In the UK there’s a widely held stereotype that students are usually poor. The beans on toast eating, charity shop dwelling, cheap beer drinking attendees of universities all around the country.
Although this view of students is generally a bit outdated, it is true that students need to be extra careful with their finances, as all too often they find themselves in a position where their income can be just enough to cover their outgoings.
UK national students usually apply for a student loan to cover their university fees and their maintenance (living) costs and many additionally receive bursaries and hold part-time jobs. It is becoming increasingly common for students to have multiple sources of income to tide them over at times when money is tight.
While many students are therefore not the paupers’ people like to imagine, funding for international students is limited, requiring most to self-fund or receive generous financial help from family and friends back home. Whilst bursaries may be available at individual institutions, students from outside the EU are generally unable to apply for a loan through the Student Loans Company England.
Managing your money as an international student, therefore, takes on a whole new significance. Budgeting is essential not only to ensure you are happy, secure and living comfortably but additionally teaches you skills you can apply when you’re earning in your chosen career! It’s also important to remember that your time as a student is a fantastic opportunity to have fun and make lifelong friends, missing a trip out because your pockets are bare is never any fun.
So with pound signs in our eyes and tips from students from all over the world, we’ve compiled a simple yet effective guide to managing your finances.
It’s an odd concept but often buying more initially can lead to great savings in the long run. Buying a 5kg bag of pasta, for example, can provide months of meals (not every night of course!) and works out considerably cheaper than buying new items every week at the supermarket. Similarly, stocking up on your usual items when half price offers are on can ensure your cupboards are stocked for a fraction of the price. While we’re sure you’re used to savvy food shopping, if you’re new to Manchester bulk savings may be less obvious to you at first.
If you’re planning on getting public transport daily (or even a few times a week) it may be worth buying a monthly or seasonal pass, as often these can work out considerably cheaper in the long run. For example, getting a train to destinations in Greater Manchester can cost £3.20 per day, however, a weekly pass (7 days) only costs £11.50. Monthly savings can be even better.
In Britain, there are many annoying adverts on the TV (so annoying you almost have to appreciate them for their lameness) flouting the benefits of comparison sites. Terrible adverts aside, comparison sites now seem to have a presence in every sector, from savings accounts and insurance through to supermarket price listings.
Compare the Market allows you to get the best deals on insurance, energy, broadband & phone, money, business and travel by showing the providers and their costs and benefits on one page. Money Supermarket is also useful as it allows you access to exclusive deals and vouchers.
Because you’re a student, many places automatically give you money off! Ranging from high street fashion stores to popular restaurants to travel and trips out, students tend to enjoy discounts left, right and centre!
Flashing your student card (which many students get given upon registration) is all you need to do to get a nice 10% off (or sometimes more – keep an eye out for student ‘double discounts’) and many student cards even contain a unique number so online shopping should also be covered. If for any reason your student card isn’t accepted, purchasing an NUS Extra card allows you to enjoy even more discounts at outlets all over the country (and sometimes Europe).
Travel discounts can be fantastic money savers if you plan to travel around the country and purchasing a 16-25-year-old Railcard gives you a third off your ticket price as long as you don’t travel before 10 am. The price of a 16-25 Railcard is around £28 and most students find they easily make their money back in weeks, especially as saving a third on tickets to destinations such as London can really make a difference to the fare you pay.
Checking the details may be tedious, but it can save you spending money on services you may already have. Take contents insurance, for example; if your parents have comprehensive home insurance it may be worth checking to see if you’re covered while away from home before you spend money on ensuring your possessions.
In the UK, the BBC requires everyone who owns a TV to purchase a television licence which currently costs around £140. In a student house or flat (which traditionally has locks on each bedroom door) the rules surrounding TV licencing can seem unfair, often requiring students to purchase a licence each if they all own a TV, as opposed to family homes where only one person will pay for the licence and it will cover the whole house.
If you would like to watch TV, it’s worth looking at all the regulations to ensure you and your housemates pay the correct amount, but technically you can watch great shows without a licence.
Explain? There’s now a host of TV ‘catch-up’ sites such as 4oD (Channel 4), BBC iPlayer and ITVplayer that allow you to watch programs that have recently aired (and classic shows) completely free i.e. they don’t require you to have a licence to watch them!
If you purchase a cheap lead to link your laptop up to your TV, it allows you to watch exactly what you want without any expensive fees; just ensure your broadband has a high specification or you could go over your allowance if you stream lots of shows.
Many international students find that a part-time job benefits them financially and socially and as long as you don’t work too many hours, it shouldn’t interrupt your studies. It’s important for students from outside the UK to ensure they have relevant documents however and applying for a National Insurance card as early as possible will ensure you pay to correct amount of tax. More information on working whilst studying can be found here, and remember to ensure your employer is paying you fairly i.e. at least national minimum wage.
Working how much you spend and on what can be time-consuming but it’s well worth it in the long run. You can calculate your expenditures at international student calculator, and knowing where your money goes can help you set money aside for the essential things (rent, bills, weekly food shops, etc.) and can help you budget for your social life!
Always be wary of any deals that sound too good to be true, and if you’re thinking about setting up an overdraft or credit card be very careful, often such schemes can cost you significantly more than you’ve spent in repayments. Some UK students find that interest-free overdrafts offered with student accounts are a very useful safety net however, so these may be worth looking into for your peace of mind.
Don’t feel like to have to purchase a stack of brand new shiny books as soon as you get your reading list, there are so many fantastic websites out there that can offer you the books you need in (nearly) perfect condition for a fraction of the price. Abebooks are great for discount books and book swapping sites such as mooch are also great for book trading!
Additionally, look out for campus book events and make friends with students further into the course than you to see if you can borrow their earlier textbooks. University and College libraries are usually stacked with several copies of key course books too, so often you can loan the books you need.
With just a few helpful hints, students and professionals alike can save money, make the most of their money and refrain from paying for unnecessary services and items.
We hope our hints and tips will help you with your budgeting whether you’re planning on coming to the UK or you’re a fully fledged student in need of bigger pockets!
For advice on fees and how you can pay for your course visit New College Manchester’s detailed fees page.