Money dos and don’ts for freshers

If you recently bid a fond farewell to your children as they begin their first year at university, this advice to help them make their student loan stretch as far as possible may come in useful.    

  • DON’T see your loan as a lottery win. Because student loans come in all at once, it might be the largest amount of money you’ve ever had in your account at one time. If you need more structure to help you manage it, start by dividing it up by the number of months it needs to cover. Take out essential expenses like rent, then work out what you have left.
  • DO use student discounts. Having an email address or student ID card opens the door to a world of special offers. It pays to get into the habit of asking “do you have a student discount?” as many places might not advertise it.
  • DO look out for one-off work opportunities. One way to do this is to make sure you read to the end of emails from the university, your faculty or the student union, as you might be able to find opportunities for paid work. This could range from helping out on open days to taking part in scientific studies.
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  • DON’T forget that librarians are your friends. They might be able to tell you about the reference o­nly copy of that book you need, get hold of one from another library or order a new edition. Librarians can also talk you through the wide range of online resources the university might have.
  • DO seek out cheap books. If you need to buy your own copy of a book, always look for second-hand editions. There are countless ways to do this, from scouring eBay to joining Facebook groups. Failing that, when buying new, make sure that you’re making the most of any available student discounts. Maybe a friend or two will split the cost.
  • DO ask for help. Your family can be a useful first port of call, but they might not always know the intricacies of the university’s system or have the local knowledge that might be helpful in a new environment. Ask older students for tips and join online groups where you can see discussions and ask questions. Many universities also have student advice services, sometimes run by the student union, that you can turn to. If you are struggling with debt, charities such as StepChange can help.

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