Spending beyond your means could see you learning to live on a budget the hard way, so do you know how to avoid the usual money traps and pitfalls to prevent that?
It was November 2008. I was two weeks off from completing my first term at uni, and counting the days until a whole month of home cooking and Sky TV.
I popped by the cash machine to grab some cash for my food shop (penne, cheese, pesto).
‘You have insufficient funds to process this request.’
I tried again. The same emotionless message appeared on the screen.
Had someone gotten hold of my details and raided my account? I remember I was a wreck on the walk to my bank to get a full statement.
Running out of money
Long story short, I’d completely miscalculated and spent more on post-club takeaways and unnecessary books, than I actually had in my account.
Also, I hadn’t properly looked into all the options my bank offered to keep this from happening, namely text alerts and overdraft facilities. The more you know, huh?
Fortunately, my mum donned her superhero cape, emblazoned with a ‘£’ rather than an ‘S’ on this particular day. But for many students, a quick call home if things get rough financially isn’t an option. I was lucky, it could have been worse…
Due to my lack of funds, I missed out on end-of-term socials and gatherings at home; plus some members of my family had to wait until after Christmas for their presents, which I felt really bad about.
The No.1 student budget tip
A term is a long time. When I talk to students about the scary topic of student finance, the No.1 tip I give is look at what you have to play with, and work backwards from the end of term to structure your budget.
This kind of forward-thinking isn’t the easiest (or most fun) option when you’re 18 and away from home for the first time.
Seeing a big chunk of money just appear in your account is delirious – the possibilities are endless (you think).
When our loans went in at the start of term, everyone went clothes shopping; you’d want to look good that night when everyone went out.
You’re definitely not thinking six weeks ahead when it’s back to dry noodles five nights a week.
That’s why it’s important to know how to be smart with your money at uni.
How to save more money at uni
You can learn a few more things from my (and countless other students’) money mistakes:
- 1) Set up text alerts from your bank to keep track of exactly how much you have.
- 2) Don’t choose a student bank account based on incentives. Look at its interest-free overdraft.
- 3) Plan your meals a week ahead so you don’t splurge on spontaneous takeaways.
- 4) Recycle and upcycle. Borrow a friend’s shoes for a night out rather than buy new.
You can read more student finance advice on Which? University.
If you’re at uni, you now have about seven weeks left of this term. Do you have a plan to make sure what’s in your bank account lasts? Or, if you have a child or grandchild at uni, do you know if they’re coping with their budget? Have you discussed it with them and worked out ways they can make their money last longer?