Student finance + saving tips

Tuesday 6 July 2021, Money

by Charlotte Stevenson

Student finance + saving tips

Charlotte Stevenson
One of the things I have always found most stressful throughout my life is the idea of student finance. Mainly because I am terrible at keeping up to date on what is going in and out of my bank account, so getting into the habit of this has been really important in order to make sure things are paid on time and everything is in order. Once you do get into the habit of organising things and keeping track of where you are at with everything, it gets much easier to deal with your income, what you can spend and when, without needing to worry too much. Worrying should be confined to the minimum so that you don't surpass your stress levels too soon and burn out before exams/deadlines, so it is important to keep those levels low with as much organisation as you can.

With this in mind, I thought it might be useful to combine a few tips in this post so that you have an idea of how to keep things going throughout your years as a student. From a student to a student, here are a few of mine:

1. Apply early for student finance 

When I first applied for student finance last year, and this year, I made sure that this was the priority at the top of my to do list. Mainly because the earlier you apply the more likely it is that you will know in a shorter period of time what it is that you will be borrowing/granted. Through this, you can then move on to step 3 and hence also step 4.

It basically gives you a sum to work from and also to find out the dates which are fitting of each of your loan payments (when they will be coming in) It also means that as soon as you arrive at university, all of this will be sorted and ready to go - you will be able to immediately begin your payments and the university will have your information so that you can keep track of everything and make sure you are paying everything that you need to be when you need to be. This saves many a sleepless night, as I said. Applying early, you might think, means that you have to know for sure where you will be going come September time and you don't yet know your grades. This is of course important, as all of this is information that you will need to enter into your student finance application. However, you should also bear in mind that you are always able to save your application and come back to it later to add in details, and should there be any major changes to any of your application once you have submitted it, you can always get straight in touch with student finance in order to amend this.

2. Savings account + student bank account

Savings accounts are life savers - enough said. This is mainly because you can keep track of money which you know isn't part of your loan and make sure you keep it safe and don't over spend. You can also always transfer money from your savings account into your main bank account should you be in need of it. For example, I have to commute back to Manchester on a regular basis for rehearsals, so I have some savings in order to be able to do this. This money I keep out of my bank account so that I can keep track of payments and I only withdraw/transfer money when I need to get a new train ticket. As for a student bank account, I know RBS has been great for this. Basically, with a student bank account you are offered plenty of advice and tips throughout the year about how to keep your finances in good shape and order, and also you get certain privileges too. For instance, you get a free national express coach card which can help you save a lot of money on travelling home or to explore new places - it means adventure is never too expensive and that sometimes you get access to exclusive things, such as discounts from concert tickets, long distance trips around Europe and the like as different opportunities and promotions arise.

3. Do the math in advance + work out a budget 

Once you have looked at student accommodation which you think is right for you, and you have an idea of how often you will be going out or how much money you will be wanting to spend on a weekly basis, you can then sit down with a pen, some paper and all your documents (plus a calculator) and begin to add everything up, starting with a list of all the things you know or think you will need to pay for often.

Working out your general monthly balance and overall yearly income will mean that you can begin to piece together all these separate branches and begin to see everything in one summarised format. Having an idea of what you will have money wise is extremely important as it impacts on the afore mentioned factors, namely where you can live and for how long your tenancy agreement should last. Those details are important as every penny adds up to achieving them so every single one matters. You need to know this in advance, which is why it can be useful to get in as early as possible with finding out this stuff and applying in advance for your student finance. Getting to a level playing field in this scenario is having everything in front of you where you can see it and figure out how to work around any issue that might arise before it occurs. This will save you a lot of precious study and sleep hours in the future - trust me.

4. Find affordable accommodation (and early on!)

Student accommodation can be on the pricier side of things, so finding something within your price range is very worthwhile taking into consideration earlier on. Think of it like this - everyone will have different income (some more than others, some less perhaps) but everyone is going to want to get as much as they can (the best accommodation) for the least amount of income. This is a fair deal, but is also means everyone is going to be fighting for those cheaper accommodation places.

For your first year, I do recommend living in halls or university led accommodation as they are quite well supported systems that can help you out a lot with getting to grips living on your own for the first time and knowing how to manoeuvre everything. They also tend to be the most reliable in terms of knowing where you stand or how to help you out should a finance crisis occur. Despite the price, you can usually find something suitable. Your student loan should support you of course, but something I found useful to do was to email in as soon as I applied to find out which were the cheapest rooms overall to apply for. And also to make sure that the food was semi-catered: this can save you a significant amount of money as it means you don't have to pay separately for groceries really, other than staples and anything you might need over the weekend.

If you just want to find a house outside of college, go for the places which are not too far away but also not too close, or look out for any uni friends who might be leaving their rooms and want to pass the location on to someone else. Of course always check it is reliable first though before you sign any dotted lines - there can be out fees to pay (if you decide you want to leave early or don't want the accommodation in the end afterall) and also check to make sure that bills are included - if they are not, things might look cheap but they definitely won't work out to be so.

5. Keep all of your documents in one place 

My best friend, contrary to what my friends might think, is my important document file because in here I can find everything and anything right when I need it. Things such as my national insurance number, my UCAS acceptance letter and, of course, every student finance document ever sent. This is your proof and confirmation of your identity and funds. Do not lose these or your life will become much more difficult than it needs to be.

I also have a separate shoe box for any form or receipt etc, because these help me keep track of what I am spending, what needs to be cut down on and also to confirm any room payments or the like if any information should be needed by a company contacting me. Keep records of everything - on top of these I also keep a small note book of records of when I paid what and when my money came in to my bank account. Through these three measures, I have a perfectly organised system that is my personal security guard. Keep these things some where safe and together. Then, when you should ever need them, they will be your life jacket.