You are not alone; every student has concerns about money. It was absolutely my biggest worry when I decided to go to uni, and I still fret about it, but it doesn’t have to be so stressful and there are loads of tools out there to help ease the frustration of being a broke student.
I have a student loan and, as much as I would love to go out on a shopping spree and blow the whole lot the day it comes in, I have to be more careful with my spending as I live by myself, pay to run my car, and am completely independent. I also have a part-time job as a waitress, working about 25 hours a week (mostly evenings and weekends around my uni timetable and the voluntary work I do).
I budget and monitor my finances to a ridiculous level – think colour-coded spreadsheets. I have always been particular about my income and spending and wouldn’t expect everyone to manage their finances in the same way, but it really does make a difference and I still get to go out, buy new clothes, eat great food and take regular holidays.
Here are a few key tips that I think will help make life a little easier when it comes to matters of money:
- Get an NUS card – yes, they cost £12, but you save this money over and over again through the amazing discounts. A couple of my favourites are half-price Spotify Premium (saves me from spending so much money on iTunes), 40% off at Pizza Express on Mondays and Tuesdays (I love eating out and this doesn’t have to change when there are such great savings to be had), 11% off a Young Persons Railcard, student discount at the cinema (and if you have EE or Orange, get your 2-4-1 film code on a Wednesday and then use your NUS card to make a cinema trip for 2 really cheap)
- Definitely get a Young Persons Railcard (make sure you use your NUS card to get a discount on it, and even for mature students like me you are able to get one (the uni just has to sign a form to confirm you are enrolled). You can get tickets from Birmingham to London for less than £5 each way if you book in advance and use your railcard, and make savings on so many other England-wide trips. You can also get your railcard discount applied to your Oyster card, so you just keep on saving if you’re headed to London.
- When your loan comes in, make a list of all your outgoings (rent, bills, travel costs etc) that you need to make before your next loan payment and make sure you keep enough aside to cover all of those so that nothing will pop up in a month or two that you won’t have money for. If you have a diary or calendar (or use your phone calendar), add any key payment dates so they don’t suddenly come out of nowhere and you’ve got no money to cover them.
- Get a part-time job – Birmingham is a huge city with loads of jobs on offer. The uni careers site has external vacancies so check it out at Prospects. There are also opportunities to work for UCB as a student ambassador, mentor, blogger and more – keep an eye out on notice boards and on your emails for details throughout the year. Having a job not only gives you extra money but also gives you another group of friends and set of experiences away from day-to-day uni life.
- Grocery shop in groups – buying in bulk is often cheaper so for things like pasta, milk, bread and meat. Put your money together with housemates or friends and you’ll be suprised how easy it is to save at the supermarket. For even better deals, pop down to Birmingham’s amazing markets (just next to the Bullring). You’ll pick up big bowls of fruit and veg for a £1 and if you split it between a few of you you’ll get plenty each week for such a small cost.
Finally, don’t stress about it – we are all in the same boat!