Finances. The bain of every students life… unless you are like studying financing or something like that, then… lucky you. BUT for the rest of us, the bain of our lives. Let me talk about my experiences and see if some wisdom comes from that.

This article is going to be a seperate one to what I write on Student Wire. Not because they don’t want it, just because they are trying to branch out on what is written on the site so currently on their site I have two articles waiting to go live, ‘Young Parents at University’ and ‘Movie Time: The Best of Me (2014)’ so keep an eye out for links here! To catch up what what I’ve already done you can read ‘Why is university so exciting?’, ‘Freshers 2015 – Helpful Advice (Part One)’ and ‘Freshers 2015 – Helpful Advice (Part Two)’ on those links. 

Today I’m going to shed some light on student financing. To start with I think I’ll share with you something I put together over on The Student Room titled, ‘Weekly Budget Calculation’:

“One thing that is most certainly frustrating and stressful when starting university (if you are living in halls especially) is figuring out how much you will have to spend a week. For me, this was something I wanted to figure out well ahead of time. As I go into my second year, I’ve done it again. Therefore I thought I’d share the process to go through to figure out your weekly budget (it may sound silly but some people just don’t understand how to do it).

The following process is based purely on your Student Finance income:
This is not the amount paid straight to your university, this is the total amount paid to you – that is what we are working with.

So, say you are looking at first year. First of all what you want to do is find out how many weeks are in your first year.
I will use mine as an example:
First Term = 12 Weeks
Second Term = 10 Weeks
Third Term = 8 Weeks

Now it can be a bit complicated here, depending on how you do it.
You can either take the total amount of your student finance and subtract the total amount of Student Finance you are paying over the year and then divide that number by the total amount of weeks you are at university. That is a good way of doing it but won’t be accurate to the money you get each term – as this amount can vary.
Therefore next you need to look at how much in TOTAL you are getting for your First Term (or second or third) and then subject how much your accommodation costs for that term. Once you are left with that number you want to divide it by the total amount of weeks in that term and there you are, that’s how much you are left with per week for the term time.

PLEASE NOTE: This is purely for term time. Some people may want to account for the total weeks inbetween payments so you know how much you’ll have during holidays if you have no other source of income. Also of course this excludes any other type of income you may be getting. If you have a job then it all changes. This is purely for Student Finance.
Some may do it differently but, I thought I’d just pass this on.”

As you can see above I’ve outined how you do Weekly Budget Calculations. Now, other people may do it in different ways, I don’t know, but this is the way I found that worked best for me.

The next thing I’ll add onto this is the matter of student bank accounts. Now some people go to university without them, their choice, but I feel it’s better to have a student account. Especially because the interest is good and there is no interest on your overdraft. I feel like an overdraft can give students peace of mind if they don’t have money for something or just to help you out.

I ended up going with Lloyds bank because they were good and offered a free NUS Extra card, something I very much sort worth it. Santander offer a railcard for students if you join their bank but I have a car so I never saw the point. MoneySavingExpert and Save The Student offer some good advice, better than I can give, on student accounts as to what to look out for. I’d say don’t go to a bank because of the ‘freebies’, make sure it offers what you need. For example my student account offered a £500 overdraft up until six months into my first year and then it boosted to £1500 and this stays through until second year and third – I found this useful. Its helped me out in some tight spots and is now helping me pay for rent and what not. Like I said, no interest fee (unless you go over your planned overdraft) – you know what, it’s best you read for yourselves! All I can say is, it’s well worth getting a student account.

Living costs? Well per week, when I first started university, I was spending around £25 a shopping for myself. That was for like bare basics to just be able to live – this was my food bill. What I did before university I set myself this £25 shopping limit and went shopping at a cheap supermarket (Aldi) and see if I could get a full weeks shop for this money. My first time was a success. Therefore at university, I did pretty well. After a while though I started doing the weekly shop with friends and this took that cost from £25 to £11, give or take. Massive difference. Therefore I’d suggest if you can find people to shop with, do it. You don’t always have to cook together, you can still have your freedom to cook for yourself.

During first year my weekly budget was around £80, though, I only ever took out £70 so I was always saving a tenner each time. It was rare I used this tenner. It gave me more money though at the end of the term. Now this £80 is what I was able to manage per week because that’s what my student finance allowed after my rent had gone out – just because it was this for me, doesn’t mean it will be for you. I was quite lucky in what I had but I’ve heard of people living on a lot less. It’s always worth figuring out how much you have to spend each week, makes everything a lot easier and gives you peace of mind.

Going out? At first I didn’t go out much, it was more in the third term I was out a lot and when I mean a lot, I was out every Tuesday night for student night, however, I kept this cheap. I’d get loads of predrink from a supermarket (cheaper than buying in clubs) and then I’d drink before I went out and by the time I was in the club, I felt great but by the time I left the club I was sober meaning I could look after people and make sure everyone got home on time. (Ah, how I miss going out!). One suggestion is, always make sure you have a fiver set aside from your money so you can get a taxi back at the end of the night – however, it was a fiver for me, doesn’t mean it was for you so guess what? CHECK TAXI’S BEFORE YOU GO OUT. What I’m trying to say is, you don’t have to go out all the time but make sure you save a little money aside so you can.

Books and stuff for the course, well, that’s a different story. Luckily enough any educational costs such as books and such, my mother pays for them for me. So I don’t have to add that to my costs however if you have to pay for them, make sure you look on Amazon and eBay at the second hand books and seek out people at the university in the older years to see if they are selling their old books. You’ll get them a lot cheaper!

I have travel costs to include in mine during term time. I live an hour and a half away from my home, living in Cossington but studying in Lincoln. Therefore I had to account for the costs of petrol and driving home a couple of times a month. Sometimes friends would come with so they’d help out or my mum would help me, if not, I had plenty to help me. When it comes to travel, if you aren’t driving then I’d look at all forms of public transport around where your university is. Look at trains, buses, taxis and what not and look at how much they cost. If you can walk into town, then do it. If you can get a cheap bus, then do it or get taxis. As for getting home, see if trains are affordable. Just make sure you know about the travel around your city. For those who drive, look at the best fuel saving roots and look for the cheapest petrol. Just plan ahead, always.

Treats… now like I said, as a student, you’ll spend money you don’t have on things you don’t need… To be honest, that’s the same for our entire lives but that’s not the point. I treated myself to games and DVD’s and God knows how many takeaways, basically, a lot of stuff I shouldn’t have. What I’d say to you is that you can be better than me. My advice is only treat yourself after attending every lecture for a week or completing some coursework or some hours in the library things that you have to work for. It’ll feel better in the long run.

So, does this help you goes when looking at your finances? Or are you all still panicking and pulling your hair out? I promise you, it’s one of those things where you have to be chucked in at the deep end to experience how to get it right.

I hope this helped in some form or another. If you have any questions please comment below or feel free to reach me on these social networks:

Twitter: @JustGeorgeJ_UNI / Facebook: JustGeorgeJ

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