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How to stay financially healthy as a student or recent grad (without giving up on having fun!)

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There’s a trope amongst popular culture about the skint student living off instant noodles and tinned soup – and it’s true that studying full time and having little time to work, trying to live off your student maintenance loan, can be tough.

Struggling for money as a student is far more socially acceptable than when you’re a fully-fledged, working adult, but that doesn’t mean it’s not stressful trying to make ends meet while you study. Worrying about money can take up valuable space in your brain, which could be better used for cramming for exams or all-nighters in the library.

Here are a few ways that you can stay financially healthy as a student, without giving up having fun all together:

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Pay yourself monthly

One of the quirks of student finances is that maintenance loans are paid once per term, but bills are still monthly. This can leave you feeling really flush when your loan hits your bank account, but completely brassic towards the end of term.

A great way to manage this is to have a separate basic bank account to have your student loan paid into, and set up a standing order to pay yourself a set amount per month to cover your food and bills – and hopefully a bit of a social life. Not only will this make things easier in the short term, but it will also get you used to the financial rhythm of employment, where you will usually be paid a monthly salary.

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Have a basic budget

There’s no need to over-complicate things, but creating a simple budget for your living expenses is a great idea. Not only will it help you to manage things while you’re a student in terms of making your limited resources last, it’s also just a great habit to get into for adult life.

Try not to see it as a restrictive measure, because budgeting isn’t about having to say no to every fun thing that comes along – it’s about figuring out what you can afford to say yes to, and learning to prioritise. As someone who had a bit of a giggle at a friend who ran a budget spreadsheet throughout our time at university, I can tell you – she’s the one who’s laughing now.

Learn to cook

You don’t have to become a gourmet chef, but knowing how to make a few good quality, filling dishes can save you a lot of money.

One-pot dishes that can be batch-cooked and frozen will save you time and stop you from resorting to Deliveroo after a late lecture or library session, while having go-to staples for when money is tight, like jacket potatoes with various fillings or simple pasta dishes, will stop you from blowing your budget. Check out Jack Monroe and Miguel Barclay for amazing, cheap, simple recipes.

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Pool your resources

If you’re in halls or a house-share (and you like your housemates), work with them to have a shared catalogue of things like spices, condiments, electronics and appliances before you think about buying something new.

Borrowing is cheaper and better for the planet than buying and consuming more and more goods, and there’s a social aspect, too.

Find the right support

There’s long been a need for good financial support and advice for students– it’s a crucial time to learn about good money management, but that need is often ignored, and students are expected to put up and shut up when it comes to money worries.

The team at student financial education platform Blackbullion are doing great things to try and combat this, to reduce financial shame among students and set them up to have a healthy and fulfilling relationship with money in their adult lives.

Beware overdrafts and Buy Now, Pay Later

We all know that credit card debt is real debt, but overdrafts and BNPL can feel like something of a softer version of debt, which can be a bit of a slippery slope for students.

As someone who finally paid off my student overdraft aged 30, I’d warn against absorbing that huge 0% APR temptation into your ideas about how much money you have and what you can afford. Similarly, with BNPL, remember that second part – you really do have to pay it back later, and fees and charges can be applied if you can’t afford the repayments.

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If you need to spread the cost of something, always make sure that you include it in your budget and you have a realistic and affordable plan to pay it back.

Love our Money Matters column? Feel worried about your finances? Or just want some expert help on how to achieve your financial goals? Get in touch with us at [email protected] to submit your own money diary and gain access to our expert-led advice, tailored to your finances! These submissions can be anonymous.

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