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Top tips to budget for life at university

Lydia Smith
Writer, Yahoo Finance UK
Students celebrate their A Level results from Roedean School in Brighton. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA via Getty

Thousands of people will be heading off to university over the next few weeks and for some, it will be the first time they have had to fend for themselves away from home.

University is an exciting time full of surprises, but if there’s one thing for sure, it’s that it isn’t cheap to be a student.

According to Save the Student’s National Money Survey, students have an average monthly spend of about £807 – and the maintenance loan often falls short of covering living expenses.

Course costs, food shopping, accommodation, going out and takeaways can all add up, particularly when the cost of renting and living is on the rise. So if you’ve decided to go onto further education, what five things should you remember to budget for?

Travel

Getting the bus to campus each day or travelling home at weekends can add up, particularly with rail travel cost increasing There are various ways to save on train tickets, including getting a 16-25 railcard for £30 a year to get a third off your fares. If you’re a student in London, you can get an 18+ student oyster photocard for £20, which will also save you 30%.

Travelling by coach is often the cheapest way to get around the UK, so check Megabus or get a National Express Young Persons Coachcard for £10 a year for a third off.

Food

It’s possible to eat healthy on a student budget, but it does take some planning ahead. Food shopping is the second largest expenditure for students, at about £92 a month or £21 a week.

Although this is a tight budget, you can save by making a shopping list and sticking to it carefully and planning meals you can cook in bulk. A big chilli made with quorn mince, with peppers, tomatoes and kidney beans can last for days if you eat it with rice, wraps or just on its own. Make sure you freeze leftovers that can be defrosted and eaten another day.

It’s tempting to grab a sandwich on campus, but bringing your own lunch – think sandwiches, salads or pasta salads – can save a lot of money. There will be some items everyone in your house will use, which you can buy cheaper in bulk – such as oil, toilet rolls, teabags and coffee.

Utilities

If you are in private housing, you will need to set aside money each month to cover your utility bills for gas, electricity and water, as well as internet. You can set up regular payments so you don’t forget and having a mobile banking app can help you keep track of what’s going in and out of your account. Comparison sites like uSwitch allow you to check what you’re paying against other companies – which could save you some money. Students in halls of residence often have their utilities included in their rent.

Insurance

When you’re carrying your laptop, tablet or phone around to lectures, it’s worth making sure you are insured. You can protect your expensive belongings against theft and damage with various student contents insurance packages.

Search for the most competitive offers online at GoCompare and other comparison websites, but your bank provider will often offer student insurance too.

Going out

Let’s face it, a big part of university is about going out and socialising – in fact, research has shown that students spend on average £49 a month on going out. Try to set yourself a certain amount to spend on going out, club entries, taxis, takeaways, coffees and even things like fancy dress – which will all add up over a term.

It’s also worth joining societies or clubs at university too, where you can meet like-minded people and get discounts on activities. If you don’t want to an extortionate amount on a gym membership, try a sports group on campus.

Websites such as NUS Extra and Student Beans offer deals and student-orientated bars will offer discounts on certain nights too. As always, remember to drink responsibly.