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Five money tips all first-time university students need to know

Written by: Hayley Millhouse
From blagging the best bargains to socialising without spending, find out how to keep your finances in check as you start your university career.

The start of university is an exciting time for first-year students. The beginning of a life changing experience filled with new experiences and independence awaits.

Your first term is sure to be packed with meeting new people, exploring a new city and settling into your flat, but given most students are leaving home for the first time, you’re also going need to learn some budgeting basics.

Sorting out your own finances and learning to budget can be a challenge, so, to ensure your first maintenance loan lasts you through until Christmas, we’ve put together these five top tips and tricks to help you keep your finances on track.

Blag a bargain

Student discounts are available everywhere, and on pretty much everything from meals out to your monthly music subscription. Make sure you take full advantage of the benefits of being a student and do the following ASAP:

  • Check out or to find the best student deals near you.
  • Get yourself a 16-25 railcard. They save you a third of your ticket price on off peak journeys home or to visit friends, adding up to savings of £200 per year, according to
  • If you have a student bank account, shop around the best joining deals. Some will even provide you with a free four-year railcard.
  • Not all discounts are student-specific – so keep an eye on your post and in supermarkets for the best deals and voucher codes on everyday essentials (more on that below).

Look at getting some extra cash

One sure-fire way to make extra money and boost your CV is to look at doing some part-time work.

The best place to look for flexible, part-time work is your own university, as they will let you shape your hours around your study. You could work as a student ambassador, giving tours to prospective students around your campus, or take on few shifts on the student bar, behind the reception desk or even in the marketing department.

To make money in an even more flexible way, you could consider dog-walking, baby-sitting or even tutoring local kids. For just a few hours a week out of your schedule, a job like this could pay for your weekly shop.

You could also make some cash by selling unwanted clothes on sites like Depop or Ebay. And if you’re clearing out your bedroom at home ahead of the big move to uni, make sure you sell unwanted old toys, video games, and whatever else is at the back of your cupboard.

Socialise without spending

While you will want to spend as much time as possible having fun with your new friends, you don’t need to burn a hole in your wallet to do so.

It can be expensive to go out to nightclubs, restaurants and the cinema, so why not try a night in or two with your new flatmates instead. Host a housewarming party, games night or movie night – and remember to stock your cupboards with snacks and drinks from discount supermarkets ahead of the big night.

If you’re sharing responsibility for the cost of these nights, and the general household groceries, remember that apps like Splitwise can help to track what you and your flatmates’ are spending and they help make sure it’s crystal clear who owes who what.

Travel on a budget

An important part of your first term at uni will be visiting your friends from home in their new digs too. Make sure you make savvy travel choices to avoid breaking the bank when you pay them a visit.

If you’re planning to travel by train, ensure you book at least three weeks in advance to get the best deals. For intercity trips, try using the Megabus – for budget bus journeys from as little as £1.

Keep track of your money

Finally, it’s important to make sure you know at the start of term exactly how much money you have. Many of us have multiple bank accounts, so to stop you losing sight of your cash, try using a money management app to keep track of your budget and outgoings regularly.

Going to university can be as daunting as it is exciting. However, having your finances in check is sure to reduce your overall stress levels, allowing you to focus on balancing your studies and your social life.

Hayley Millhouse is head of advisory services at OpenMoney, the financial advice app

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