Managing your money
Managing your money can seem daunting and it doesn’t come naturally to everyone. The good habits that you develop now will last a lifetime. We have information below to help you.
Managing your money podcast
For tips on how to manage your money and make your student loan go as far as it can, listen to our podcast made together with LSU here.
Think you know all about money saving? Try our quiz.
Here are the quiz answers, so you can check if you are already an expert.
Budgeting as a student needs careful planning, we always recommend creating a budget plan to help you manage your money. Even if you can't keep exactly to your budget plan, it is useful to keep track of what you have coming in and going out.
When starting to put together a budget, a good place to begin is an assessment of what money you will have.
- Most UK undergraduate (UG) students receive a lump sum of maintenance loan at the beginning of each term and may also have a weekly or monthly income from a part-time job or from parents / guardians / relatives.
- UK/EU Postgraduate (PG) taught students may receive a PG Masters loan in 3 instalments, one at the beginning of each term. This can be used towards the costs of tuition fees and maintenance requirements. For most PG students, the loan is not enough to fully cover both living costs and tuition fees. Students will therefore need to supplement the loan income by some further means.
- UK/EU Doctoral researchers without a scholarship or stipend may receive a Postgraduate (PG) Doctoral loan towards the costs of their tuition fee and living costs. For most PG students, the loan will not be enough to cover all living costs and tuition fees and it will be essential to supplement the loan income by some means. A PG doctoral loan is paid in 3 instalments each year normally for a total of 3 years. Some Doctoral researchers receive a monthly stipend for the duration of their three-year course, but if they take an optional year to write up then they face the possibility of no stipend for that period.
Supplementing your income –
- Check that you are receiving the correct rate of student finance, bursaries or scholarships. Contact us if you need help.
- For information on finding work to fit alongside your studies – see Careers Network - find jobs and opportunities
- If you are working, make sure you are being paid correctly see our information on Minimum wage entitlement, Tax and National Insurance
- Charities and Trusts - You can search the Turn2Us website for grants from charities and trusts.
Once you know your expected income figures, the next step to create your budget is to gain an idea of how much your outgoings are likely to be. Include major expenses like accommodation and tuition fees as well as day-to-day living costs throughout each term and for the duration of your course.
Do you know the cost of living in Loughborough?
The Student Advice and Support Service has produced a simple guide with examples of reasonable weekly spending figures -
Creating a budget
There are many different tools available to help you to create a budget and manage your money, including bank accounts, budgeting apps and simple spreadsheets.
- Budgeting apps - some banks include a spending app with your account.
- Save the Student have some recommendations for apps to help track spending and a useful budgeting spreadsheet adaptable for UK / EU / international UG & PG students
Example budget spreadsheets
Here are some budget sheets we prepared earlier! The figures are intended as a guide only and you can use the blank spreadheet from Save the Student to adapt them to your personal situation.
Setting Financial Goals both short and longer term
Setting goals and getting into good habits with your money is invaluable and will help you to have a positive relationship with your money.
- Get started with these achievable goals that you can set yourself-
- I will spend some time really understanding what money I have to live on.
- I will work out how much I have for a night out/fun activity, and then only spend up to that amount.
- I will plan my meals in advance for a whole week, and not have a take-away.
- I will shop with a list and not deviate from it.
- I will not impulse buy.
- I will not go into my overdraft this month.
- I will remain at least £50 under my overdraft amount.
These are small, achievable goals that you can set yourself which start to put you in control of your money.
You might like to join this free Open University short course about managing your money, both now and in the future. It covers quite a wide range of topics. Below is our pick of the most relevant sections for University students, but of course you can look at as many or few as you like.
- Session 3 - Building a budget
- Session 5 - Shared Houses and money management
- Session 6 - Understanding Debt
Money Saving Tips
How can you make your funds stretch just that little bit further so the occasional treat is within your grasp and you don’t run out of money?
Perhaps the tips below will help….
Become a chef (sort of!)
There’s no greater way to save money on food than to develop some cooking skills – it’s not as hard as you might think and it's far healthier too. Takeaway meals are far and away more expensive than anything you can create yourself. Why not cook together with your housemates and share the cost?
Once you’ve mastered some cheap, easy and delicious recipes, you can shop at Loughborough’s excellent outdoor market. This is definitely the place to pick up your fruit and vegetables (and much more) for a great price…
Bargain supermarket hunting
You can generally grab a bargain at any supermarket in the evenings. Around 6pm, most supermarkets start heavily reducing prices on items they need to shift by the end of the day. If you’re flexible on your planned meals, you could grab fresh produce for pennies.
Try the supermarket Downshift Challenge
Are you buying the big brands you're used to at home? To save money, try buying the supermarket version and if you can't tell the difference, stick with the lower priced version. This can reduce your spend by up to 30%. On a £20 weekly shop, that's over £300 a year saved.
The freezer is your friend
Shockingly, a UK household throws away £700 worth of uneaten food a year! This is waste not just for the environment but financially. Always either use up your leftovers quickly or freeze them.
