Budgeting in the first year can be a nightmare for the average student but fear not, as Lindsey Johnstone reveals the top ways to make your money work for you
In Freshers Week, it will not occur to you to budget. Between your brand new student loan and generous zero interest overdraft, you’ll be asking Donald Trump to holla at you. The week after, when you have spent almost all of it in the pub/Urban Outfitters, you may feel differently.
This is not the point at which to apply for three credit cards (we speak from bitter, credit-wrecking experience), but rather to attempt to spend less money.
First off, do not panic about being in debt. Almost every adult in the world not begat of a Rothschild has an overdraft. Find the bank that offers the best deal, or at least the greatest incentive gift. This is the one and only time in your life your bank are ever going to give you a present, and some are actually very useful; for example, RBS and Natwest are both offering a free Railcard.
Whichever bank you choose, make sure you sign up for their mobile banking or get their phone app. Keeping track of your spending is half the battle, and the best way to avoid having your debit card retained by the 24 hour garage when you thought you were loaded.
Let’s not pretend you’re not going to eat a large proportion of your meals in a pub, but the less you do this, the more money you’ll have to buy drinks in one. Get together with your flatmates and take it in turns to cook for each other; aside from being more sociable, it’s also a lot cheaper than cooking for one. A giant pot of chilli, Bolognese, or stew will feed a few people,
for a few days. Lidl and Aldi are godsends for students, as are bags of pasta and pots of pesto. To kit out the kitchen you’re cooking up this communal storm in, head to Ikea. It’s a cliché that all student flats look like pages from the catalogue, but this is for good reason. It really is insanely cheap, and as such the best place to get all the essentials for your new flat. Charity shops are also brilliant places to pick up unintentionally kitsch homewares,which will tone down the Swedish flatpack theme too. Do not buy new textbooks. They are painfully expensive, and you’re not going to open them often enough to make them worth the money. Go to the notice boards in your department at the start of each term and you’ll find they have been commandeered by students in the years above offering their old ones for sale.
You’ll need a laptop, especially when it’s 4am and there are no computers available in the library and your essay is due in early doors. There are myriad websites selling reconditioned second-hand ones, and mobile phone service providers now offer free laptops or netbooks as part of their mobile internet deals, which are well worth checking out, as are their pay as you go deals. A terrifying mobile bill is the last thing any student needs. Get a Student Railcard for a third off fares, and a travel pass. First Bus do student bus passes in both Edinburgh and Glasgow, although if you’re studying in the latter, a Zone Card is your best bet, as you can use it on buses, local trains and the Underground. Edinburgh and Lothians Ridacard can also save you some much-needed bucks. Getting a job always helps with having more money, and unless you are a medic let’s face it, you will have time to work, whatever you might tell your parents. Bar jobs are best when you’re a student, as they don’t really feel like work. Flyering for clubs and pubs is also a minimum effort,maximum socialising option.
Lastly, if you really do find yourself penniless, go to your university’s finance office. They have ways of helping you that they don’t tend to publicise. There are tens of thousands of pounds available in hardship funds, and they can even give you short-term cash loans till you receive your hardship handout if you are literally unable to eat.