There are lots of 'firsts' when you start university. For most, one of the biggest firsts is living away from home and managing your own finances.
In a time where living costs are increasing, it’s more important than ever to know how to create a budget, prioritise your spending and start to create good habits when managing your personal finances.
Here, our very own Rosie Beaumont shares her top tips for managing your finances as a medical or dental student.
Prioritise bills and essentials
It’s important to prioritise paying your bills and essential expenses to make sure you have enough money while you’re at university. This includes looking after yourself so that you can focus on your studies.
It can be helpful to set up a separate bank account from your main account, specifically for your bills. Arrange for all of your monthly bills (such as rent, utilities, insurance and your mobile phone bill) to come out of this separate ‘bills’ account.
Then, set up a standing order from your main bank account to transfer the total amount of your monthly bills to this account at the start of every month. This way, you have peace of mind that your bills are always covered, and that you’re not going to overspend on non-essentials over the course of the month.
It also allows you to see exactly how much you have left over for non-essential spending each month, meaning you can better plan your grocery shopping and social life!
Manage credit and debt effectively
If you have a credit card, it’s important to make sure that you manage it effectively by paying off the debt each month. This allows you to make use of all the benefits of a credit card, while avoiding any unnecessary debt that will build up if you don’t make your payments each month.
When managed effectively and paid off each month, a credit card is a good way to build your credit score. If it isn’t managed effectively, it can result in unmanageable debt. If in doubt, speak to your credit card provider or a financial adviser for advice.
Living on a student budget can be hard, so look for opportunities to save money where you can. Make a list of what is available to you, such as the national student discount card offered by NUS. An NUS card offers discounts in many shops and venues, as well as meal deals on campus, so it’s worth signing up for.
Take advantage of your university library and borrow books instead of buying new ones. Team up with friends to car share and consider swapping clothes for nights out so you don’t have to buy new ones every time.
Finally, look out for when trade or careers fayres are taking place at your university, as these are often great places to pick up freebies – from stationery to new textbooks.
Build an emergency fund
It’s always a good idea to build an emergency fund for anything unexpected and costly that arises – for example, car or bike repair costs, replacing a damaged device or, depending on your living arrangements, household appliances.
You will also need to pay for your own emergency dental treatment if you are over 19 – something you may already be aware of as a healthcare professional.
Start building up a credit score
A credit score is a number that banks and lenders use to decide how likely you are to pay back borrowed money. It’s important to start building up your credit score early, ready for when you reach a point in your life that you want to borrow money – such as for a house or car.
There are a number of things you can do to build up your credit score, such as:
- Making sure you always pay your bills on time
- Demonstrating effective debt management with a credit card
- Ensuring you are registered on the electoral roll
- Regularly checking your credit report for free, on sites like ClearScore or Experian
If you’re interested in finding out more about credit scores, you can learn more in this blog.
Learning how to effectively manage your finances, setting a budget and paying more attention to your spending habits can help you feel more in control of your money. Always reach out to someone if you are struggling financially or need support.