You can also freeze mostly anything so before you advance to the bin, check out this link - Surprisingly freezable foods
Best-befores – the facts
While we’re on the topic of food needless being thrown away, do you know the difference between a best-before and a use by date? It is perfectly fine to eat food that has exceeded the Best Before date so check out the resources here to see how you can create something delicious from a product that you might have binned - 12 ways to STOP wasting food and drink & Using up leftovers forum.
A use-by date on food is about safety. Foods can be eaten until the use-by date but not after. You will see use-by dates on food that goes off quickly, such as meat products or ready-to-eat salads. After the use-by date, don't eat it, cook it or freeze it.
Don’t buy lunch every day (or coffee, come to that!)
Making your own lunch and coffee really adds up to a massive saving. Most people find that they spend around £5 on lunch and probably £3 for coffee daily. If you buy lunch and one coffee each weekday, that’s £40 a week, £173 a month. Think what you can do with that money instead!
Now that you have mastered cooking, you can whip up some delicious lunches or eat your equally delicious leftovers the next day. With a flask, you can make your own coffees and can even treat yourself to a quality brand with all the savings you are making.
Have one 'no-spend' day each week
For one day of the week, try not to spend anything. This means walking, making your own lunch and coffees, no going out (unless your friends are paying!) and no internet purchases. If you make this your norm each week, psychologically you may become a lot more careful with money in the long term! Put what you would normally have spent into a savings account.
Saving money – number 1 - 'skimming'
When you receive your student loan, wages, money from parents etc., skim 10% off the top and pay it into a savings account. This way, you will have money for a rainy day or those last few weeks when your next student funding payment seems so far away. Alternatively spend it on whatever you want but maybe not until the end of the term?!
If you can manage just £20 a month you'll be £240 better off at the end of the year (more if you stick it in a top-paying savings account).
Saving money – number 2 - The 1p savings challenge
How about trying the 1p savings challenge?
Perfect for a new year but you can do this at any point in the calendar. The idea is simple: on day one, you save 1p. On day two, you save 2p. On day three, 3p (and so on). After 365 days have passed, you will have saved over £650!
If you have no coins to add into a piggy bank, you can do this electronically by working out the amounts you need to add each day and setting up a weekly / monthly standing order into your savings account.
Saving tip 3 - Round-up your spend
Some online bank accounts, operate a 'Save the Change' scheme which helps you to build a saving “pot”. Each time you buy anything with your debit card, your spend is rounded up to the nearest pound and the leftover is added automatically into your savings account. Find out whether your bank does this and if not, you could always implement this yourself.
Sell your old items (and save the planet at the same time)
Did you receive a new phone, laptop, tablet, games consul for Christmas? Upgraded recently? What did you do with your old device? Still sitting somewhere gathering dust? See whether you can sell it or indeed anything you don’t need anymore.
There are loads of companies who will pay you money for old phones or electronic devices but you can also sell your unwanted possessions on-line. When selling in person, always be mindful of your own personal safety if your buyer asks to collect the goods in person. Always use reputable websites and be aware of potential scams.
Take advantage of Cash back sites
On-line purchases come with a bonus High Street buys don’t – you may be able to get cash back by learning how to use cashback sites.
Topcashback, Quidco and Swagbucks are examples of these sites and cover almost every online retailer between them. Before you buy anything, see if you can reduce the amount of your spend. For more information and latest updates, see Save the Student website.
Earn interest from your student funding
Hopefully when you receive your loan payments each month, you’re not going to spend this all at once. Have you thought about paying your loan into an interest earning cash ISA? Once you know your budget, you can transfer some cash each month into your current account to cover your day-to-day costs, hopefully leaving some money in your ISA to earn interest.
Consider the benefits of loyalty cards
If you buy regularly from particular retailers and they have a loyalty card, it makes sense to get yourself a reward card and take advantage of money off, free treats and other discounts. At the very least, get one for your favourite supermarket.
Paid too much income tax? – claim it back
If you’ve worked during term time or over the summer, make sure you're paying the right amount of income tax. Most students won’t earn more than the personal allowance each year so shouldn’t be taxed on any of it. If your employer has deducted tax, you might be entitled to reclaim it.
If you rent in the private sector, you may have paid a damage deposit to your landlord or agents. Did you know by law, this needs to be protected with one of the three government backed schemes? The scheme will allow you to raise a dispute if the landlord feels you have caused damage and wants to keep your money.
Landlords have 30 days from receiving your deposit to put it into a tenancy deposit protection scheme. If they fail to do this, you could be entitled to up to four times back. If you need further advice about this, please contact us.
Insure your treasured possessions
It is unfortunately the case that student properties can sometimes be targeted by thieves. If you are burgled, and not insured, you won’t be covered for the costs of replacing your belongings. Check whether you’re covered on your parents’ home insurance or if not, shop around for the best deal you can find. This may not necessarily be a product specially aimed at students. You can buy your own policy or it may be cheaper to have a joint policy with housemates. If you are in University halls, you are likely to have cover included with your hall fees. Check out this insurance for renters guide for more details.
