Figuring out how to prepare your finances for university can be stressful, but being proactive is the best way to mitigate any potential anxiety. If you get into good habits with your spending and focus on saving, you’ll be able to study and live more easily.
Establish a Weekly Budget
Draw up a list of all of your monthly expenses. Come up with an estimate of what you should be spending each month, and divide it by four. This number will guide how much you should be spending each week, and on what. At first, you should practice keeping receipts and writing down your expenses, just to see exactly where your money is going.
Apply for Grants and Bursaries
If you are in England, contact the Office for Fair Access to see what bursaries may be available to you. In Northern Ireland, the Department for Employment and Learning oversees these arrangements, and in Wales, the Higher Education Funding Council. Additionally, check with your individual university to see what funding they have available
Consider Your Loan Options
If student loans are available to you, consider taking them out and investing them elsewhere.
Learn about Credit
It’s a good idea to apply for a student credit card for a number of reasons. Apart from helping manage your cash flow, tiding you over when funds are low, they also help establish your credit history. Don’t rush in though. Be sure to investigate your options, and focus on finding a credit card with a cheap rate of interest, especially if you think you will have a running balance. Even if you can’t pay off the entire balance each month, always try and pay off as much as you can afford to. And avoid paying late, as that will begin to damage your nascent credit history over time.
Buy Supplies Second-hand
Buy your books online or at used bookshops. Also buy your clothes and appliances second-hand. The thriftier you become, the more you’ll realise that there are many things of high quality that you can buy at low prices.
Limit Your Social Spending
Socialising is important, but studying is more important. Limit how much you go out to pubs and you’ll save much more money in the long run.
Find a Part-Time Job
See if your favourite shop or restaurant is hiring. This kind of job will add structure to your schedule, and the busier you are, the less time you will have to spend money. You will also have another flow of income to establish a savings account.
Lastly, there is another option. If your parents trust you enough, you could ask them to set up a supplemental card for you on a credit card account they already have open. It doesn’t take very long, and generally they can set a spending limit per month to keep things under control. While this won’t help you personally establish your credit, it will also mean you can’t get into trouble. There are numerous credit cards offering a supplemental card. I had a look and found this one from Clydesdale Bank, which has a low rate on credit card purchases and no annual fee. If your parents need to shop around before applying for a new card, there are many others similar to it.
Preparing your finances for university is important, but there are fortunately measures to take against excess spending. Focus on saving and studying, and you’ll find that paying for university may not be so stressful after all.