Tristan is in his second year at the University of Durham and offers actionable advice on personal finance and maximising your money.
For most people, starting university is likely the first time that people start to become the most financially independent than they ever have previously. This HubPages article is about the tips that I would offer university students for how to best manage their finances from what I've learned in the past year and my experiences.
The need to consider finances is very important to make the most out of the often limited funds that students have, especially when there are so many different things to spend money on that have probably never been considered before. For example: toiletries, textbooks and food as well as going out, events, transport, and birthday presents for new friends.
Get new Bank Accounts
One of the first things you should consider as a university student is having multiple bank accounts. There are a number of reasons why this is beneficial.
- The reason that I always say it is useful to have at least two bank accounts is to keep your university spending and personal money and savings separate so that is easier to keep track of. You need to make the decision to transfer funds to the university account which should keep you more objective with where your money goes and be able to make better financial decisions.
- Furthermore, you'll have access to student-only bank accounts which often come with incentives to encourage you to join as well as overdrafts. Have a look at a website like Save the Student which has a table of all the current offers. Some of the ones I've seen for this year include HSBC offering £80 cash and Santander offering a 4 year railcard (very useful if you don't have one already) just for opening a new account. HSBC also offer a credit card option with their student card so you can start to build your credit from a young age (which I will talk about more later).
- Another bank you should definitely consider opening is one of the challenger banks, the main ones in the UK at the moment are Monzo and Starling. I always encourage people to get one of this accounts as their apps are just far better than any existing bank. they do things like graphs and budgets so you can see where your money is going, spaces to separate out your money into sections, easy transfers to people who also have the same bank account. if you have a job Monzo will even give you your wages a day earlier for your convenience. Essentially, they just offer far better apps and more frequent and interesting updates.
Use all the Features of your Banking Apps
As I mentioned in the previous tip, the challenger banks such as Monzo and Starling offer many features within their apps and you should make use of them so that you can make informed financial decisions while at university.
- Just a few examples include taking advantage of the attachment feature. This allows you to quickly snap a photo of your receipts for transactions. This has multiple benefits. Firstly you just have a record of your receipts if you need them for whatever reason and you don't need to keep the paper copies which easily get lost. If you're shopping for food you can have a look at the items that purchased in a previous week and you get the idea.
- Graphs and trends are also some of the features that some banks offer. This is the ability to view trends in your spending so you can see where your money is going and whether you should allocate your funds better.
- Some banking apps let you add little notes to transactions and it's probably worth putting in a little description to remember what the purchase was. Nobody likes looking back at transactions and not recognising some of them!
- There are also often rounding up purchases option which 'saves' money. This is achieved by rounding up purchases to the next pound and putting the remainder into a seperate space.
Get a Credit Card
Getting a credit card is seen poorly by many people, especially for younger people. However, if you use it correctly then credit cards can be great for your future self.
- It's usually harder to get one when you're young because you probably don't have an extensive credit record, but it's still possible and there are youtube videos explaining some of the more accessible ones. I have one from HSBC which is their student card so was easy to get, and there are others like ones like Capital One.
- You should ideally see a credit card as a debit card with extra benefits. By that I mean you shouldn't use it to buy anything that you don't have the money for because then you risk going into credit card debt, and often students will have high terrible rates so it's not a good position to be in. the benefits of it, however, are that you build your credit score if you’re good at paying back what you owe. a good credit score allows you to access better rates for things when you're older like a mortgage so it's worth thinking about it now when you have the time to get it right early.
- You can get a free Experian account which tells you your credit score without affecting your score at all. that way you can see if you need to improve.
Make the most of Student Deals
This goes without saying but as a student you get access to things like Totum, UniDays and Student Beans. These allow you to get discounts at a huge selection of shops both online and in person. generally it's about 10% which definitely adds up and can be a big amount if you're buying a high value item like a laptop or camera for example.
Always check if there is a student deal for the shop you want to go to online, and if you're looking for a generic product or one that's sold at a few stores then have a look at the student discount options as it might be more worthwhile to shop at a different store to have access to the discount.
This also goes for things like bus tickets which often have student prices in university cities and you might want to consider a railcard which saves 1/3 train tickets, if you live far away then the railcard pays for itself just in one journey.
Improve your Budget with Kaizen
Kaizen is a Japanese method often used in factories of continuous improvement based on what actually happens. this can also apply to your university budget.
Before you go to university you'll probably try to make a budget from online sources for example but the reality is that you won't know what your spending habits will be until you get there. we all enjoy different foods, going out different amounts etc so setting up a rigid budget is unlikely to be successful or useful.
The best thing to do is to set up a budget but reassess it, maybe once a week, just to make sure that your sending your money where it should be going. if food turns out to be less expensive than you were expecting, for example you start shopping at aldi which is far cheaper, then you can change how much money in your budget that is allocated to food.
Consider Getting a Job
Getting a job is definitely something that you should consider if you feel like you can manage it alongside your other commitments. Having a source of income is great because it allows you to generate at least a bit of money part time so you can buy luxuries like new clothes or investments that we're going to talk about later, for example.
You shouldn't just see this extra money as available to spend on anything, you should still use it effectively like I've mentioned in my other tips, an option is investment which I'll cover in a later section.
Make use of Grants, Incentives, Bursaries e.t.c
If you have something specific about you such as being from a minority background or being a woman in a traditionally male dominated subject like computer science then there is probably a bursary or grant for you.
You should spend time to have a look if you can have access to these funds. You'll probably need to do an application of course but if you can get an extra few hundred pounds extra a year then you should definitely take advantage of that option.
Make sure you look at the terms of the grant, for example some of them require you to be consistently at a certain grade to continue receiving the money. You don't want to miss these terms.
Don't Neglect Investing
Investing might seem like a thing that you shouldn't be thinking about yet because you want to use all your money now and don't want to put it away in investments.
But the thing is that now is a great time to start investing. Obviously the biggest issue is actually getting money to invest because you don't want it to start taking away from good money or going out, but the reality is that you probably have at least some money to put away every month. instead of buying another t shirt or pair of shoes that you don't really need you can allocate that money to investments.
Now obviously this video isn't going to go into detail about how and where to invest but a good starting place is FreeTrade and if you use my link ( https://magic.freetrade.io/join/tristan/1c38da7e ) you'll get a free share. Another good option is Vanguard as they have very low fees for their funds.
Even if you don't have the money to invest, you should at least be trying to learn about it so when you do have a bit of spare money you know exactly what to do. there are loads of YouTube videos to get you started.
Either way it's definitely something you should start thinking about now because of how young you probably are. the thing that older people who invest say the most is 'I wish I had started investing when I was younger'.
Be Weary of Scams
Students are always big targets for scams because most of us are always on the lookout for some extra money and this may sometimes blind you to something that would normally be obviously too good to be true.
I've actually got a scam video coming soon on my channel talking about an instagram scam that i experienced and how to look out for it.
There are loads of things like people selling textbooks or event tickets and then disappearing once you actually pay for it. Don't get caught out if it seems too good to be true then it probably is and you should always consider asking for a second opinion, even if it's just a flatmate's.