Managing your money at University

A student looking at the Money Matters pages on Essentials on their mobile phone.

Hi there! My name is Drew and I’m just going into my final year of studying politics and international relations.  

Starting university might be the first time you’ve had to manage your own money to buy groceries and pay bills, and your student loan drop is most likely the most money you’ve ever had at once. I remember desperately trying (and semi-succeeding) not to spend all my maintenance loan of a bunch of rubbish I didn’t need. Budgeting can be hard when prices are going up and you want to enjoy your time at university, but finding the right balance is possible with the right planning. In this blog, I’ll give you my top 5 tips on managing your money and where you can access free resources and advice on money management. 

My top 5 tips from my personal experience: 

  1. Make a list to avoid impulse purchases: 

Going to shop without a list is a recipe for disaster. Knowing what you need to buy and making sure you only buy the things you need will ensure you’re not wasting any money. I know all too well about making impulse buys and I usually regret buying it. If you’re in a shop and see something you want that isn’t on your list, then take a few days to think about if you really need it and if that purchase can fit into your budget. 

  1. Make a budget: 

This probably should have been my first tip! Making a budget that you can physically look at (or listen to) is so important because then you know how much money you have to spend on certain things. A budget can just be a list of the things you need to pay for each week/month, or you might want to make a proper detailed spreadsheet. To learn more about budgeting have a look at Blackbullion budgeting.   

  1. Make a meal plan: 

Making a meal plan will allow you to buy the exact ingredients you need for the week and will also make sure you’re not wasting money on last minute meals from more expensive convenience stores. If you have meals that use the same ingredients, then you can buy bigger packs (that are usually better value for money). Once you’ve got your ingredients, make a note of the expiration dates and then plan your meals in order of which ingredients run out first. If it’s possible, have group meals with your flatmates or other friends and split the cost because this often works out cheaper. 

  1. Shop around for the best prices: 

You may be tempted to shop at just one shop because it’s convenient, but you may not be getting the best price. A lot of stuff will be similar prices in different shops, but some shops will have much better deals than other shops. You don’t need to spend all day looking around different shops, you can just have a look online to see if certain things are cheaper.  

  1. Use student discount and loyalty schemes: 

A lot of restaurants and clothing stores offer student discount so make sure to use it. You can check to see student offers on UNiDAYS and don’t forget to look on different websites to see which shops offer the best price. Most supermarkets do not offer student discount, but they do have their own loyalty schemes such as Tesco Clubcard or ASDA rewards. From my own experience, ASDA rewards gives you a better return, but it depends on the products you buy, and you can complete milestones/missions for extra rewards. Make sure you get a Tesco Clubcard to ensure you get Clubcard prices and if you use the Co-op a lot then sign up to their loyalty card. 

Resources that you can access for free: 

  1. Blackbullion is a platform designed to help you develop the financial skills and knowledge needed throughout life as a student and beyond. Blackbullion has a huge number of short courses to help you get in control of your finances and as a UoR student you have access to it for free.  
  1. The Student Financial Support team are here to provide advice and support on money related matters, whether its regarding your tuition fee or maintenance loan, Bursaries and Awards, or assisting you with unexpected financial pressures. 
  1. Reading Students’ Union Advice is a free and confidential service that offers tailored advice on things such as housing and money. This advice service is completely independent and is not part of the University of Reading.  
  2. The Money Saving Expert website also had lots of guides and tools to help you save money at University.

Managing your money can be tricky if you haven’t done it before but if you stick to a budget and follow basic tips then it can be a lot easier. Remember to seek advice if you need it. I hope you have a brilliant freshers and enjoy your time at the University of Reading. 

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