If you are moving away to study for the first time you may be keen to prepare for the financial aspect of university. Read on for some advice on what you can do before the start of your course to help you to manage your finances.
Apply for your student finance early – students are usually advised to apply before the end of June to ensure that their finance is ready for the start of their course. Ensure that you have sent all required information early as well, as failure to provide this can also lead to delayed payments. It is also useful to know how much funding you have been awarded before your course begins and exactly when this will be paid, to help you plan your budget.
Also check in advance to see if any scholarships are available to you as many scholarships require you to apply well before the start of your course. You can find details of Durham University scholarships here:
Aim to pay your college accommodation fees as soon as possible or set aside sufficient funds. This will be your largest outgoing so ensuring that this is covered will help you to see how much money you have remaining for the rest of term. You can then divide the remainder of your maintenance loan (plus other income, such as money from parents) over the number of weeks in the term, to give an idea of how much you can spend each week.
If you will be living in self-catered accommodation, consider how much you will spend on food. This can vary widely, and costs will be much lower if you can make meals from scratch rather than rely on ready meals and takeaways. It may be a good idea to learn a few basic recipes before moving out of home and bring the necessary cooking utensils with you. Storage containers can also be a useful so you can refrigerate or freeze leftovers.
A part time job can be a great way to earn extra money whilst a student. The University has a dedicated Student Employment Service which can help with this, including a database of part time vacancies.
Be prepared for some initial costs at the start of the first term. You may need to buy books and a laptop and want to join some societies. Some colleges also require you to purchase a gown for formal dinners. These initial costs can add up, so be careful. One way to limit these costs is to look for the cheapest laptop to suit the needs of your course and consider second-hand rather than brand new. Also research the societies you would like to join beforehand, so you don’t end of signing up for too many.
Consider if there are any outgoings you have now which could be removed or reduced once you start your course. For example, you may currently run a car and pay for car insurance – it is unlikely that you would need a car if living in college accommodation so consider if you can cancel this or don’t renew when the current policy ends. You may also have membership for a gym in your home area, so see if this can be cancelled or paused until you return home in the holidays.
You may also want to open a student bank account with interest-free overdraft. It is not a good idea to treat the whole of your overdraft as additional income for the first term only, as the bank is unlikely to increase this during your first year and this would then leave you without this to fall back on for the rest of the year. It may be better to use this as a safety net – budget based on your maintenance loan and other income and only use the overdraft for emergencies, or if your budgeting does not go to plan.
Think long-term when choosing a bank account and overdraft – banks usually remove the interest-free overdraft gradually after graduation. It may be a good idea to look around to see which banks give you the most time to repay the overdraft. Banks also offer incentives to open a student account e.g. cash or a railcard. Consider what option works best for you – a railcard can give substantial savings but only if you make frequent and/or lengthy train journeys.
Once you start, be careful not to spend too much at the start of term. It’s understandable that you may be spending on socialising as you will be meeting new people and want to make the most of this new experience, but you also don’t want to find yourself without funds towards the end of the term.
If you experience any financial difficulties whilst at Durham University or need further advice on managing your money once a student, please do not hesitate to access support: firstname.lastname@example.org
For further advice:
Student Minds offers a comprehensive guide to transitioning into University, including a section on money:
You may find the following budget spreadsheets useful when planning a budget for your studies. Obviously, some outgoings may be estimates at first as you may be unsure of exact costs, therefore you can update this throughout the year/term to help keep track of spending as well as plan ahead. The weekly budget over one term may be useful if you have a termly income (such as maintenance loan) and pay rent on a termly basis; the monthly budget over one year may be useful if you have more monthly outgoings (such as bills and rent paid monthly).