How I'll avoid financial mistakes as a fresher

How I'll avoid financial mistakes as a fresher

When I start university in September, the last thing I want to do is make financial mistakes that could set me back.

The average student has a credit score of just 320, 15% lower than the national average of 380, according to data collected for Telegraph Money.

The big mistakes students make with their money include defaulting on payments, having outstanding loans, and living off credit cards.

Determined to give myself the best shot at getting student finance right and avoiding the common pitfalls, I've come up with a plan to avoid money mistakes as a fresher. Here are six money-saving tips I've gleaned from grads I know...

MoneyLens' Simon Winchcombe

1. Buy second hand

At the beginning of your course you'll be given a list of recommended books to help you study. I've been told it's well worth purchasing these second hand from students in the year above or online. 

Buying books new can cost a staggering amount of money. Make sure you look after your books so that once you've finished with them you can sell them on as well. 

This philosophy isn't limited to books. You can buy clothes, furniture and more second hand.

2. Go self-catered and learn to cook

I've heard self-catered accommodation is the way to go because that way you aren't limited to certain hours when meals are served. If you wake up late, you won't have missed breakfast or wasted money. 

After a night out you may be tempted to buy a kebab or, the next day, order a pizza. Most of us enjoy eating out and takeaways, but if you do this too often things can get out of hand. We're not saying live like a hermit, but be aware of the costs. Eating out  once a week for a fiver would set you back £260 over the course of a year.

Cooking and preparing your own food as much as possible is almost definitely going to save you money - making it more likely you can afford a treat now and then. 

3. Plan your meals before shopping and use your freezer

Shopping without a plan, or even worse shopping on an empty stomach, is a recipe for disaster. It will lead to unnecessary impulse buying. 

By making a list of the items you need and including a couple of treats for the week, you're much more likely to stick to it and save those precious pounds. 

Being organised and saving money doesn't have to be difficult. Cook more than you need and stick the excess in the freezer for another time. 

If you're patient and have the time then you could try to visit supermarkets in the evening when they reduce the price of items that need to be shifted.

Always check the use-by dates on perishable items and if you don't think you're going to use something when you buy it, some food items can be put in the freezer for another time. Remember best-before dates are about quality, not safety.

4. Go non-brand

You might think non-branded supermarket value ranges aren't as appealing as household name ones, but they are usually of similar quality and substantially cheaper in my experience.

This applies for pain-killers as well as groceries. Don't be tempted to pay more if you don't have to.

5. Sign up to the uni gym

If you're looking to join a gym, your best bet could be to start with the one on your university campus if you have one. The memberships are likely to be cheaper and you're more likely to use a gym that is located somewhere convenient. 

6. Take advantage of loyalty points and student deals

It's worth checking if a student discount is available when shopping. One popular app for student deals is "Unidays". Be sure to shop around when considering student deals. Be careful that you don't increase your spending just because items are discounted and always read terms and conditions. 

Many students are eligible for a 16-25 year-old rail card, which costs £30 and will save you one third on all rail fares in Great Britain for a year. 

Almost every major supermarket offers rewards cards and loyalty points and you could even consider "wombling" or "couponing". Click here to read to find out more about these quirky ways to save money and more.


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