For many students, their time at university will be the first time they have had to understand how to manage their own money. Sometimes it isn’t as simple as living on the basics to keep your finances in order – you could spend a week spending on only the absolute essentials and still find you’re running low on money by the time your rent is due.
The good news is that there are lots of ways to improve your budgeting skills. If you know what you’re doing, you can become the master of your own money, and maybe even have a little left over to treat yourself, too. Here are the six money-management hacks that every student should know.
Get the best bank account
Before you do anything else, sort the most important thing of all: your bank account. There’s no point in using money-saving hacks if you’re not getting the best deal on your account, especially as banks are often willing to bend over backwards to attract student customers.
Lots of student bank accounts come with perks for signing up (such as discounts on monthly subscriptions, travel cards or discounts for restaurants), as well as interest- and fee-free overdrafts, which give you a low-risk safety net if you ever run out of money.
If you are studying overseas, it’s probably wise to go for an account with low (or non-existent) fees for sending and receiving money from abroad.
Always ask for student discount
You will probably be aware of student discounts, but you may not realise just how widespread this initiative is. Plenty of shops, restaurants and other businesses run some kind of scheme for students, but they may not always publicise it. So whether you are going to the cinema, getting a haircut or eating out at a local restaurant, there is no harm in asking.
Negotiate on price if you can
Every time you spend money, remember that you have everything to gain and nothing to lose by trying to save money. Renting a house? Try to negotiate a lower monthly rent. Getting a new phone? Ask for extra data on your plan.
Whether it’s a voucher code, a cash-back offer or just a case of shopping around to find the best price, there’s almost always a way to cut the cost. You just need to spend a bit of time looking it up.
Fortunately, websites or apps such as Save the Student list student discounts and voucher codes, plus countless hacks for making and saving money that could make a huge difference to your finances.
Check if you’re eligible for unusual extra funding
If you don’t fall into a traditional category for receiving a bursary, scholarship or grant (for example, coming from a low-income background, having top grades or excelling in a particular sport or subject), you may assume you’re not eligible for any extra funding.
However, that assumption couldn’t be further from the truth; lots of scholarships are out there for all kinds of things, from having the right surname to being a talented eSports player and even being a vegetarian.
Just remember that different countries will have different schemes, so be sure to the check specific funds available where you are, and who is eligible and for what.
Try a savings challenge
If you struggle to put any money away for a rainy day, it might be worth trying a savings challenge. These usually involve putting away a small amount of money that you can live without, but often enough that you eventually end up with a healthy savings fund.
One of the best is the 1 penny (or cent) challenge whereby you save 1p on day one, 2p on day two, 3p on day three, and so on. The challenge lasts for a year, so when you save £3.65 (or $3.65) on day 365, your total savings pot will be a massive £667.95.
Obviously, depending on the currency where you live, you might have to adjust the amount you start with and how much you increase it each day – but the basic rules of the challenge still apply.
Use an automatic savings app
Don’t trust yourself to complete a savings challenge? Take yourself out of the equation and leave it all to an app instead. There are dozens of automatic savings apps that can assess what you’re spending, what your balance is and how much you can afford to save each week or month.
Then, without you having to lift a finger, it will transfer the money out of your account and into a dedicated savings pot. It couldn’t be easier.
Of course, not every money-saving tip works for everyone. You might find some tricks do more for your budgeting skills than others, and that’s totally fine. As long as you put a bit of effort into finding ways to cut your spending and make extra cash, it won’t be long before you master budgeting as a student.