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Budgeting tips for students

As thousands of Welsh students head off to Fresher’s Week, Ann Francis of Cambrian Credit Union offers a few budgeting tips.

There’s little question that financially, things are tougher than ever for students.

According to Which magazine, four in 10 first year under-graduates said they found managing money tricky.

There’s more than simple course work to learn when heading off to university and getting on top of your finances at this stage will pay dividends in years to come.

In a time of contactless payments by smart watches and debit cards, it’s easier than ever to lose track of how much money you are spending. A wave of your wrist and the goods are yours!

If you are using electronic payments (and who isn’t) there are some great, free, iOS and Android apps available that can help you budget. For example ‘On Trees’, owned by Money Supermarket, will track your spending while ‘Good Budget’ helps you to sort money into different ‘pots’ for different purposes. There are many other budgeting apps available, but do check they are free or not too expensive as these too can add up!

If you still struggle to track your spending, an old school method is to simply take a set amount of cash out at the start of the week and use that instead of paying by card. There’s nothing that gets you in touch with how much money you’re parting with as handing over physical notes.

A great method of budgeting if you’re not quite ready to cut up your cards is the Engage account. This is a pre-paid, ethical debit card available exclusively through Credit Unions that offers cash-back and discounts on a number of High Street chains, online retailers and supermarkets.

Another source of good deals is the NUS Extra discount card, so make sure you pick up one of these in Fresher’s Week.

If this is your first year at university, chances are you’ve not had to pay rent or household bills, which will be a large part of your monthly spending.

To avoid the temptation to overspend, it’s a good idea to put the money for your rent or hall fees into a separate account that you don’t touch regularly. If you’re in private housing also put away a set amount to cover your bills and remember to compare energy suppliers for the best deal.

Not all students live off baked beans and noodles, you can eat healthily whatever the budget. Staples like pasta with tomato sauces, soups and stews are healthy options that won’t break the bank.

The best way to budget your food spending is to create a shopping list and make packed lunches for the daytime. Also buy value brand items – particularly toiletries, which can otherwise be expensive.

Finally, now you are over 18 you will be offered student overdrafts, credit cards and storecards, my advice is always read the small print and think carefully before you accept any of them!

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