Accommodation

Your Money – 7 Things NOT To Do as a Student

On Monday it was the turn of things to do regarding your money through uni. This time, let’s explore what you do not want to be doing. If you recognise any of this already, it’s never too late to make changes and hold your head up high. There’s no shame in having a problem that needs dealing with and there is a lot of support available. If none of this currently applies to you, it’s still best to bear it in mind so you stay on that path. It’s all too easy to slip down and make a mistake if you’re not careful. So what shouldn’t you do?

Small change (photo by vickykc)

DON’T:

  1. Ignore a problem – When things go wrong, there’s a temptation to turn the other cheek. If you look away, the monsters will go away. We know that it’s bad advice, but it’s a temporary solution and it makes us feel better in the short term. Unfortunately, it makes us feel worse in the long term. We’re not thinking long term at the time though! But we have to deal with problems at one time or another, so it’s best to make that time the present. If you’re in trouble, admit it to yourself and give a bit of time to recovering from the situation. Ignoring it will simply allow the downfall to continue. Five minutes of peace with your head in the sand equals five hours of headaches later down the line. You must acknowledge the need to help yourself before you can be helped at all.
  2. Presume anything – If you’re uncertain about something involving your finances, ASK SOMEONE! You’re in the real world now and things tend to matter a lot more, whether you like it or not. If you have a query regarding a bill, a strange debt situation, a request for money that you don’t understand, or anything else that isn’t 100% absolute in your head, you need to question the issues. Sometimes it’s a quick question for your parents, or a housemate, and you just want the all clear on something trivial. At other times, you may need to involve your Student Services or equivalent. If it’s nothing to do with uni, you may have to speak to the party involved or ask your uni where you can turn for the advice you need.
  3. Spend on luxuries and anything you like – Okay, so you’ve probably already worked that out given my other ‘DO’ and ‘DON’T’ advice, but it’s worth mentioning explicitly, just in case! The less you care about the money now, the more problems you’re likely to end up with later. If you treat your finances well and realise that you don’t need all those amazing goodies just because you can, you’ve more chance in being more careful with your money in the future. Luxuries are only luxuries when you don’t have them anyway. Why spoil the effect by buying something when it can be a luxury forever…?
  4. Compete with friends – Just as some of us feel the need to keep up with the amounts we drink when we’re out, the same can be said with spending. Sometimes a feeling can hit you that makes you want to buy just as much as other friends. When one person makes an enviable purchase, you may feel more ‘need’ for it yourself than you ever did before. You may also crave the increased status that your friend might now have with other people. There are many reasons why you may want to increase your spending in line with another person, or a group of people, but it’s a bad move. We’re all in a different financial boat, but we hardly ever consider that. Just remember, if you can make that purchase without problem, then all’s well with the world. If it would cause a problem, then step back. Anyway, who cares what other people own? They’re only objects. You can get a lot more out of yourself than you can from an object…
  5. Treat debt like free money – Your student loan is exactly that. A loan. It’s a much better loan than one from a bank, but it’s still a loan. If you choose to spend it all so quickly on rubbish, you may have to take out another loan on a much worse deal and suffer a lot more debt. The money is lent to you to help get you through your time at uni, on accommodation, bills, fees, and so on. It might be the first large amount of money you’ve seen in your bank account before…the bank account itself may be a pretty recent occurence! However tempted you feel, it’s not an excuse to spend all the cash in one go.
  6. Use a car at uni (if living away from home) – You may need a car if you’re travelling to and from your house. But anyone living away from their parental home is usually within spitting distance of their campus, if not right on it (and please, no seeing how far you can spit…)! University is one place where cars really don’t matter. There is so much nearby, you’ll be spending most time on campus or in halls, it’s never a problem using public transport when you’re with loads of mates anyway, someone less bothered about their money can give you lifts in THEIR car, etc., etc. A car is a huge expense at any time of life. Might as well not bother with one while you have almost zero need for one (feel free to argue if you disagree, but it’ll take a very good argument to sway me!).
  7. Ignore the need to work – If we could all get through our degrees without doing any paid work on the side, I’m sure we’d all be ecstatic. However, it’s a reality for many now that some part-time work is needed to keep your finances in check. If you’re getting into difficulty, but you’re stubbornly choosing not to find a few hours of paid work each week, you’re doing yourself an injustice and you will consequently find the rest of your life getting you down. Of course, if you haven’t got into all the debt yourself, you can always ask for money from things like the Access to Learning Fund (ALF) or one of the other many sources of help. But if you’ve exhausted those possibilities, don’t put off the need to do a bit of work. It may be annoying, considering you’re already meant to be working at uni on your degree, but there are usually enough hours in the day, no matter how much you may disagree with that. Then again, if you read this and the various other articles I’ve mentioned in EduLinks over the weeks, I’m sure you’re working your way to a more productive lifestyle anyway!

