Get your finances uni-ready

It’s almost time to go to university, but it’s super important to get your finances in order first. Tick these off your list before you start uni and you’ll be well on your way to being in control of your own money.

How to get your finances in order before you start uni - brought to you by our partners at Save the Student!


Get the best bank account for you

Before you can even think about managing your money, you’ll need to get a bank account – and a good one, at that. Here’s what to consider:

  • Arguably the most important thing to look out for is the size of the interest-free overdraft. This is essentially free money that you can borrow and doesn’t need to be repaid until you graduate – and, even then, you usually get a couple of years to do it while the interest rate remains at 0%. It’s famously difficult to make ends meet as a student, so this low-risk source of extra cash could be a lifesaver during your time at uni.
  • Some bank accounts also come with freebies, like shopping vouchers or a Railcard. These are great, but don’t let them cloud your judgement – if you think you’ll struggle for money at uni, a £50 gift card is nothing compared to an extra £1,000 in your overdraft.
  • You’ll also want to consider how good each bank’s customer service is. Nothing’s more stressful than having an issue and waiting for hours on hold, so bear this in mind when you’re searching for the best student bank accounts.

Figure out how much money you’ll have and how to make more

Making a budget

  • It sounds boring – and, to be totally honest, it can be pretty dull – but making a budget is the best (and only) way to know exactly how much money you’ll have coming in, and where it’ll be going. What’s more, by making a budget before you go to uni, rather than when you’re already there, there shouldn’t be any nasty surprises.
  • Make a list of all of your guaranteed sources of income, whether that’s your Maintenance Loan, bursaries and grants, or cash from your parents. Then work out how much you’ll be spending on everything from rent to stationery, and see if there’s a shortfall.

Talk to your parents

  • What a lot of students don’t realise is that the difference between your Maintenance Loan and the maximum amount available is how much the government expects your parents to contribute.
  • Obviously, lots of parents aren’t able to afford this, and others won’t want to. But it’s important to have an open and honest discussion with them, so they’re at least aware of what the situation is. Even if they’re not able to give you the full amount expected by the government, they might be able to contribute something.

Look for jobs and other ways to make money

  • Part-time jobs are one of the most common ways for students to make money, and your university town or city should have plenty of work going in shops, restaurants and bars. You may even be able to find work through your university, with most running some kind of ambassador scheme, and the SU offering jobs too.
  • If you don’t think you’ll be able to dedicate the time to a part-time job, there are loads of other more flexible ways to make money. You could try being self-employed, perhaps as a private tutor or even a pet sitter, allowing you to control when you do and don’t work. Or, for the ultimate level of power over your hours, online survey sites can be picked up or put down whenever you fancy.

Find ways to save money

It’s simple math: you won’t need to work as much if you’ve mastered some money-saving skills. Here are just a few to get you started:

  • Whenever you’re buying something online, you should always check to see if cashback is available. Cashback sites will refund you a portion of your purchase when you shop via their link, and all you have to do is click through from their site. Sometimes the amounts can be small, and other times they’ll be massive – so it really does pay to check!
  • Chances are you’ll be doing a lot of travelling by coach or train during your time at uni. If so, grab yourself a Railcard or a Coachcard (or both, if you’ll be using both often enough). They cost a little bit to buy in the first place, but you’ll usually make your money back within the first journey or two.
  • When your Student Loan comes in, skim a little off the top. It doesn’t have to be loads – about 10% should do – but certainly enough to put into your savings. As well as having some cash spare in case of a rainy day, you’ll also be in the mindset of saving money and not spending every penny you have.

Set up (and reduce) your bills

Regardless of whether or not you’ll be living in a privately rented house this year, you could still have bills to pay. This is how to do it for less:

  • Suddenly burdened with paying your own phone bill? If you’re approaching the end of your contract and your phone isn’t on its last legs, think about switching to a SIM only plan. Some of the deals on offer in this space are, frankly, ridiculous, and you easily save £20 or more every month by switching.
  • If you’re not in halls and you’re renting a house instead, you’ll probably need to sort out your own internet. There’s a lot to consider, from speed, to price, to contract length, so take your time when you’re browsing student broadband deals.
  • Again, if you’re privately renting a place, it’ll likely be your responsibility to pay for the gas and electricity. Don’t just stick with whichever provider is already supplying the property’s energy – companies always offer the best deals to new customers, and you could even get a cash bonus for switching.

Learn how to eat for less

We’ve all heard the stereotype that students live off baked beans and pot noodles. But if you follow these tips, you’ll be eating like a king, all while on a peasant’s budget:

  • Cooking in bulk is one of the easiest ways to have delicious meals without breaking the bank. By making huge amounts and freezing leftovers, you can take advantage of the fact that ingredients are cheaper per unit when you buy them in larger quantities, without wasting a single thing.
  • Assuming you’re not already, becoming a vegetarian for even a couple of days a week can shed some serious cash off your weekly shopping bill. Meat is expensive, but meat substitutes tend to be much cheaper, have most of the same health benefits, and usually have a lower carbon footprint too. A triple win.
  • We all deserve a treat every now and again, but there’s no need to splurge on a takeaway. Recipe box subscription services can help you rustle up a restaurant-quality meal at a fraction of the price, especially if you take advantage of the introductory offers and get your first dew deliveries for less.

There are a million and one ways to make and save money at uni, and these barely scratch the surface. But if you nail the tips we’ve shared above, you won’t go far wrong!