Student Savings: How to Stay Out of that Overdraft and be Smart with Money

I am currently in my third and final year of university, and of being a broke student (hopefully!). One of my most impressive personal achievements is never having to go into an overdraft. This has NOT been easy. I have had to make sacrifices over the years and have learned to be smart with my money. Don’t get me wrong, there were times when I had £20 to my name, the day before payday, which wasn’t fun. But overall, I have managed to organise my money, so I was able to have fun and socialise with friends, as well as being able to pay rent and other bills. So, I thought I would share my experience and some tips, maybe even help out a ‘broke’ student like myself. Some of these tips may be very obvious to you, but it would have been useful to have someone tell me some money saving ideas instead of having to learn along the way.

WORK AND BUDGETING

Having a part-time job is the main source of income for many students. Unless you’re lucky enough to be funded by the bank of mum and dad! At the start on my second year of University, I decided to leave my job in my hometown and get a job up in Belfast, so I could use the extra time I had during the week to make money. I was lucky enough to find a job at a café in the city centre. Here I worked 2/3 days a week. My manager was very kind and allowed me to work around my uni timetable. This allowed me to work some full days and some half days (working after uni). This suited me perfectly, as I then didn’t have to work weekends and had free time to spend with family and friends and do uni work. Another great thing about working in a café is that I was never working late into the night, so I wouldn’t exhaust myself. It allowed me plenty of time to do my uni work in the evenings or go out and socialise with friends.

It’s important to look at your university timetable and your workload and see what kind of part-time job would suit you best. It could be during the week, the weekend or a mix of both. Find a good balance of uni, social life and work. You want to make as much money as you can without overwhelming yourself.

One crucial thing to do to manage your money as a student, is to set a weekly budget. How much do you make every week? How much will you spend weekly on bills, food and your social life? This is so important even at the start of the year when the student loan comes in and you might be feeling ‘rich’. That loan will be gone faster than you think, especially if you’re renting accommodation and have to pay a deposit and rent each month. Setting a limit for each expenditure, will help you have more control over your money. It will help you see clearly what you can afford and what you need to cut back on.

TRAVEL

Unfortunately, travel is something that we can’t usually cut back on. We all have places we need to be. Fuel for your car is a necessity and usually there aren’t many savings to be made. However, public transport is something that you can save money on. If you live in or go to university in Northern Ireland, the chances are that you have used a Translink service at some stage. If you don’t have a yLink card- Get one! A yLink card gives a 33% discount on all Translink fares for 16 to 23-year olds. It costs just £8 to purchase the card. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Translink have removed the £8 card fee. A yLink card is currently free, so there is no better time to get one than now. Translink also has a mobile app, “mLink” which allows you to pre-buy tickets online and upload your yLink card to apply discounts.

Omio is my favourite travel app and it’s one I’m always raving about to my friends. Omio shows all available student prices and the cheapest offers on rail, bus and plane. It’s great for travelling across the country or travelling aboard. It allows you to apply filters like cheapest, fastest, closest to your current location etc. I find it the easiest and cheapest way to organise trips. When I’m travelling, I love to do my research and use price comparison websites to get the best deal. A lot of the time, the best way to save your money when travelling, is to organise and invest time in shopping around for the most competitive price.

DISCOUNTS

I love shopping- buying new clothes, make up, home décor and everything in between. But unfortunately, most people can’t afford to just buy everything that they want. I’ve always been savvy when it comes to shopping and I want to share my tips with you on saving money. My main piece of advice is stay in that sale section! I RARELY buy things full price, especially because most shops do student discount. Many retailers will offer between 10-30% student discount. There are many apps that can help you save money! You’d be surprised how many companies offer student discounts and offers. Apps like ‘Unidays’ and ‘Student Beans’ have discounts and offers on loads of different brands, as well as running competitions throughout the year. If there is something that I really want but I don’t want to pay full price, I will always look on Depop. This allows you to buy second hand or new items that are in great condition from a member of the public who no longer wants it. Many of the items I have bought from Depop still have the labels on them and I buy it for half of its original price. I must admit, I’m famous in my friend group for finding the best sales. If you complement my outfit, be prepared for my backstory on how little it cost me!

Loyalty cards are also a great way to get discounts and freebies. The day you get your Tesco Clubcard is when you really know you’re adulting!

SAVINGS

By creating a savings folder in your bank account, you can set aside £5 or £10 every payday and create a mini savings account for yourself. This should be easy to do with an online bank account. You’ll be able to easily move it back and forth into your main account. This is great to have- so if something fun comes up like a weekend away with friends, you’ll be able to go without the worry of not being able to afford it. Or if an unexpected expense arises, you’ll be more prepared.

Depop is also a great way to make money. It is an app that allows you to sell fashion items that you no longer use. I love this app as it’s a great way to make money and it declutters your wardrobe at the same time. I am often selling fashion items that I have only wore once, or clothes that I forgot to return and still have the labels on them. It is a great way to earn back the money that you have spent.

SOCIALISING & TREATING YOURSELF

Yes, being careful with money is essential. It’s imperative to save and not spend money unnecessarily. However, it is still important to enjoy life, especially when you are young. Being a student allows so much opportunity to meet new people and form relationships and you shouldn’t miss out. You should be able to buy something you don’t need but want, and not feel guilty about it. It’s all about finding balance. For example, keeping takeaways as a treat is a great way to save. It’s better for your health and your wallet. But I must admit, dining out is one of my favourite things to do, but keeping it in moderation also makes the experience more enjoyable. That means when it is time to treat yourself, you’ll have more disposable income and who doesn’t want that.

Socialising doesn’t have to cost that much, so long as you stick to your budget. There is no need to be spending £70 in a nightclub! Sometimes our not-too-sober self, can feel very generous and buy our friends lots of drinks. If this seems to happen to you more often than not, I would advise leaving your debit card at home, taking a £20 note out with you or put £20 on a travel card so you know you won’t overspend. There’s nothing wrong with having a good time but you could be left suffering the next day from a sore head and an empty wallet.

There are plenty of little changes we can make to save money when socialising. If you are feeling really stuck for cash, don’t be afraid to say no, or suggest doing something cheaper or free. You can spend quality time with friends without spending money. The chances are that your friends will be understanding, as they are likely to be students too and in a similar financial situation.

SMART WITH MONEY

Overdrafts are beneficial and necessary for many students in order to support themselves financially. An arranged overdraft won’t affect your credit score as long as you don’t go beyond your overdraft limit. But really overdrafts should only be used for emergencies or as a short-term option. They can cause a lot of stress and you will have to pay it back. When you finish university, you could spend years earning money and not see it if you’re still paying off an overdraft.

An unarranged overdraft, however, will affect your credit score in the future. This means that applying for a mortgage or any other loan later in life could lead to rejection. You could have difficulty getting a credit card or a rental application approved.

Remember – money isn’t everything. You are at university to get a degree and that should be your main focus. Financial troubles at this time are more common than you think. I am definitely no expert, and I would advise seeking expert help if you are struggling. Contacting ‘Student Support’ in your university can provide you with help, advice and even emergency funding if necessary.

I hope you found some of this advice useful and that you enjoyed reading!

Published by ciarahughespr

Final Year Communication Management and Public Relations Student studying at Ulster University

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