Your Money – 7 Things To Do as a Student

Money is clearly an important thing to you. Even if you hate money and have never had to deal with it, it’s bound to be a big deal now. If it’s becoming a pain, or if you don’t want to get yourself in a tight spot, here are 7 things you should do to sort your financial situation out. In my next post, I’ll be featuring 7 things you need to steer clear from.

UK Coinage 3 (photo by woodsy)

DO:

  1. Find cheaper ways to drink – I have to put it here. So best to get it out of the way first! A good number of students are rather happy with drinking in various quantities. If you’re not one of them, count yourself lucky. When I had money on me, I certainly used some of it on alcohol. Alas, I didn’t often have much money! So, I had to find ways of drinking on less cash, such as buying beers in bulk at the supermarket and enjoying a couple of drinks before venturing out for the night. It’s also possible to buy one or two bottles of spirits (if your budget will stretch that far) so you’re not tempted by a costly wee dram when you’re out. If you regularly drink shots, it’s definitely better to do that with your own bottle…a group of you could buy a different bottle each and enjoy things regularly without spending anything like as much. You’ll also have something to offer to your mates, which always goes down well!
  2. Keep tabs on your spending – How much do you spend on your weekly shop? Do you top it up every day on more food? How much does a night out cost you? If you aren’t asking yourself these questions about your spending, best start now. You’re not helping yourself if you keep your head in the sand. If you spot any habits where you can’t help yourself, it’s in your best interests to make a note of it and see what you can do about it. It’s often quite simple to make a few changes for the better. And if you need help with some spending issues, speak to your Student Services or similar. You’ll be able to get help with the problem and there are also last resort funds and loans available to some of you. Do think of it as a last resort though, and definitely never spend all your money while imagining the money is just there for you. Your situation will be looked into, so if you’ve wasted all the money on clothes, you’re not going to be given any financial help. There will still be plenty advice to help get you back on track though, so don’t ignore it completely, even if you have got into a bad situation yourself.
  3. Be flexible – Leave an expensive purchase for when you’re better equipped to afford it. We may live in a culture of instant gratification, but a little patience is not only healthy, but also helpful to enjoying your purchase even more when you can finally afford it. Yes, it’s difficult to manage this, but you have to sometimes. It’s just one of those things. Get used to it, because it’s just the way things are from now on. Well, unless you become insanely rich on a grand entrepreneurial idea. Best of luck with that!
  4. Be realistic about accommodation – We’d all like the biggest en-suite room with every extravagance available, but it’s just not within range to all students. Even if you could just about afford the best thing around, it might make sense to get the second best thing and save a bit of money for other things. Your room, whether on campus or in private accommodation, is certainly an important choice, so think carefully. If all you’re looking for is a place to sleep and do very little else, why bother with anything fancy? However, if it’s to be your main study area, private sanctuary, and getaway from everything else, it’s worth thinking about the best and most comfortable place. Whatever the score, your accommodation costs a lot of money, but in varying amounts. From £40-50 a week, through to £130-140 in some extreme cases (or London!). So do your thinking, do your sums, and do your best to find accommodation that’s right for your life and for your pocket.
  5. Budget – There are two fantastic resources that do the same thing, but very differently. See which one you like best. The first is The Student Calculator. You can note down everything you think you’ll spend, or want to stick to. It’s very helpful and part of the charity UNIAID. The other budget resource is not specifically for students, but the MoneySavingExpert Budget Calculator has got most aspects of your probable spending available to note down and may be preferred by some of you. A downloadable spreadsheet is also available, so you can keep on top of your budget as often as you wish, with the greatest of ease. Beginning a budget may be an eye-opener for some of you, but well worth it.
  6. Keep a log of payments, bills, amounts owed, etc. – This will help you avoid fines for one thing. You might be surprised just how many encounters there are with fines for no other reason than forgetting to pay or do something in the first place. Keeping track of what you need to pay is also important so you remember how much money in the bank really can be used by you. It could be a disaster if you forget a huge payment and end up spending loads that you thought was safe to spend. It happens, so always note down what you’ve paid and what’s still remaining.
  7. Check my post on buying your groceriesGROCERIES ON A GRANT… – Food is important and even recent Freshers can tell you that beans on toast and the occasional luxury treat of pasta and sauce is boring (and not the best thing to maintain a balanced healthy eating regime).