From bills to budgeting and beyond – money experts share their top tips for students

·4-min read
Student money tips (Alamy/PA)
Student money tips (Alamy/PA)

University life can bring a range of new life experiences – including what it’s like to manage your own money. And with living costs – including energy bills – on the rise, it’s important to know how make your budget stretch further.

To help give university-goers a good start, we asked some money experts to share their top finance tips for students…

Ban Mahsoub, head of money services at Tesco Bank

“Limit what you buy before you go. Before setting off, you will doubtless have made a list of all the things you need or want for your new pad, from pots and pans to bedding and stationery. But what about opting to reuse or borrow from family members? Buying second-hand is an option too. If you’re already in touch with your flatmates, you may even be able to compare lists – and each buy certain items to share the financial load of purchasing communal items.

“Shopping around and discovering discounts and freebies that your new student status affords can be a huge help,” Mahsoub adds. “If you’re just getting to grips with budgeting and paying your own bills, don’t expect to be a money master overnight, it usually takes three to four months to get a handle on things. Regular check-ins using online banking apps can help you understand what you’re spending and where you might need to cut back.”

Aseem Munshi, founder and CEO of financial app Updraft

“Do your research before getting credit. Before you take the plunge and apply for a credit card, make sure you are aware of all your options. Credit cards aimed at students typically have higher interest rates, a lower credit limit, and may occasionally offer rewards and benefits, such as discounts on clothing and days out. Check to see if you’re getting the best card for you. Credit cards can be great for emergencies and starting to build your credit score, but do make sure you pay them off.”

Munshi also suggests deleting credit card details from autofill on shopping websites, adding: “Having to get up, find your card and put in the details gives you time to think about if you need what you are about to buy. Also, if you find yourself tempted by marketing emails promoting the latest sales, unsubscribe!”

Chris Hutchinson, CEO of rental platform Canopy

“From gas and electricity bills, through to our mobile phone contract, these smaller regular payments could impact your credit rating if not paid on time. If you miss or default a payment, it can potentially affect your chances of receiving credit later on. While it may seem obvious, it’s important your payments are made on time – setting up a direct debit is usually the best way of ensuring this.”

Hutchinson also suggests encouraging flatmates to pay on time, adding: “If your flatmate isn’t paying their share of the bills on time, then this could harm your credit rating. If you’re worried, then it’s best to separate your finances as strictly as possible, so that there’s no risk of you being ‘co-scored’.”

Rent payments, when paid on time, can also sometimes be used to boost credit scores: “Platforms like Canopy can track and record your rent payments and then report the regular payments to the leading credit referencing agencies.”

Emma-Lou Montgomery associate director at Fidelity International

“The jobs market has felt the repercussions of the pandemic, so preparing now will ensure you’re in the best position to start applying. Make an appointment with the careers department at university to look at your options and see whether you can join any societies or a job around university or the holidays, to give you the experience that you need. Working part-time on campus or at home could also give you some extra independence and boost your income.”

Montgomery says money management is key to university life and beyond, adding: “It’s vital you spend time getting to grips with how to make your savings work for you. Fidelity International’s research found 47% of those in their 20s are worried about their financial situation since the start of the pandemic.

“Understanding different types of bank accounts, savings and investments will put you on the right path for the future. There are plenty of podcasts, books, and videos online to help you get started on your financial wellbeing journey.”

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