It may be tempting to blow your student loan in one week, but remember it's supposed to last you all term. Here's how to make it last.
Spend, spend, spend
Your student loan may not stretch to a Gucci spending spree, and yet it is well documented that students spend much more than the general public each week on food, alcohol and clothes.
According to a MORI/Unite survey on student living, students spend an average of £19 on alcohol and £28 on food per week. Add to this an anticipated £23,000 of debt on graduation and you'll need to think ahead.
So is the rising debt simply an indication of students' love of parties? Well, "no" is the short answer. Contrary to popular belief, not all their cash goes on socialising, but students do tend to stretch resources to the limits, so getting into good spending habits now may mean that loan cheque could last until the end of term.
It's important to work out your priorities: namely paying your bills and rent on time - or at least upon the final reminder. The last thing you want is your electricity cut off in the middle of term, a trip to the small claims court or even being booted out of your home. Also, make sure you have enough in your bank before you pay, as bounced cheques will earn you hefty fines.
Sensible food shopping: You may think a liquid diet is the only way forward, but when your brain won't function come exam time you'll regret it. Make sure you have edible (in date) food in the cupboards/fridge so you can knock up a cheese toastie after the pub rather than heading to the kebab shop every night. You don't need to spend much to get by; simply avoid ready meals and get to grips with cooking the basics, like spaghetti bolognaise or chili. Making up batches and freezing it could mean you've got instant meals for days.
"Make sure you have edible food in the fridge so you can knock up a cheese toastie after the pub rather than heading to the kebab shop every night."
Course books and materials: Wait a while before buying books to decide if you really need them. Owning every book on the reading list isn't essential. Does the library have plenty of copies? Can you share with a friend? Can you buy it second-hand?
If you're on top of the above you'll keep the stress levels down regarding your cash flow, however, such strict budgeting can be miserable, so a little indulgence every now and then (i.e. not every week) can keep your motivation up.
Clothes and music: We're not talking about buying a new collection, but getting a new album or top occasionally won't break the bank.
Big nights out: You know the sort that start at lunchtime and finish at some hazy early hour? It may be the summer ball or the gig of the year, but whatever you choose to do make it a good one and pull out all the stops. You may spend the rest of the month sipping nasty white cider as a result, but hopefully it will be money well spent.
Rewarding your budgeting with a treat once in a while may be good for the soul, but don't be tempted to stick it on the credit card or overdraft. While spending 'in the now' and forgetting about it until graduation may seem ideal, you will have to pay it all back eventually, so ask yourself if you really need - or want - things before you splash out. Remember that the rates can be very high and it's easy to fall behind with payments.
Managing your money: For some ideas to help you work out how much you need to spend on bills and fun, read our feature on budgeting. Alternatively, check out the resources in the Next Steps box on the right.
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