Sunday, September 9, 2012

5 Financial Pitfalls to Avoid As a Student

Student accommodation, Queen Margaret's Univer...
Student accommodation, Queen Margaret's University - - 687500 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Louise Nelhams

Student life may be your first taste of real financial freedom; but with financial freedom, comes financial responsibility - and you can't afford to forget it!

There are some common financial mistakes made by university students, but to be forewarned is to be forearmed, so here are 5 of the main money mishaps and how to avoid them.

5 tips for students - what NOT to do when it comes to your money

Choosing your accommodation

Yes, we all want to live in a nice house, with a garden and all the trappings of modern life, but are your student days the time to do it?! Good property comes at a price, and on your paltry income, you probably can't really afford that penthouse suite or contemporary styled flat.

Don't sink all of your money into a property that costs more than you have to spend and then find that you're tied into a contract you can't afford, but can't escape. There are plenty of 'cheap as chips' student houses to let in university towns and cities - speak to a letting agent that specialises in student property to find the best deal, or speak to your uni's student housing department for advice.

Don't play guessing games

Money is serious business, something that many people don't realise when they're spending somebody else's, but soon becomes apparent when it's their own! If you've received a bill and it doesn't seem right, or what was agreed, man/woman up and deal with it.

Don't be afraid to query anyone if something seems wrong, even if it's your bank. If you're worried you might be missing the point yourself, ask your parents, a trusted friend or someone in Student Support for help first.

Spend, spend, spend

You may be convinced that you need those 120 dollar trainers, or that 200 dollar handbag, but the simple fact is that however much you want it you really can't afford to buy it (unless of course you have very wealthy parents supporting you through your education). It's always nice to have some luxuries, but make them little ones; a cheap dinner out to celebrate a great result, some posh toiletries so that you feel pampered or something similar should suffice.

Budgeting and knowing exactly what you've got to spend is a massive part of your education at this stage of your life, and learning that you can't have everything you like just because you've got some money in the bank is an important lesson. Remember that your money has to last you a whole term or perhaps a year, so you've got to spend slowly and carefully to make sure it will stretch that far.

Treating credit cards and loans like free cash

Just because somebody is giving you access to a pot of cash, it doesn't mean that it's free money to spend as you like - it all has to be paid back eventually and once it's gone, you'll only have to take out more debt to continue to pay for the necessities, such as your student accommodation, household bills, learning materials and food.

Yes, it might be exciting when you check your bank account and see all of those numbers, but once it's gone, it's gone, and then you'll be under more pressure to pay it all back when your studies have finished.

Drive yourself mad

For many people when they're just starting university, they've recently passed the driving test and have sampled that real taste of freedom that they've been craving for years. However, a car is a very expensive luxury and certainly not a necessity at university.

It will quickly drain any spare cash you may have, and if something goes wrong, you may not be able to afford to fix it - leaving you without a car, while still having to pay for your insurance and road tax. It's easy to find a house to let that will accept students very close to your university campus - after all, it's a competitive market and landlords will always look to buy property that suits its purpose.

You may even have student accommodation within the university grounds - so why would you need a car?! There'll be plenty of pubs around, friends living locally and other forms of transport if you really need them - jump on a bus, grab the train or use your legs, which are completely free!

It's often said that your university years are the best years of your life - but you can make them even better if you don't have to constantly stress about money. If you're struggling to make ends meet, get a job, tighten your belt, or learn to budget better - just don't go and spend money you don't have to make yourself feel better!

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