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5 things teenagers need to know about managing their money at university

A blue piggy bank wearing a graduation cap
Budgeting tips for students (Alamy/PA)

Many teenagers will be preparing to start university soon – and while they may have given lots of thought to socialising and even their studies, there’s another crucial aspect of student life to consider: managing their money.

However, many young people feel their financial knowledge is lacking. Recent research by The Student Room (, an online student community, found half of those polled thought financial skills – like budgeting – was the most important thing missing from the school curriculum.

The poll also asked young people planning to start university in September whether they thought the cost of living crisis would affect them. “Worryingly, we found only 15% of students aren’t affected at all by the cost of living, and half said they’re worried about affording things,” says Mhairi Underwood, head of student voice and diversity at The Student Room.

“Whenever a new cohort of students prepare to start their first year at university, it’s normal for us to see questions about things like managing money and student bank accounts,” Underwood adds. “But with the rise in cost of living, we’re noticing students’ questions around their financial situation and preparedness to manage it have taken on an additional layer of concern. Many don’t feel equipped with the knowledge and skills they’ll need to keep themselves financially healthy.

“Now may be a good opportunity for students to work on these skills with the help of their caregivers, trusted adults, or experts online.”

Here are five key things to help students stay financially afloat…

1. Careful budgeting

A crucial part of managing money at university is budgeting – and staying strong when you want to spend.

“There’s no magic trick to budgeting – it comes down to willpower,” says Natalia Coe, young people programmes manager at The Money Charity ( “Going without can be tough at times, but a money goal or plan, however basic, can help you go the distance.”

Coe says carefully assessing their income and outgoings will make coping financially much easier for students, and advises them to work out a clear budget. You could try using a student budgeting spreadsheet (search for the ‘Budgeting Spreadsheet and Tips‘ thread on The Student Room), and if you don’t know yet how much things will cost, The Money Charity website provides some estimates.

For example, rent may be anything from £400-£1,000 per month (possibly more in London), bills £60-£120 per month (although this could be more because of escalating energy costs), food £110-£400 per month, and entertainment £90-£150 per month.

Start by getting clear on all the money you’ll have coming in each month (it’s best to split lump sums or termly payments into monthly amounts, Coe suggests). Once you’ve established exactly what your income is, work out what you need to pay for. This should include regular payments such as rent, gas, electricity, water, TV licence, mobile phone, broadband, and insurance, as well as any regular savings you might make.

Work out your living costs, including what you spend on groceries and snacks, transport, extra study costs (books etc), clothes, toiletries, household items and cleaning, socialising, subscriptions, presents and one-off costs. Then subtract your spending from your income and assess what’s left – which could well be a minus number.

“Don’t panic,” advises Coe. “Increase your income – check for bursaries, benefits and student funding, or find ways to earn extra. Spend less, get better deals on your bills and get savvy about saving money.”

2. Think about ways to save money

There are plenty of ways to save money while you’re a student, and as well as making sure you get the cheapest deals on food and drink in supermarkets, use money-saving vouchers when possible, and search for the cheapest energy deals (if this applies to you).

Underwood says The Student Room members’ tips include buying a bus pass – as long as you’d use it enough to make it cost-effective – getting free prescriptions by filling in an NHS Low Income Scheme HC1 form, which is available from local benefit offices and NHS healthcare premises, and making sure you get an NUS or other student card to help you get student discounts.

3. See if you’re eligible for financial aid

A group of students chatting
Managing money can be a big learning curve for students (Alamy/PA)

Information about extra funds for students is available at university open days and freshers’ fairs, as well as student support departments. Charity grants and hardship funds may also be available – look at what’s on offer on websites such as the Turn2us financial charity ( “You can apply for some grants months after your course starts, so if you’re eligible and haven’t already applied, check it out,” says Coe.

4. Get a job

The latest Save the Student Student Money Survey found 66% of students in the UK have a part-time job to help make ends meet. This could really help ease any money worries that may impact your university life – but do think carefully about what you’re able to realistically cope with.

“Steady work is the ticket if you need cash to live off, while seasonal jobs might be a better fit if you can’t work during term, or are in it for fun or a break from your studies,” says Coe. “Think too if you want a job that plugs into your career ambitions, as getting relevant roles or skills now can make it easier on your CV later on.”

Coe also advises students to make sure any work pays at least the UK National Minimum Wage (currently £6.83/hour for 18-20-year-olds).

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Coe stresses that it’s OK to ask for advice about money. A good start is speaking to your university welfare officer or student money adviser. Students can also try contacting the National Association of Student Money Advisers (NASMA,


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