Entering college can be a busy time, filled with excitement, hopes, and dreams.
There’s a lot to look forward to – meeting new people, getting involved in societies and learning more about a course you’re passionate about. However, it can also be quite scary, especially if it’s your first time living away from home and managing your own money. You certainly won’t be alone if you’re feeling nervous about starting college, but there’s plenty of help available.
With the cost of living crisis continuing to bring more unwelcome news, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the thought of money – but talking about it has never been more important. Having a solid plan in place for your finances from the start will hopefully mean that you can stop worrying about money and start focusing on all the fun things.
Here are my tips for preparing your money for college:
Planning your budget probably won’t be the most exciting part of your pre-college preparation, but it could be the most important and could save you a lot of hassle. The first step in planning your budget is to calculate your income throughout the year – this could be from Student Finance, a part-time job, or perhaps family. The next step is to estimate your expenses; remember to be realistic and include non-essentials as well. Now is the time to compare. Will you have enough income to cover your estimated expenses throughout the year? If not, you may need to reconsider some of your expenses or explore other income opportunities. If you’re struggling to balance your budget, contact your university’s student services team.
Creating your budget is just the beginning – sticking to it is often the hardest part, especially since undergraduate finances are paid quarterly, not weekly. Fortunately, there are plenty of budgeting “tricks” to help you stay in control of your money. One of the most useful tricks is a technique called “drip”, where you can set up a standing order for a certain amount of money to be transferred from your main account to a second bank account every week. . This way you only need to manage your money one week at a time – much more manageable and much less scary. Managing your money is a life skill that everyone needs to learn at some point. It’s okay to make mistakes, but try not to let things get out of hand. There’s no shame in asking for help with budgeting – believe me, we’ve all been there.
Many banks offer “student bank accounts”, i.e. bank accounts exclusively for university students. Some banks offer enticing gifts or interest-free overdrafts for student bank accounts as incentives to switch. So how do you choose? While a good overdraft facility is useful if you need to borrow money short-term, the best bank account is the one that helps you manage your money most effectively.
If you prefer to talk to someone face-to-face, look for banks with branches near your campus; while if you like managing your money on the go, look for a bank with good app facilities (and if you can also set spending limits in the app, that’s a bonus!)
If you decide to switch, remember to update your bank details in your Student Finance portal to ensure you can get paid.
Even the best budgeter can deal with unexpected emergencies. The unexpected train trip home or the broken laptop screen – you can’t plan everything. Keeping a small emergency fund can be useful in these situations, even if it’s just £50 in a piggy bank. Overdrafts can be a useful alternative to an emergency fund, but if you’re starting to find that you’re spending more time in your overdraft than out of it, it’s time to seek help.
The best advice I can give is to never be afraid to ask for help.
Many universities, including Keele, offer financial advice and support for students who are experiencing unexpected financial difficulties.
This could be through a ‘hardship fund’ or there could be alternative support available. Whether you’re having funding issues or struggling to make ends meet, we want to help.
Check your university’s website for information on advice and support available to you, or contact your student services team.
Finally, good luck with your college experience.
Three years may seem like a long time right now, but time flies when you’re having fun.