The phrase ‘student life’ brings to mind the following scenario (something which I am sure many of you are familiar with). You know the drill; you’re sat constantly checking your bank account waiting for your student loan to arrive with the anticipation of no longer having to live off beans on toast… and then all hell breaks loose.
All of a sudden you’ve purchased all of the items in your ASOS saved list, nabbed those festival tickets, booked a holiday to celebrate the end of term and gone out-out! And before you know it, it’s back to beans on toast because guess what? You’re poor. Yikes – just writing that makes me shudder a little. Whilst all that’s good for your social life, it’s not so good for your bank balance.
But you can still live the student life in style without scrimping too much. Here are a few useful tips for you second and third years that will help you control your funds.
Non-students pay council tax
Moving out of halls is a big step. No longer are you able to ignore the responsibility of setting up your bill providers, paying bills and that other housekeeping stuff! Yep, living in a student house means it’s time to grow up.
If you’re living in a house alone or with other students, then you aren’t required to pay council tax – no matter how many of you are living together.
If you’re living with a non-student, then as the student you are classed as a ‘disregarded people’ which means you will receive a council tax discount. This means that the person you are living with could receive a 25% reduction in the council tax you pay. This is only the case if you are living with one other non-student.
To qualify you need to apply to your local council.
Tax refunds for part-time work
If you choose to work while you are studying (including during term breaks), then make sure that you aren’t paying more income tax than you should. The current tax-free allowance will be £11,500 from 6th April 2017.
Check your tax code on your payslip and seek out help from HMRC if you believe you’re on the wrong tax code. It’s also worth knowing that if you only work during the summer for example, you will be taxed as if you earn this rate all year. Meaning you will be entitled to a refund.
Plan and budget
We all feel a wave of dread wash over us when we’re waiting for our bank balance to appear on the screen, but knowing exactly how much money you have can ensure you aren’t spending beyond your means. It may seem boring to do, but setting up a budget sheet can help you to manage your finances and avoid a money panic once it’s too late.
There are plenty of budget templates you can follow, and remember to be completely honest with how much you spend – hiding late-night takeaways won’t benefit anyone!
Detailing all of your outgoings can help you to see where you can cut-back too. For example, if you think your utilities providers are too high or you can see that you’re wasting a lot of food each week then make a change. Use tools such as uSwitch to see if you could save by switching, and make a resolution to plan your meals so that no ingredient goes spare!
Take advantage of your student status
If you’re just using your university student ID card then it’s likely you are able to access some student discounts, but signing up to Unidays and purchasing an NUS Extra card (£12 for one year, £22 for two years and £32 for three years) can allow you to access a far great range of offers.
NUS Extra holders are entitled to discounts such as 5% off at Amazon (handy when you’re ordering books for studying), 10% off at over 3,200 Co-op supermarkets, 40% off at Pizza Express on Monday and Tuesday, and 25% off full price National Express coach tickets.
If you’re unsure whether you want to purchase an NUS card then consider if you’d really benefit from one, before you purchase one. Unidays is free to sign up to and holds some amazing discounts, so that’s certainly one to use.
Swot up on TV licence rules
You’re a student, so watching TV is second nature. Hello duvet day I say! But, before you switch on the TV or open up BBC iPlayer you might want to check that you’ve got a TV licence first.
There are some exceptions where you won’t be required to pay for a licence. For example, if your parents have a TV licence and you live with them outside of term time, then you will need to ensure that you only watch TV on a device which isn’t plugged in to an ariel or a mains socket whilst you are watching it.
A TV licence costs £145.50 for the year for a colour TV and £49 if it’s a black and white TV (seriously, who still watches black and white tv?!). Compared to the fine of £1,000 and possible prosecution, it’s worth getting one just in case.
You really can’t afford to not have savings in the bank, whether it’s an emergency fund or for a grand future plan. It doesn’t matter how small you start – even just £20 a month will add up by the time you have finished university!
It’s also a good idea to save for when you finish university, as you never know when your first post-university job will begin. Therefore, keeping a fund stashed away can help to tide you over until you’re earning a full salary.
Who knows, following these tips may give you them extra funds to ditch the beans for pizza…