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Taking control of your money

Yay! Uni is finally here (well, almost). You’ve got the tech sorted, the textbooks packed and the tequila stocked up – #priorities. But there’s just one thing you’re forgetting…oh yea! The money stuff!

Don’t panic. We’re here to help (‘cos we’re nice like that). We know the first few weeks can be a whirlwind, so boring things like budgeting can easily slip off your jam-packed agenda.

What happens if you run through your student loan? Or your housemates start squabbling about the bills? Or you’re stuck outside a nightclub in the pouring rain with no money to get home?

It’s all about knowing the issues, spotting them ahead of time and swerving around them with nonchalant cool.

Here are 10 things you need to know about your moolah when you’re starting uni.

1. Choose the right bank

If you haven’t already found a student bank account, DO IT NOW! Don’t leave it until the Freshers Fair, when silver-tongued salesmen from certain banks will pretend to be your bestie…but give you a second-rate deal. Only consider the genuine perks, like a free Young Persons Railcard, and suss out the best free overdraft limit that YOU can actually get before buying – some banks advertise “headline” overdrafts that won’t actually be granted to everyone for credit reasons. Boo!

2. Sharing is caring

If you’re living on campus, chances are your bills will be all-inclusive and simples. If you’re renting a property with flatmates, it could be a different story. Sit down with your fellow dwellers and figure out how the bills will be paid. Even better, get everyone to download an app like Splittable, which provides a shared platform to specify who owes what and when. You can also notify others when you’ve paid your share of the bills or bought anything for the house (although you can’t pay through it). Farewell, passive aggressive notes on the fridge!

3. Your overdraft is a backstop, not a way of life

Even though getting a meaty, free overdraft should be a priority when hunting down your bank account, try your best NOT to use it. If it means budgeting hard, spending less or even investigating student bursaries, do anything and everything to avoid an overdraft becoming your oxygen tank. It will end one day (OMG) and when it does, the privilege of borrowing through a Grown-Up bank account costs silly money.

4. Budgeting is non-optional

Okay, you can try to navigate your finances without a budget for a few weeks. But expect confusion, bad decisions and an inexplicable sea of red on your account where you’ve overdrawn. A budgeting app like Money Dashboard or OnTrees will help you see EXACTLY where the dosh is going so you can make smarter decisions.

5. Cooking will save you TONS

Okay, so you’re not Jamie Oliver. But his site IS a good shout if you want to find cheap and cheerful recipes. Master a few signature dishes and put them on rotation. Create a capsule fridge of easy ingredients that you can mix and match and try creating sauces, stews and soups with a slow cooker. Try to cook and eat with your housemates to save money – get them to write down their availability on a blackboard at the start of the week.

6. Become a serial discounter

Get a NUS extra card, pronto. Offers from NUS include 25 per cent off National Express and 25 per cent off Odeon cinema tix. UNiDAYS will also give you access to loadsa discounts AND competitions.

7. Upgrade your payments

Download an app like Circle so you can send money to other people easily for free, whether it’s bills or your share of the drinks tab. And if your parents download it, they can bung you some cash in an emergency. Ah, the good old bank of Mum and Dad…

8. Walk on by

Spending can be an amazing buzz. But trying to maintain that high will leave you hollow and broke. Eugh. Skip the heartache and ask yourself three things before you buy something; do I really need and want this? Do I already have something like this? Can I get this cheaper elsewhere? If in doubt, leave it out.

9. Libraries are a marvellous thing, you know…

They offer you, like, free books. I know! Get to grips with opening times and when certain books are likely to be popular. And if you have to buy, go second hand and try to sell on your books when you’re done with them.

10. Work, work, work, work, work, work…

So if you’re NOT a member of Fifth Harmony, fear not. Working at uni doesn’t have to be a soul-destroying bar job (although that would be, ahem, character-forming…) Find your side hustle, whether it’s coding or selling jewellery on Etsy. If you work at it, you’ll pay the bills AND pimp your CV at the same time.

Iona is the founder of the award-winning The Young Money BlogYou can find her on twitter @ionayoungmoney