Student Overdraft

Student Overdraft?

Going to Uni changes everything. For starters, you’ll have the freedom to do whatever you want. No more curfews, no more parental monitoring. For your social life, this is undoubtedly a great thing but for your wallet, it can be worse than when McDonald’s unveiled the Pound Saver menu. Most students begin uni life with a pristine overdraft lining their pockets. For many undergrads, this is probably the closest they’re ever likely to come to get a few numbers right in the lottery. In short, it’ll seem like the best thing ever.

Of course, this free dosh has to be repaid. Many eager Uni-goers are quick to sign up but not so hot at reading the fine print that comes with their loan. Combine this with the fact that terms like ‘good with money’ and ‘definitely not skint’ aren’t exactly synonymous with students then graduating into a sea of debt can become a very real possibility. With this in mind, developing a keen sense of money management could be the only thing standing between you and a year or so of working in a job you hate just to repay what you owe. But don’t worry, there’s no need to become so frugal you’ll make Scrooge McDuck jealous. We’ve compiled a list of ten hints, tips and friendly suggestions that, if followed, could help you survive your roller coaster Uni experience with your overdraft intact.

Stop Buying On Impulse…

Your first trip to the shopping centre as a student is always the worst. Never will you be more aware of money burning a hole in your pocket. Don’t feel bad if you cave in initially – it happens to the best of us. However, it’s important to realise that you don’t really need everything you lay your eyes on. This is something that everyone learns in time and the first step on the road to managing your money properly. If you can, try to avoid visits to big retail stores as much as possible. If you’re not physically there then you can’t be tempted. Simple as that. Instead, stick to buying the stuff you really need – food, Uni resources, toiletries – it’ll be worth it in the long run.

Bin the Bad Habits…

Smoking, drinking, an irrational love of Hotel Chocolat’s fancy slabs of goodness…bad habits can take many forms and, given enough time, can bankrupt you. If you’re spending £20 a week on cigarettes, that’s £20 that could go towards something that’s less throwaway or even better, it could be saved. Analyse your points of financial weakness. Identify areas where you could cut back on the things you don’t really need and instead put that same money towards the stuff you can’t live without. Remember, while the enjoyment of these products is often fleeting, the financial effect is sure to stick with you for a lot longer.

Budgeting for Food

Bargain Hunt…

When you do venture out to the shops keep a keen eye on price tags. There’s no point spending £3 on a jar of coffee when you can visit the local pound store and save yourself a couple of quid. Familiarise yourself with your local stores, take a day to walk around and see what bargains you can find. Those who don’t may end up wasting money purely because they haven’t bothered to diversify their shopping habits. Making your pennies last longer by scouting out the best deals is the key to keeping your overdraft looking healthy.

Ask For Discounts…

Students don’t know how lucky they are. By enrolling in higher education you’ll automatically become eligible for a whole heap of discounts. Topshop, McDonald’s, The Apple Store – there are plenty of retailers out there who are more than happy to knock a quid or two off your purchase. Many places offer discounts that are exclusive to students, taking the time to register for an NUS card would open up a whole world of freebies. Never heard of NUS? National Union of Students is a voluntary organisation that can save you money on everything from food to entertainment. Another worthwhile discount is the 2 for 1 cinema ticket deals from Orange. If there’s something you’re dying to see, schedule your plans around Orange Wednesday. And remember, if you’re not sure whether a retailer offers a student discount, just ask. Fortune favours the brave!

Drink Before You Leave The House…

It’s no secret that students like the odd sherry every now and then but over time those booze bills can mount up. If you’re heading for a night on the tiles, one surefire way of saving a few pence is to get the majority of your (responsible) drinking done before you leave the house. Don’t get us wrong, we know that student drinks are some of the cheapest known to mankind however it doesn’t make sense to buy double after pint after shot when you can fork out for a bottle of cheap as chips spirit or a few sneaky cans beforehand for much less. Once you’re oiled up, the only thing you’ll have to worry about is club entry costs. Oh, and not embarrassing yourself…we all like to have fun but please make sure you drink responsibly.

Get a job

Get A Job…

Perhaps the easiest way to keep on top of your finances and ensure your overdraft remains untouched is to get up off your bum and find a job. Whether it’s full-time, part-time or even just the odd shift here and there, every penny counts. A casual job would happily fund those little-added extras that make Uni life so appealing and all the while your overdraft would be none the wiser. More importantly, bagging yourself a job is a great character building exercise that’ll quickly and efficiently teach you the value of money and the importance of sensible spending. Basically, it just makes sense.

Avoid Credit Cards…

Whatever poor decisions you make during your time at uni (there will be loads), try your best not to make ‘maxing out a credit card’ one of them. While they may seem like a magical way to gain access to a quick and easy buck when it comes time to pay it back you’ll be kicking yourself all the way to the bank…literally. Spending money you don’t own is always risky business. It’s a slippery slope that can get out of hand in less time than it takes to type in your pin number. These days, even those who don’t opt for an overdraft will graduate into a considerable slice of student debt. The last thing you want to worry about is paying off a credit card (and it’s inescapable interest rates) as well.

Shop Around For Free Software…

No matter what subject you decide to study, it’s likely that at some point you’ll need the help of a computer to complete the various assessments thrown your way. If that’s the case, then you might need to get your hands on some tech and that stuff can be pricey. Thankfully, as the necessity for Office software has risen so has the number of cheap online alternatives. For example, why shell out for Microsoft Word when Google Docs offers the same (and arguably better) service absolutely free? If you know you’re only going to use Photoshop once in a blue moon, then why not have a quick Google search for free trials or promotional downloads. There are loads out there and your wallet will thank you for it.
Counting the pennies

Take A Walk…

Take the time to learn where everything is in relation to where you’re located. You don’t want to be paying for a weekly bus pass if your university building is within walking distance. Alternatively, this is a great way to familiarise yourself with your surroundings and find shortcuts (safe ones) to the places you visit the most. It can take a while to get to grips with the layout of a big city. Spend a day or two soaking up your surroundings and learning where everything is. Not only could this cut transportation costs but if you do it enough you can wave goodbye to that gym membership. Walking is exercise too, remember?

Get a Young Person’s Railcard…

Making the jump to a campus that’s far away from your home? Have friends who are starting University life in different spots across the country? Then it looks like trains will soon become your new best friend. Whether you’re saying “hi” to the parents or checking out a mate’s new Uni digs and local nightlife – railway travel will become your saving grace whenever you want to get somewhere fast. But it doesn’t come cheap. If you’re aged between 16 and 25, then you’d be wise to purchase a Young Person’s Railcard. They’ll currently cost you £28 a year but in return, you’ll get up to a third off all standard and first class ticket prices. Combine this with the already brilliant savings found on the likes of TheTrainLine.com and your card will have paid for itself in no time. Next stop: bargains.

And Finally…

If you’re really worried about graduating from the bank’s bad books then the most obvious choice is to avoid getting an overdraft altogether. Before you sign on the dotted line make sure that you weigh up your options carefully. While for some an overdraft will undoubtedly be a necessity, for others it’ll be something they could happily live without. Of course, this boils down to a number of person-specific factors. Perhaps your chosen university is close to home, allowing you to commute. Maybe you’ve spent the previous summer slaving away in a part-time job to save up enough money to tide you over. Or it may be the case that an estranged relative has left you a hefty inheritance in exchange for a night spent at his (probably haunted) house. Who knows? But if there’s a way for you to go to uni without committing to a student overdraft, it’s always worth a shout.