Student costs breakdown
Will you need more than the change down the back of your sofa? Undoubtedly.
The cost of basic student life varies from town to town, and from college to college. Your student union will be able to give you advice specific to your area, and the housing office can give you more information about what to expect to pay in rent.
There are always certain expenses for which you have to plan ahead and budget, so make sure you're aware of the following outgoings...
The biggie. Student halls might charge an all-in fee that includes rent, electricity, cleaning, and food. Increasingly they are becoming self-catering flats where you do your own grub and everything is metered. If you don't have a washing machine, figure in some extra money for launderette prices, and if you're hiring a TV don't forget rental fees and licence money (they will catch up with you sooner or later).
If you're in a student house you may have meters for electricity and gas, or quarterly bills. Organise a system so that everyone pays their fair share. The best way to save money is to pay for them online.
Food and other groceries
This should cover everything from cooking at home, to eating out, snacks, coffees, toiletries and cleaning products. Sharing things like bread, butter, milk and condiments can help save money.
If you're unlucky and have to cough up for these, it's a maximum of £3375 for the academic year 2011/2012 (rising to a maximum of £9000 in 2012/2013), usually payable in two or more instalments. More fortunate souls are only forced to pay part of it, or get off the hook completely depending on their parents' income. There are student finance calculators available in England, Wales and Northern Ireland that enable you to find out where you stand. For those students that live in Scotland, visit the Student Awards Agency for Scotland to find out more about repaying loans.
Books and equipment
You don't have to buy every book on the reading list, but you will need to get a few useful books, and whatever else is on your equipment list. Some stuff can be bought cheaper second-hand. Look on your student website to see if any students in the year above are selling the books that you need. Wait until the course has started before buying. That way you can work out what you really need, and use the library as much as possible to keep costs down.
Stationery and photocopying
Computer disks, paper, folders, photocopies of research papers and chapters in books you don't want to buy. It all adds up. Your university department may offer free or subsidised photocopying and equipment, so find out.
Figure in enough for a social life, and stuff for sports, clubs and other interests. Otherwise, you'll end up bored and lonely, which is not the point of going away to uni.
This covers bus fares, petrol, train tickets, late-night taxis and more. Get hold of discount cards and season passes as early as possible. Book fares in advance to get the best deals.
Many stores offer a 10% discount when you can prove you're a student. And remember the golden rule: if you don't ask, you don't get. Not all shops advertise their discounts, but once you flash your student ID their generous sides might get the better of them.
Phone and internet bills
Keeping in touch can be costly, whether it's paying off your ISP or topping up the credit on your mobile. Shop around for the best deals.
This is well worth having, especially if it's a student deal. Think about how much it would cost to replace everything you own.
Interest and fines
It is better to take things back to the library, and avoid upsetting the bank manager by going over your overdraft limit unexpectedly, but sometimes it can't be helped. So, if you're absent minded, or cavalier when it comes to cash machine withdrawals, allow a little bit to pay the price for it.
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