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30 steps to solvency

1. Work out your budget and get an idea of your cashflow situation before you even pack to go to university. Do it as soon as possible. Preferably sooner.

2. Economise right from the off. If you blow big bucks at the beginning of term, your fast and loose spending will only leave you miserable and bored at the end of term.

3. Don’t buy anything you don’t need if you haven't got enough loot for the things you really do need. Paying your rent on time and having food to eat are more important than the latest PS3 game or harem pants - no matter what Vogue says.

4. Keep your budget under regular review and make adjustments for any costs you miscalculated.

5. If you need a little extra to tide you over, try to get a job if possible, but don’t assume when budgeting that you’ll be able to get one immediately.

6. If you’ve got a job, but you’re still feeling the pinch, try to get a few extra shifts but not at the expense of your course.

7. During a ‘typical’ week at university (or, even better, a whole month or a term), keep a record of everything you buy (by cash, card, direct debit and cheque) and how much it costs – pints, snacks, cab rides, fetish outfits, etc. Cheque stubs, receipts and bank statements can all help you draw up a comprehensive record of total expenditure.

8. It may seem like a hassle, but you can then use this information to help you draw up a realistic budget. The little things you don’t think twice about buying are often overlooked, and after the big birds like fees and rent have flown from the nest egg, they suddenly seem a whole lot bigger.

9. Anyone on a low income should avoid anything with high interest payments. That means you. Big monthly repayments and a high annual percentage rate spell big trouble. Paying off old debts with new ones generates a vicious cycle. You’ll end up with mounting mountains of interest and interest on the interest, ad nauseam.

10. Only have the heating on when you really need it – even in winter just a few hours in the morning and a few hours at night will see you alright. Other energy-saving rules: have showers instead of baths, always turn the light off when leaving an empty room, only fill the kettle as much as you need to, don’t leave the telly on standby.

11. Share cooking and shopping with housemates and split the bills. Don’t fuss about who’s eating more. You’re all subsidising each other anyway because it works out cheaper than buying for one.

12. Buy fruit and veg from market stalls, not the supermarket.

13. You may be covered by insurance, but minimise the risk of having all your precious things nicked in the first place by keeping all expensive-looking items away from the windows and always lock internal doors where you can. Insurance premiums will be lower if you have a personal lock on your bedroom door.

14. Get a friend to cut your hair – preferably one who knows what they’re doing. Alternatively, find your nearest hairdresser and ask if they want any models. You’ll only pay about £5 and get just about whatever haircut you want. For a bit extra you can get colour and perming too.

15. Check out ‘bargain basement’ shops such as Poundland. You can get all sorts of necessities in there – household cleaning products, shampoo, lightbulbs, notepads, novelty pens, etc, all for… er, a pound. Some stuff is actually less than a pound elsewhere, as long as you don't mind your Timotei with a Greek label, Savers is good for cut-price toiletries. Be warned though – these places are full of tat you don’t need and not everything’s a bargain.

16. Be on the look-out for special student nights at clubs, pubs, cinemas etc. Carry your NUS card with you everywhere – it can get you so many discounts, it could be your most valuable piece of plastic.

17. Pick up free condoms from your local family planning centre or the university health centre (and use them).

18. Make calls and surf the net during off-peak times only. Usually after 6 or 7pm and at weekends, but check.

19. If you must have a credit card, choose one that offers money back (instead of points for freebies). And use it as if it were made of glass - not unless you know you can pay the monthly bill in total. Cut it up if you find you can’t.

20. Don’t spend all your money on drink and drugs. If going out on the piss, meet up round someone’s house first and do most of your drinking there. It’s cheaper.

21. Go out in groups of four or five (or more). Get in a round each (or buy your own drinks). Don’t take more cash than you’re willing to spend and only take your cashpoint card for emergencies. Swap it with one of your (sober) friends for safe keeping. (Don’t tell them the PIN.) Leave enough money for getting home. When you’re all drunk and raucous enough at the end of the night, if you have to catch a taxi, pile in together and split the cost.

22. Where possible, apply for your student loan early and have it put into your account in three instalments throughout the year.

23. Pay regular bills automatically by direct debit or standing order. Not only does this avoid the problem of ignored bills going red and then the electricity strangely cutting out, but you usually also get a discount. Keep track of what’s coming out of your account each month and when - take it into account in your budgeting and don’t believe the balance the cash machine tells you if a payment’s due.

24. Keep a finance file with all your bank statements, bills and letters from the SLC and the bank. That way, you’ll know where to find what you need when.

25. Club together with mates on the same course to buy all the main texts between you and share them on a rota basis. Definitely one to try if your university library is a bit thin on the shelves.

26. In a perfect world, your overdraft facility would only be a last resort. In this world, you’ll almost certainly need at least some of it. If you’re having trouble sticking to your agreed limit, talk to your bank manager or student adviser immediately. Don’t risk getting a snotty letter for going over your limit and hoping nobody will notice – they will notice and that snotty letter will come, complete with fine.

27. Always ask in high street stores, taxis, cinemas, theatres museums – just about anywhere, in fact – if there’s a student discount. They’ll rarely volunteer the information without being asked.

28. Don’t rely on your next loan cheque to pay off what you already owe. You’ll need it for your rent and food next term, so what’ll you do then?

29. Don’t get stressed out over your finances. You’ll only make it worse. A calm approach with good planning will see you alright. You’ll be in debt, but, hey, so’s everyone.

30. The Access to Learning funds exist as a safety net for those who are experiencing problems. Ask if you need help – you shouldn’t have to suffer in silence if your situation has got to the stage where you are depriving yourself. Try asking, even if you don’t think you’ll get anywhere. The worst they’ll do is give you free advice.

Last updated on: 09 April 2009

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