The transition from home to university life can be a challenge for parents as well as students – especially since parents are often expected to pay the difference when maintenance loans don’t cover their son or daughter’s living expenses!
For most students, going to university is their first experience of living alone, and managing their own finances, yet very few are formally taught the vital skill of budgeting. As September fast approaches, we’ve put together our top five tips for helping your child save money and stick to a budget at university.
Buy Second hand where you can
Going to university is never going to be cheap, but buying second hand is a simple and effective way to cut the cost of many essential items.
Most universities have a second-hand bookshop, where you can pick up your course textbooks at a fraction of the price they would cost new. Even better, when you’re finished with them, you can often sell them back to the shop!
If your child’s university doesn’t have this facility, fear not – sites such as Amazon and eBay have extensive second-hand sections which could help cut the cost of required texts, and it’s worth checking to see which books can be borrowed from the library before classes start.
Buying second hand can also be a great way to save on new clothes and homeware which your child might need for their university home. Most large cities have a thriving charity shop culture, and rummaging through the rails and shelves for a bargain is a cheap and fun alternative to high street shopping.
Know Your Student Discounts
A valid student card comes with all kinds of discounts – from cinema tickets to stationary! It is worth researching in advance which companies offer a discount for students, as this information can help your son or daughter to engage in budget-friendly outings.
A 16-25 Railcard is also a sound investment if your child expects to travel home by train. The card costs only £28 annually, and entitles the holder to a third off their rail fare for each journey. This can easily pay for itself in a single journey when larger distances are covered. Some student current accounts even provide a free rail-card as part of their perks, so it is worth shopping around when it comes to helping your son or daughter to choose a bank.
Encourage Healthy Eating
Takeaway pizzas and instant noodles may be staples of the stereotypical student lifestyle, but a healthier diet could save your child a huge amount of money, as well as improving their health.
The price of takeaways and ready-meals quickly add up, and can jeopardize your child’s chances of sticking to their budget. Instead, spend a little time recapping the basics of cooking with them – you might even consider writing down a few healthy low-cost recipes to get them started. A bean chilli is a good example of a cost-effective and healthy meal, as well as being pretty straight forward to make.
Cooking from scratch means planning – this is the single best way to help your child from overspending on their food shops at university. Encouraging your son or daughter to get into the habit of using a shopping list will help them stick to their budget, since they will only purchase the amount of food they need, and hopefully be able to avoid impulse purchases.
Keep Essential Costs under Control
The world of energy and WiFi tariffs are probably new to your child, but you can use your experience to help them find the best possible deal, freeing up more of their budget for saving and socialising! Student halls usually include utilities in residents’ rent, but if your son or daughter will be renting privately (and they likely will in subsequent years) you can help them find the best deals with the aid of a price comparison site.
Living costs are on the rise, and it is very likely that the maintenance loan your child receives won’t cover their living costs in full. Your son or daughter’s budget could be supplemented with part-time work, but it is important to ensure that this will not impact upon their studies – working more hours over the holidays instead of during term-time can get around this issue, if possible.
If your son or daughter finds that they need further funding, the best way to borrow money is through a free student overdraft. Getting into debt is never ideal, but most student accounts allow their holders to be overdrawn without charging them interest or fees. These accounts also extend the free overdraft for a year or two after graduation, allowing a fair amount of time to pay the money back. These overdrafts can be a real help, as long as they are not treated as free money!
With a little budgeting help from their parents, there is plenty that new students can do to make and stick to their budgets, to avoid having to seek professional debt advice further down the line.