lot of what you do need can be bought through the Student Union, which will save you a fair bit.
Get a refund on your TV Licence
If you buy your TV Licence when you arrive at uni (and not before), you might find that you have three complete months over the summer when you won’t need one – so you can get a refund for this part. Don’t do what I did – I completely forgot about applying for a refund, so I ended up paying to use a TV over the summer when I wasn’t even using the room.
Get internet banking
Internet banking provides an incredibly convenient way to check on your finances, and move money about – especially if you also have a savings account (see above). If nothing else, you’ll be the first to know when the student loans have been credited to your account, which is always good news.
Pay bills as soon as you get them
A couple of times in first year, I had bills and just thought that I’d pay them when I was next in town. Then I lost them. I didn’t quite manage to get myself a late-payment charge, but I was close. With things like accommodation charges, they often come just when you get your loan payment through. By paying them straight away, you have plenty of money to pay them with and absolutely no chance of losing them!
This might seem an obvious point, but particularly if you’re in self-catering halls, you can get fined for all sorts, from making too much noise, to not emptying kitchen bins, to accidentally setting off the fire alarm. The individual fines don’t seem like much, but with those as well as library fines, it can all add up pretty quickly.
Get friendly with someone who drives
This may seem a little exploitative, but you can save a fortune on taxi fares.
Get a decent bank account
I opened my account with the bank with the best freebie. Unfortunately, it would only give me a tiny overdraft, and was generally unhelpful. After a few weeks, I ended up closing the account and opening another at a different bank – a lot of unnecessary fuss. Make sure, though, that your account has a big overdraft, as this can often come in handy for paying big bills just before your loan payment comes through.
Don’t be too stingy…
Most of the stories you hear about penniless students are exaggerated. It’s not too difficult to manage your money, as long as you’re careful. And everyone’s in the same boat, so it’s no excuse for being stingy…
I’m planning on posting some more on this subject later this week, more practical stuff hopefully, and maybe even a little bit of advice of being homesick and that sort of stuff. It might be shiny and new, or it might be an edited rehash of something else I think I might have lying about somewhere. I haven’t decided yet. But if this sort of stuff applies to you, stick around.