The student loan. Has such a feature of higher education been as widely tweeted, joked about or eagerly anticipated as this financial benefactor? Probably not, and rightly so! The student loan is there to cover living costs during times of study, as those who receive it will be unable to finance themselves through full-time work.
There is another reason why the loan is so widely talked about by the student community, however, and that is that it doesn’t always stretch as far as we might like it to. That is why this guide has been created: to help students make their loans last longer with the help of the trusty NUS card and other saving opportunities, keeping them firmly in the black before the next loan date rolls around.
How much have we got to work with?
First thing’s first – you need to take charge of your finances. Entering higher education means the start of new responsibilities and managing your student loan is certainly one of these. So, before heading off to your first lecture, be sure that you are fully aware of what you are receiving and what you are entitled to.
Students receive different amounts in their student loan depending on their parents’ annual income, which most are already aware of when they apply for student finance. If your parents’ income changes during study, be sure to let student finance know as you could be entitled to higher student bursaries and grants which can equate to a smaller loan repayment after you have graduated. Check the Educational Grants Advisory Service and the Scholarship Search websites to see if you are entitled to any other grants or financial backing during study.
Image Credit: Lance Bellers (shutterstock.com)
Before anything else, be sure that your student loan adequately covers your living costs. This means accommodation, bills, food and toiletries – all necessities that you will sadly have to put ahead of a new Topshop dress or Xbox game. Bachelor finance degree students may be good with figures but, when it comes to living away from home, may find themselves in new territory, so tot up how much you need to be spending on living essentials week by week and set yourself a budget.
When it comes to bills, the best way of keeping the cost down is to make sure you’re with the cheapest energy provider; it is your right as the tenant to switch if you find a better deal, not the landlord’s, unless otherwise stated in the tenancy agreement. Check a price comparison site to see if you are getting the best deal. Money Supermarket is a good place to start.
For the food shop, you can’t go wrong with an NUS card. This renowned student saver is now offering 10 percent off Co-op groceries, along with other great food discounts at various outlets from McDonalds to Prezzo and Domino’s.
If you are living with like-minded housemates who aren’t particularly fussy eaters, going for a group food shop could be a fantastic method of saving money and there is far less chance that food will be wasted and thrown away. This method is excellent because you can also create a meal plan for the whole week, helping you know exactly what you need to buy and help you stick closer to your budget.
While the Tastecard may be a slightly larger financial outlay than you would appreciate, the fact that it offers half price or 2 for 1 dining at thousands of restaurants in the UK means that the money spent will soon equal itself out. Accepted at Prezzo, Pizza Express, La Tasca, Ask Italian and many more, it’s perfect if you like to go for dinner with friends or want to live the dream of bringing lads/ladies who lunch on a budget. Look out for free trials and make the most of them!
Once the living essentials are sorted, there are still plenty of ways to make your loan last longer without having to give up the odd purchase.
Technology-wise there are plenty of discounts to be had, as many digital retailers are grateful for their student clientele. Software4Students is a great website that constantly features great discounts for both necessary software purchases and some of the more fun technology products; after all, what is student life without a pair of extra loud speakers?
For all sorts of other discounts, why not pay a visit to Save the Student? Here, you can receive everything from a great deal on a flat screen television to free cinema tickets. With special offers in a host of categories, it’s well worth paying a visit if you feel like giving yourself a treat.
As you will be living on quite a stringent budget, the chance to have a day out completely free of charge is sure to be appealing.
If you are looking for a great experience without breaking the bank, London for Free has an extensive list of activities you can enjoy without getting your wallet out.
Consider getting a part time job
If you find yourself constantly cutting the costs, but still struggling to make ends meet, getting a part time job could be a fantastic mode of income and be a great method of meeting new people away from university. Having a part time job will also give you a great deal of respect and satisfaction, knowing that everything you buy with that money has been earned. Jobs in pubs and shops are usually a safe bet, but with the range of businesses in London in the market for seasonal employment, the opportunities really are endless. Visiting Just Student Jobs is a great place to start.
Having a job will also help you subconsciously develop a responsibility, with the need to be somewhere at a certain time meaning you are less likely to get into lazy routine because of the monotony of spare time. The main aspect to consider is to only take on the hours you can manage; as you are there to study towards your degree.
Finally, holding down a part-time job while at university can only be a good thing when you are applying for a graduate job; it will show you have commitment and the ability to juggle responsibilities effectively.
Alongside your student ID and NUS card the other important card in your wallet will inevitably be your bank card and this is another way of helping to make your student loan last for longer. By choosing a bank account that works for you and your interests as a student you can make your loan stretch further. Many banks will offer perks to signing up with them which can range from freebies such as free music or devices to bigger and more flexible interest-free overdrafts and, while these options may be tempting, it is far more important to take your time and choose a bank account that offers you more.
The best student bank accounts and their benefits are:
Includes a free 16-25 rail card for four years, an overdraft of up to £1,500 for three years, £500 interest free.
Includes a free 12-month Tastecard offering discounts on meals out and an interest free overdraft of up to £2,000.
- Lloyds TSB
Includes an NUS Extra card for three years, a one-off £75 discount on an STA holiday and an interest free overdraft of up to £2,000.
So, just remember to put study first where you can, bear in mind that your HR degree requirements don’t mention the latest designer jacket or iPhone, and that you can enjoy a healthy mix of good education and a good time.
Image Credit: William Ross (flickr.com) Lance Bellers (shutterstock.com), Tastecard, Software for Students, Save the Student, London for Free
This content was written by Rachel Smith. Please feel free to visit my Google+ Profile to read more stories.