Managing your Student Finances
Going to university (or college) can be a liberating experience. No parents to tell you when to get up in the morning, or teachers to give you detention when you don’t get your work in on time. However, it’s easy to fall into this hedonistic lifestyle of partying all night and sleeping all day and spending all your money in the process.
You wouldn’t believe how many institutions will be falling over backwards to loan you as much money as your beer belly desires. The banks will throw overdrafts at you and there are more loans and grants than you can shake a stick at.
Be warned however, although it seems so at the time, this is not free money, and you will one day have to pay it all back. So with that in mind, here are a few tips to help you keep those finances in order.
When you head to the fresher’s fair, you find every bank under the sun, advertising their ‘new’ amazing student offer; a free toaster, puke bucket and young person’s bus pass for every new account and an overdraft that will pay for your new Nintendo Wii AS WELL AS 204 nights on the lash.
At this stage, the banks may seem all sweetness and honey, but the moment you are no longer enrolled they’ll come after you gnashing their teeth like hungry piranhas. Therefore it’s best, if you can possibly manage it, to steer clear of your overdraft. Of course you might use a few pennies in times of starvation, but look at more as a last measure than a luxurious freebie.
The ludicrous bureaucracy that accompanies the process of applying for your student loan is tedious and tear-your-hair-out irritating, but unless your parents bathe in rivers of gold, your loan is likely to be essential. The Student Loans Company website is where the magic happens, and it’s worth taking the time to familiarize yourself with the site before sending off your form as the slightest mistake could mean an extra month of living on leftovers.
The loan is low interest and you don’t have to think about paying it back until you’re earning at least £15,000 per year. Having said that, the monthly repayments are noticeable so it’s worth saving as much as you can. If you do take a student loan, which the vast majority of students will, then you’ll find yourself paying for it later. Loans are means-tested, but you can expect £1,200 three times per year (barely enough to cover the rent).
Brilliant. If you happen to be over 21 our generous government will afford you and extra £2,500 or so each year which you DON’T have to pay back. This grant is essential if you don’t want to spend every waking minute outside of University working in Uncle Joe’s Kebab Parlour, however, although it may sound like a lot of money it really doesn’t go far. It is just about possible to live off your loan and grant, but finding a job is an excellent way of subsidising your partying habit.
Most University’s offer means tested bursaries to help students who come from low income families. They’re quite sneaky about these and you’re unlikely to hear about them until late on in your first year, so as soon as you arrive at Uni, it’s worth popping down to the main office, or the Student’s Union and asking someone the best way to apply for bursaries. Bursaries can mean an extra £1,200 each year.
Most students are likely to spend their University lives without two pennies to rub together, but they’ll have a great time nevertheless. The problem for students, in terms of their finances, is lack of foresight. With just a small amount of planning, perhaps a part time job, and researching the right institutions, students are likely to enter the big bad world in much better financial health.