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How to have money in first year

8th September 2014

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Freshers’ Week is an extremely exciting time. It’s likely your first time living away from home, you’re meeting loads of new people, there are lots of nights out and fun things to be doing… So money is probably the last thing on your mind. But, it shouldn’t be. By now, you are probably aware of tuition fees, accommodation costs and student loans (it would be worrying if you weren’t!) - but do you know about the ‘hidden costs’ associated with a university degree?

There are plenty of these hidden costs just waiting to drain your student loan, and the majority of these are inevitable, for example course materials, society memberships and course trips. A recent university study found that the average undergraduate spends £250 on course materials over the course of three years; something that only the most financially-focused student will be factoring into their budget.

At Bucks New University we have a unique offering called the Big Deal, whereby we foot the bill of all course-related expenses as well as extra-curricular activities with the students’ union. But how can you make sure you’re not constantly in the red when your academic, social and sporting life isn’t taken care of by your university?

It can be difficult making a budget when you don’t know exactly how much things are likely to cost you, but you can work on ensuring that your outgoings are decreased and be a savvy spender.

The most important thing you need to be thinking about is setting up a student bank account. Getting this ready before the start of term will ensure that your student loan instalments go to the right place, and you’re not left penniless. Student bank accounts can make sure your loan goes further too, by offering joining incentives such as vouchers, interest-free overdrafts and even free national railcards. Check the dates that your loan will go into your bank account, as it is normally deposited in three instalments at the beginning of each term. Remember that funds won’t go in for a few days after you first enrol at your university, so have some money put aside in anticipation of this.

When you get on campus, try not to get caught up in the excitement and be a big spender! If books at your university bookshops seem a bit too pricey, search for deals on websites such as Amazon or Abe Books, which usually offer hefty discounts. Social networks are also a great forum for getting in touch with past students who may want to sell their books from the last academic year.

Another great tip is to invest in a second hand bike, especially if you’re based off-campus. Those bus journeys to class and taxi rides to the SU will all add up pretty quickly, so using a bike for some of them will help you to save the pennies. You’ll also be doing your bit for the environment!

If you would like some extra money to help build a bigger budget then there are several options open to students. Universities need staff and have some brilliant flexible roles that you can work in around your studies. As part of the Big Deal Bucks pays its students to become course reps, helping both your bank balance and CV! Most universities also offer a Student Ambassador scheme where you can be paid to help out on open days or other similar events.

Everyone has different approaches to managing their finances, but the important thing to remember is to be realistic about how far your money will go, and to make savings wherever possible. If you ever do get into trouble with money, the sooner you speak up the better. Your university’s student services office will be on hand to offer advice and resource if you find yourself getting into debt or having money woes. Take some time before term starts to get organised. You’ll be thankful for the time spent when you can jump straight into student life and foot the bill for the first round!

Shân Wareing is Pro Vice Chancellor, Learning and Teaching, at Bucks New University (

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