The great 'what I wish I'd known before I was a student' hunt

Learning from your own mistakes is half the fun of uni, but what financial pointers do you wish you’d known before you arrived fresh-faced at the halls of residence?

Whether it’s grabbing hidden grants, buying books second-hand or steering clear of credit cards, we’d like graduate MoneySavers to impart their wisdom for the benefit of future students. What's your best advice for students beginning their new lives?

Please also read the Parents Guide to Student Funding and the Student MoneySaving Guide



  • I was flogged a credit card with my student account. I paid it off in full every month and it has cost me prcisely nothing, so I had no trouble there.

    What I wish I'd known before I said "yes" to it, was how much of a fantastic waste of money the credit card insurance I ended up paying for would be. Not only did it take so long for them to get in back touch with me after I paid for it (Thus putting me outside the cooling off period, so I couldn't change my mind, cancel and get a refund) I never claimed on it. Cancelling it at the end so as not to renew the policy left me being hard sold something I still wouldn't have needed to use.

    In a minor way, I bear in mind that to save money on coming back for Christmas and Easter, it may sometimes be easier and / or cheaper to come back on the Monday or Tuesday after breaking up, instead of just starting my journey the instant the weekend starts.
    "Peter Pan is 2. Shirley Bassey is 3. Dr Ian Paisley is 4. King Lear is 5. Why?"

    "...also known as taking in the Spanish Cub Scout leader. (Cryptic) (5)"

    Thanks to MSE, I've seen Citizen Kane, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Serenity for FREE! :D
  • My top tips:
    1) open your bank statements instead of binning them like I did.
    2) don't laugh at friends who have 'budgets' - ask them for advice
    3) work part-time if you can possibly fit it in with your studies. Student / union bars are fun, but you'll get better tips if you work somewhere posher.
    4) join a high-street temping agency in the holidays to find office work as and when you like. If you are computer-literate and well-presented you might get lucky!
  • Gemmzie
    Gemmzie Posts: 14,876 Forumite
    Do not buy every book on your reading list! You won't need many of them at all and some only a chapter. Buy some photocopy credit and get into your library early and make copies! Then when the books are out later in the term, you'll be very popular with classmates when they want copies of your copy!
    No longer using this account for new posts from 2013
  • Gemmzie wrote: »
    Do not buy every book on your reading list! You won't need many of them at all and some only a chapter. Buy some photocopy credit and get into your library early and make copies! Then when the books are out later in the term, you'll be very popular with classmates when they want copies of your copy!

    Agreed. I used precisely one of my books, although in all honesty I will be using it for the rest of my life because its great. The internet makes books reasonably redundant these days.

    What I wish I was prepared to work in a bar if you need money. I refused to do so as I didnt want to deal with drunk !!!!!!!s and so it took me 6 months to find a job. By that time I had maxed out my overdraft and was borrowing money from my parents.

    Budgeting is a really good idea, I still don't but I have given up caring as I have a job. As long as I break even I'm not bothered, but it is personal preference.

    Aside from that I was reasonably well prepared and I really enjoyed my first year, which is always the most difficult to get used to. You are likely to get at least one awkward flatmate if in halls (mine was an actual schizophrenic, got drunk and tried to stab his best mate) but I'm sure they aren't all that bad ;)
  • Not a grad, but here's some of my advice (based upon what I have seen others do):

    1) Do not be afraid to open and read your bank statements.

    2) Overdrafts and credit cards are the bank's money, and they can ask for it back at any time. Do not sink needlessly into your overdraft; if you find you are, then look at opportunities where you can make money or cut back, for example, by getting a part time job or selling stuff you don't use/want anymore.

    If you are the "i must have it now" or "i like to shop and buy everything I see" type, then do not go near a credit card. Please.

    Do not overdraw your overdraft. Banks do not look too kindly upon this and will reward you with excessive fees amongst other not so good things (which can, if left undealt with, affect your ability to get mortgages/credit in future)

    3) Avoid cash where you can, it is far too easy to withdraw a tenner here and a tenner there and not know what on earth you spent it on.
    Use a debit card and you'll see where all of your money goes to. So if you see £100s going towards JD Wetherspoon then you know it's time to cut back.

    4) Always know what is in your account and what is going in and coming out, and how much. Get telephone/internet banking and check it every day or every few days or swing by the cash machine.

    5) Don't be afraid to ask for a student discount, it's always worth trying. Some places maybe fussy and insist you have an NUS card.
  • 3plus1
    3plus1 Posts: 821 Forumite
    Be careful when choosing your housemates. People can turn nasty when money enters the relationship and friends you have made at uni are not really people you've known very long. Don't be overly trusting.

    No one wants to get all the bills sorted out when you move into a student house, so volunteer to deal with this. That way you can make sure your name isn't on any of the expensive/contentious bills (e.g. phone bill) and you can put them in the names of the housemates you suspect are rubbish with money.

    If a bill is solely in your name and your housemates won't pay up for whatever pathetic reason, doesn't matter that the tenancy is in all of your names, the bill is your responsibility! It's your credit rating and the 'skint' ones are going to hope you'll pay it off and leave them alone. When the bill is in their name, of course you'll pay your share, but more importantly, they'll be more inclined to pay theirs too.

  • Sarahsaver
    Sarahsaver Posts: 8,390 Forumite
    Go to the fruit and veg market when it is shutting down, things will be so much cheaper.

    Working in a bar is good - for the money and the life experience! also you get to go out and get paid at the same time.

    get a receipt from the cashpoint and check them all off against your bank statement when it arrives.

    Don't lend money to people!

    Get quirky individual clothes from...not primark !!!!!!! the CHARITY shop or second hand stalls.

    Do NOT go out every night so you forget what the day is, neither should you drink at lunchtime if you have a 3pm lecture. :rotfl:

    Do something which broadens your horizons, like voluntary work or try some new hobby. Many people spend their 3 years in a clique and don't really experience much at all.

    Revel in the fact that you are spending these years reading and learning. You may not get so much time again to do that! BUT theres always later for topping up qualifications...

    Speaking from personal experience, I am now 37 :) Went to uni from 1989 to 1994, and also did a part time course 4 years ago.
    Member no.1 of the 'I'm not in a clique' group :rotfl:
    I have done reading too!
    To avoid all evil, to do good,
    to purify the mind- that is the
    teaching of the Buddhas.
  • mboro
    mboro Posts: 294 Forumite
    Some brilliant advice and knowledge there peeps......good thread.

    Keep it coming!
  • Only thing extra I can think of at the mo is join a sports team.
    Even if you're not that great at sport, there's not just the uni teams, you can join a departmental or halls sports team. It's one of the easiest ways to make new friends, and AU nights are usually some of the best nights out you'll have.
    Plus it means you're doin a bit of exercise!
  • Nichelette
    Nichelette Posts: 2,090
    Name Dropper First Anniversary Combo Breaker First Post
    If I were to start uni again I'd definitely put my entire overdraft in an ISA and not touch it. I'd also have benefitted from making and sticking to a budget. The library usually has at least 10+ copies of core text books and some on 24 hour loan so get in there first to borrow those & avoid buying them. As others have mentioned I only really frequently used my textbooks in my third year.

    Also, if you don't need a car then don't have one, unfortunately I had to have one but it absolutely crippled me financially.
    Finally bought a home
    Starting mortgage £289,500 31.01.19 - Current outstanding £207,243.66
    Overpayments since 27.03.19: £46,161.46
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