Starting university is an emotionally tumultuous time. Amid all the excitement and nervousness of starting a new degree and perhaps even moving to a new city, many students overlook their finances.
In the long run this can become a big issue. Financial mismanagement over many months can have an array of negative consequences, including rising debts and an inability to pay for essentials like rent and food.
If you’re getting ready to start university, this article will equip you with seven practical strategies for staying on top of your finances. Money management isn’t the most riveting topic in the world. But a little time spent taking care of your affairs will mean that you can enjoy this exciting period of your life without constantly worrying about your bank balance.
1. Be Wary of Short-Term Loans and Overdrafts
One of the first things you’ll realise as a student is that banks are eager to win your custom. People tend to stay with the same bank for life. And that’s why you’ll have access to an array of enticing student overdrafts and even short-term loans.
Be wary of these incentives. While many overdrafts don’t require repayment (or carry only minimal interest payments) while you’re still a student, you’ll likely be subjected to hefty fees once you graduate. Always read the small print and treat your overdraft as a safety-net, for use when you have no other options, rather than as “free money”.
2. Use a Budgeting App
Keeping track of all your payments is a time-consuming task. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to stay on top of every little purchase with a manual system. But even small costs do add up. So how can you manage day-to-day expenses along with larger outgoings like rent and bills?
This is one area where a simple mobile app can come to the rescue. Budgeting apps, which often sync directly with the user’s bank account, have an array of easy-to-use management and visualisation tools. There are also handy additional features, like overspend alerts, to help ensure that you stay in budget.
3. Pick Your Mobile Contract Carefully
Call and mobile broadband charges quickly add up. As a student, you’ll likely be using your mobile phone a lot, so it’s important to pick the right contract. Track your usage before diving into an agreement with a provider and always check the fine print so that you know how much you’ll be charged if you go over your allowance. Think about putting limits on any additional usage so you don’t overspend.
It’s also worth considering a pay-as-you-go option. Many providers offer attractive bundles which can be cancelled at short notice and don’t tie you into a monthly contract. This is often an appealing option for overseas students who intend to split their time between two countries.
4. Take Advantage of Student Discounts
One of the best things about being a student is the access you’ll have to discounts. You’ll be able to enjoy a host of products and services, from cinema admissions to tickets for public transport, with significant reductions to the normal prices. Most of the time, you just need to flash your student card and you’re good to go.
Student discounts tend to be set at both a national and a city level, so it’s a good idea to research both. In Germany, for example, students have access to an array of nationwide discounts on public transport. Individual cities, like Berlin and Munich, also offer a number of unique student benefits.
5. Consider Part-Time Work
Your university years are an excellent time to take on part-time work. If your student loan covers a large portion of your costs, most of what you earn will be disposable income. By working when studying, you’ll also gain valuable experience that will look good on your résumé.
There are many opportunities for students to find work, and universities often have programs to connect undergraduates with part-time employers. Institutions also tend to reserve campus jobs for students. If this is something that appeals to you, put your name forward as early as possible to avoid missing any opportunities.
6. Buy Second-Hand
Students can save significant amounts of money by opting for pre-used items instead of new ones. High-cost essentials include textbooks, room furnishings and computer and home-study equipment. The internet is your best friend in this regard. You can usually find most things second-hand on sites like Amazon, eBay, craigslist and so on. Textbooks in particular are very expensive new, but tend to be heavily discounted when resold.
What’s more, a growing number of sites and apps are appearing that allow users to give away items they don’t need for free. If you’re moving to a big city with lots of people, they’re well worth checking out.
7. Be Vigilant in Big Cities
If you’re moving to a large city to study, it’s important to make yourself aware of any potential dangers and ensure your personal safety. European and North American cities tend to be amongst the safest in the world, but there are still risks.
Pickpockets, thieves and scam artists thrive in highly-populated and touristic areas. Taking simple steps, such as carrying money on the front of your person and travelling in groups at night, will mean that you don’t unnecessarily lose any money or valuables. Many universities organise walking tours and orientation programs which are excellent for familiarising yourself with the areas where you need to be most alert.
Study in One of Europe’s Most Vibrant Cities
EU Business School has campuses in some of Europe’s most exciting, vibrant cities, including Barcelona, Geneva, Montreux and Munich. If you’re interested in a career in business, take a look at our wide range of bachelor’s, master’s and MBA programs.
Along with gaining all the knowledge, skills and hands-on experience you need to thrive in your chosen field, you’ll also get the chance to interact with and learn from some of the world’s most successful business leaders.