Consider carefully next year’s accommodation
Most students sign up for accommodation many months in advance. You don’t need to do this – there’s always plenty of housing in the Loughborough area. If you delay, you have the chance of negotiating a 9 month contract (rather than paying for 12) as landlords should be more willing to negotiate and you have more bargaining powers. If you’re uncertain about your future circumstances, it is better to delay committing yourself to a legally binding contract that doesn’t offer any option to change your mind.
Split your train tickets
Instead of buying tickets for the whole journey, buying separate tickets for its constituent parts can greatly reduce the cost – even though you're on exactly the same train. As long as the train calls at the stations you buy tickets for, it's perfectly allowed within the rules. See Split Ticketing tips for a full how-to.
Get 10% off a railcard
Consider a 16-25 Railcard which cut a third off off-peak train tickets and tube fares and they're also valid for full-time students of any age. Registration on other sites and some loyalty card discounts could bring you a further reduction on the overall cost so don’t just buy the card direct without seeking further discounts. For more info on railcards, see here.
Take the coach
The coach can be an economical alternative to train fares (even if you do have a railcard), and if you're aged 16-26 or a full-time student, National Express' Young Persons Coachcard can make it even cheaper. It costs £12.50/year (or £30 for three years) and gives a third off all standard fares – peak times included.
When things are tough……
Book an appointment with a SASS adviser to get advice and help.
Different types of debt
Some long-term debts with manageable repayments like student loans or a mortgage on a house are likely to be a sensible investment for your future. It is important to look at the interest rates, charges and repayment terms to help decide whether a debt falls into the ‘good’ or ‘bad’ camp.
Overdrafts (for non-student accounts) and credit cards often have very high rates of interest but in absolute terms won’t cost very much if you only use them for a short period of time. Student overdrafts are often interest free and can help act as a buffer at the end of term if your bank balance has dropped to zero and you have a few weeks to wait for your next payment of student finance. If you go over the agreed limit, you run the risk of extra charges and the withdrawal of the overdraft facility. Then the bank will expect you to pay back the whole amount of the overdraft and your credit rating will be affected.
Emergency Hardship Loan from the University
If you are struggling with day to day living costs the University can help, with a short-term interest and fee free loan of up to £250. More details on our Hardship pages
Pitfalls of ‘payday’ loans
Commercial payday loans are offered as short-term loans of £100 to £1,000 that you pay back when you next receive your wages or your student funding payment. Look for alternatives before borrowing a payday loan. The University’s emergency hardship loans or local credit unions might offer more manageable ways to borrow if you are facing a short-term gap in your finances.
Payday loans are often given without any proper checks on the borrower’s ability to repay, meaning they can be difficult to pay off, with very high rates of interest increasing the amount owed and leaving borrowers in a spiral of increasing debt.
If you have borrowed a payday loan, regardless of whether you have managed to pay it off, you might be entitled to some compensation, particularly if it should have been clear to the lender that you would struggle to pay the money back. For more details see Money Saving Expert payday loan refunds.
Burdened by debts
If you are worried about debts and need help negotiating payments with creditors, contact us for advice.
National Debtline is a good place to find help with debt problems. They have a very detailed website explaining how to deal with debts. If you are having difficulty staying under your overdraft limit or unable to keep to contractual payments on bills, credit cards or loans payments, it is always advisable to contact your creditors and discuss your situation. In most cases ignoring debts only makes things worse and is bad for your mental health.
Some debt management companies charge fees to help sort out your debts or lead you down a route of consolidating your debts which generally increases the overall amount of interest that you pay. Free sources of debt help and advice are normally just as good and in most cases better than those who charge a fee.
It’s almost impossible to be a student and not have a bank account so we’re assuming you have one but is it the right account for you?
A student account is likely to come with benefits such as zero interest charges while overdrawn and a more generous overdraft limit than your average current account. These are useful if you need to borrow towards the end of each term.
International students and students with a poor credit score may not be able to open a specific student account but there are other accounts available. Money Saving Expert is a good place to compare different accounts including basic accounts if your credit score restricts your banking options.
If you can open a student account, don’t just choose the first account you find or stay with your existing bank. Finding the best account takes a little bit of research. Compare student bank accounts on the Money Saving Expert website.
Banks hope that you’ll be a loyal customer for years to come and many student accounts come with incentives such as Amazon vouchers, rail and coach cards or restaurant/take away offers.
Try to look beyond the free offers, tempting as they may be, and find an account which is best for you and your circumstances. Check out the interest charges and overdraft limit attached to each account to see which is truly the best deal.
It’s also worth considering longer term when it becomes a graduate account and how quickly you are expected to pay off any overdraft at the end of your studies. Remember that you could change banks at this point if there is a better deal out there!
Once you have your chosen bank account, make sure you check your transactions regularly, stay within any overdraft limit, minimise the risk of fraud and not get caught out by unexpected charges.
Online and Mobile banking security
It’s important to stay safe when using online and mobile banking.
The consumer organisation, Which?, looked into how different banks score for security measures How safe is online banking? - Which?
Stay alert to avoid scams that could result in your account being closed and risks being accused of fraud and criminal activity – you can find more details https://www.lboro.ac.uk/services/sass/finance/scams/