Budgeting your student finance can be a real stress for new university students. There are so many variables when you first attend university as a student and often the first amount of money can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you haven’t had to control much of your own finances before. For us, as a family, student finance is here to support our family lifestyle as well as being able to support my partners studies. For some others, as your student finance is reliant on your parents income, the support offered can be minimal and therefore the student will need to work to be able to afford to live. It can be very tough with high rent prices, feeding and looking after yourself. However, it is important to stay in control of your student finances because you need to take care of yourself to be able to study well and you should be able to enjoy the social aspect that university offers.
How Much Student Finance?
It’s really hard to give a figure on what you get but when you apply for student finance they will give you the amount in advance so you will know how much you will be getting. This is split into three payments in the first semester, usually around the end of September, second semester in January and then the third and final payment will be paid in May. The third payment is usually the biggest payment because for many students there are more expenses over the summer holidays such as getting back home, paying rent for longer and possibly moving out if you have been living in halls. However, your transport costs are usually less as most University courses end at the end of May. Be mindful that your next student finance payment will be close to the end of September again so you may have to make the money stretch even further.
Prioritise your bills first
I know this sounds really obvious but honestly, I’ve been there myself with managing my own student finance previously and I have learned from my mistakes for sure. This time around we are prioritising our rent, council tax and Adam’s train fare to and from University. If you can, pay your rent in a bulk payment to cover three months at a time. This will take the stress of knowing that where you live is secure and also if you are working you won’t need to dip into your wages for rent payments and can keep a steady balance in your bank account. Not all students will be responsible for paying Council Tax but as we are a family and living in our own accommodation this is something we need to take care of ourselves.
Train fare is one not everyone will have to pay either however if you do not live local to your university or you are commuting from your parents house there are a few ways you can save money. Firstly, get your NUS card sorted. This offers you some fantastic discounts and is £12 for one year, £22 for two years and £32 for three years. This should arrive within 7 days of being dispatched and is easy to apply for online. After you have received this you can take advantage of 12% off a 16-25 railcard which is priced at £30 a year. You can then use this railcard at any point during the year, it doesn’t have to just be for going to and from University and will save you a third on rail travel. You can very quickly save enough money to cover the cost of your railcard and NUS card with these savings and discounts.
Switching Where You Shop
One thing that students often need help with is food shopping and sometimes it’s just not a priority. However, bad nutrition isn’t good for you when you’re studying which can be a really intense time. My advice would be to shop at Aldi or Lidl if possible because you will absolutely save money. Take some time to plan your meals and write out a shopping list, taking into consideration what you already have and what you can easily make into a meal. I have often been able to feed the three of us on £35 a week from these shops and when you’re living on student finance and maybe a small top up of wages each month the more savings you can make the better. Also, don’t worry about frozen or tinned fruit and veg, it’s cheaper and still an alternative to not having any goodness with your meals. Finding out when food has been reduced, particularly meat, and popping it in the freezer can also help you save a bit of money. Again, using your student card can help you save money when it comes to clothes and other essentials.
Taking Care of Your Family
If you have children or a partner that depends on you financially then you may feel obliged to take care of them. I can honestly say getting those priority bills taken care of and switching where you do a food shop will already help to take care of your family ensuring you have money left over for emergencies. You can often get a childcare allowance which will help with childcare costs if that is an expense you have. If you’re children are older they may qualify for early years funding which reduces what you pay and if you have older children the parent learners allowance can really help when it comes to school trips, school uniform or other things they might need.