Make the most of uni
Tips on making the most of your time at university
Learn how to manage your money and set yourself up while you’re studying.
University is about expanding your mind, paving the path for your future, and having fun while you’re at it. To help all of that go to plan, you do need to take control of your money, and make it work for you.
We’ve put together some tips, and insights from students in the field, to help you sail through from freshers to finals.
Start at the beginning
The only way to know if you have enough money is if you know what’s coming in, and what needs to go out. Yes – this is where your budget comes in. It won’t be the most thrilling part of your uni career, but it could easily be one of the most valuable things you can do.
Start with your monthly income – your loans, grants, weekend job and anything else. Then work out your regular outgoings. That’s rent, travel, food and bills (and a little extra just in case).
Neil Bramley, who joined Barclays several years ago as a graduate trainee, had some advice. 'Keep your receipts from your first month to watch how costs add up, and set limits,' he says. 'Be honest about how much you're spending and budget for little extras.'
Now you can subtract your monthly outgoings from your monthly income. What you have left is your monthly budget – what you have to play with. Divide that by 4.5 and you have your weekly limit.
The urge to spend your student loan and interest-free overdrafts as soon as you get them can be pretty strong. 'When I first got my student loan, I was amazed to see that much money in my account,' says Laura Forster, who studied Occupational Therapy at Oxford Brookes.
But it’s one temptation that you really ought to fight. That cash has to last you a long time after all. If you want a bit of extra cash, and you can fit in a part-time job, it could pay off to work.
What to focus on next
So you’ve made it to uni, and got a handle on your finances. What’s next? A huge part of your university life will be wrapped in the connections you make, so it’s a good idea to put in the effort from the start. Your early days, including freshers’ week, are all about meeting new people and getting to grips with your new life, so make the most of it.
Introduce yourself to your housemates and the members of any societies you like the look of. And don’t be shy when it comes to saying hello in lectures and workshops.
Your new home away from home is also an important part of your stay. Try to decorate your room so it feels like yours, with a few bits to remind you of home if you get a little home-sick. You can even choose your favourite picture from home and personalise your debit card with it, so it’s always nearby.
And since you’ll be looking after yourself, it’s a good idea to work out a routine. Set aside a half hour on a Saturday morning to do a quick clean – little and often will help avoid big issues.
And to keep yourself from eating more instant noodles than you’d like, do a bulk shop so your freezer, cupboard and fridge have a solid supply and variety of food to keep you going. This could save you money too, as you won’t be tempted to pick up bits and bobs from the union shop every day.
Having a great time at university is a big part of the experience, so make sure you make the most of as many opportunities as you can. As long as you look after yourself, and set time aside for work and play, it’ll be quite an adventure.