Whether you will be living away from your parents for the first time or studying from home, once you start university you will have far more financial independence than ever before.

Financial products might sound a little dull, but the freedom they can give you if you choose wisely can be the difference between affording to do what you want and missing out on fun because you are skint!

Here are the new options you will have, what to go for - and what to avoid.

How to budget

Setting and sticking to a budget will make sure you do not spend more than the money you have coming in - this is especially important if you need to survive off a single student loan instalment each term.

If you can resist splurging cash on things you do not need it can keep you out of financial trouble and maximise what you can do with your money.

Student loans and grants

As a student you will have access to grants, bursaries and loans to help you afford university. Knowing how they work is important so you can make sure you are getting all the help you need.

You can get a loan of up to 9,000 each year to pay tuition fees.

You can also get a maintenance loan to pay living costs. The amount depends on the part of the country you are in and if you live away from home or not. Student loans only need to be paid back once you start working and earn 21,000 or above.

You may also be able to get a maintenance grant of up to 3,387 towards your costs, depending on your household income.

You will not need to pay this back currently, however from the 2016-17 academic year the grants will be scrapped and replaced with maintenance loans. The maximum you will be able to borrow will increase to 8,200.

Paying bills

If you live in halls of residence, most bills are usually included in your rent. Some student houses will also include all bills in the rent you pay. Although this can sometimes work out more expensive, it does at least make budgeting pretty straightforward.

If you will live with others and have to pay your bills separately, work out exactly how you will split and pay the bills in advance to avoid falling out.

You could open a joint account to do this. That way you can each pay in the same amount each month and split the bills fairly. However, do be aware that having a joint account links your finances and if someone is careless with the account it could damage your credit rating, something you may regret as a graduate.

Alternatively, you could set up your utilities through a company like Split the Bills. You can each pay an agreed amount on the first of every month to cover all your bills (and a little extra to cover the cost of the service), rather than dealing with the complications of having varying bill amounts cropping up throughout the month.

Broadband, phone and TV

Do not just look for the cheapest package you can find - find one that covers everything you need, whether that is all the sports channels, free minutes to phone home or a decent broadband download limit.

If you will only be in your student house for 9 months, look for deals that offer a shorter contract, in case they are cheaper than having to pay for an entire year. Use our broadband comparison to find the cheapest internet deal that suits what you need.


Unless it is included in your rent, you will have to pay for the gas, electricity and water you use.

As well as picking a cheap supplier for each, you can save money by limiting how much you use and submitting meter readings to make sure you are not paying for more than you are using.

For some tips on how you can save, read our guide to cutting your utility bills.

TV licence

If you watch TV shows live, you will need a TV licence, whatever device you watch them on.

Your parents' licence is unlikely to cover you if you live away from home, but if you live in shared accommodation you will usually only need one licence for the whole house. If you will be heading home for the summer, you will not be in your student house for a full 12 months. You can get a refund for the months you are back home. Information on how to do this and the specifics on when you need a licence is on the TV Licensing website.

Council tax

If everyone in your house is a full-time student, you will not need to pay any council tax.

However, you will need to apply for exemption from council tax if you get sent a bill for it - you can do this on the GOV.UK website.

Student bank accounts

There are some eye-catching deals out there for student accounts as the banks try to lure in young customers they hope will stick with them for life.

Do not be tempted by gimmicks like a free cuddly toy or gift - you are far better off going with an account with a competitive overdraft. An interest free overdraft will not charge you if you need to borrow a little to keep you going until payday or the next instalment of your loan.

If you do choose an account with a free gift, try to pick one that is useful like a student railcard or a free NUS Extra card.

An account you can manage from your computer or mobile is worth it too, to help you keep track of your spending, our student bank account comparison lists all the top student accounts.

Student credit cards

It is best to avoid credit card debt if you can, as it can quickly grow if you spend more than you can pay back. However, student credit cards do come with some benefits, including protection on your purchases.

Student Credit Cards can bring a range of benefits, very low interest rates for short term periods, a lower APR than standard cards, free vouchers, no annual fee, access to cash machines, or the opportunity to sign up for on line banking.

You will need several details to hand before applying for a student credit card such as your banking details and proof of address for the past 3 years.

For more information, including the pros and cons of getting one, read our guide to the basics of using a credit card.

Other loans

Taking out loans can be tempting, but unless you have got a clear plan to get it paid back quickly, you can find the amount you owe will just get higher and higher.

Do not be tempted by the ease of payday loans - their sky high interest rates and fees make them totally unsuitable as a long-term solution.

Student insurance

If you have never dropped, lost or broken anything and know you will never be robbed, you probably do not need insurance.

Otherwise, the right contents insurance policy can protect you from loss, breakages and pesky thieves.

Make sure you choose a policy that will protect everything you take to uni. Shop around and make sure you do what you can to push down the price, like having a lock on the door to your room.

You will not need buildings insurance if you rent, as that will be the landlord's responsibility.

You can use our student contents insurance and student gadget insurance comparisons to make sure you get the best deal out there.

Student jobs

A part-time job while you are at uni can top up your finances, as long as you can find a healthy balance between studying, working and having fun.


You only have to start paying income tax and National insurance if you earn more than a certain amount. Your employer will not deduct tax from your pay if you earn less than the current limits:

  • If you earn less than 204 per week (or 883 a month), you will not need to pay income tax on your wages

  • If you earn less than 155 a week, you will not need to pay National Insurance

You can find out more on the GOV.UK website.

If you are below the income tax limit, you can also register an R85 on your savings or bank accounts to ensure your interest is paid tax-free. You can do this via the GOV.UK website.