Due to the disruption caused by COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever for students starting at university for the first time to plan ahead financially. Any further disruptions such as a winter lockdown, government policy changes or travel restrictions has the potential to impact your financial wellbeing.
According to student finance experts at money.co.uk, there are several handy tips and tricks you can use to ensure you have fun this autumn, while also maintaining a healthy bank balance and preparing for any potential disruption.
James Andrews, senior personal finance editor at money.co.uk said: “Starting university is difficult at the best of times, let alone during a pandemic, with some universities still figuring out their studying, housing and admin policies post lockdown. When it comes to your finances, there are several ways students can save without sacrificing their social life in the first year.
“To make the most of their money, students should take advantage of the vast number of freebies on offer. Look to get a student bank account, which often comes with useful incentives like a student railcard or a free subscription service, and make sure to go for an account with a competitive overdraft - you’ll need it.
“If you choose an account with an interest free overdraft then you will not be charged if you need to borrow a little extra to keep going until your next payday. But try to keep your overdraft as small as you can - you’ll have to pay off in full eventually. If you are struggling each month look at university bursaries or supplementing your income with a part time job, if your studies allow.
“While overdrafts can offer up to £3,000 interest free, the same can’t be said for credit cards - unless you can afford to clear the balance in full every month, you’ll be charged for borrowing on them.
“That doesn’t mean they don’t have a place - with credit cards offering important benefits, including protection on your purchases, as well as potential rewards for signing up such as vouchers or cashback.
“As well as helping you manage your finances, student credit cards are a way for you to start building your credit history, which will be useful when you look to borrow larger sums for big purchases such as houses and cars later in life.
“But, and it’s worth repeating, the benefits are quickly outweighed by the costs unless you clear the balance in full each month.
“If you’re living in halls then bills will be included in your rent, however if you are living with others you may have to pay them separately and will need to work out exactly how to split them. If you fail to set things out clearly then you run the risk of getting stung financially by an unreliable, or stingy, housemate.
“With broadband deals, find one with a good enough download limit for your needs and, if you’ll only need it for the academic year, choose one that offers a nine-month contract.
“With other utilities like gas and electricity choose a cheap supplier, limit how much you use them and submit meter readings to your providers to make sure you’re not paying for more than you’re using. If you have a television or stream live from platforms like the iPlayer then make sure to get a TV license for your address, or you could end up being fined up to £1,000.
“If everyone in your house is a full-time student, you won't need to pay council tax, but you will need to apply for an exemption if you get sent a bill, which you can do through the government website here.
“For more financial advice for freshers read money.co.uk’s comprehensive guide here https://www.money.co.uk/guides/the-ultimate-student-finance-guide-for-freshers.htm.”
James has spent the past 15 years writing and editing personal finance news, specialising in consumer rights, pensions, insurance, property and investments - picking up a series of awards for his journalism along the way.