Avoiding the worst money situations as a Fresher

Money

So, you’ve just started your university journey and are away from home for the first time which also means perhaps for some, looking after yourself for the first time too! For me, when I started university, I was older than the average student so had already gained some life skills away from home and was never too dependent on my parents. But for some, it can be a massive step to really fending for yourself for the first time and that’s where I can help. Saying that though, when it came to money I was never very good at controlling my budgets and when I entered university it was a massive shock (queue monkey covering eyes emoji here…). Yes, you do get a student loan but spending it all in the first few weeks is definitely not what you want to do, especially in the first term when it is the longest of the three in the academic year. I made this simple mistake and I had to call the bank of Dad to help me out. Needless to say, by the time I had finished university I was more in control of my money and I had learnt a very good life lesson.

So here I have some great tips on how to avoid a situation like mine in the first term at university!

Managing your money is the most important thing you can learn whilst being at university, apart from actually gaining your degree of course! If you can’t learn to manage your money it will lead to all sorts of complications, such as not having enough to feed yourself to fuel your brain for those all important deadlines and exams to not being money conscious when you leave university. Plus, if you don’t budget your money, how will you ever know how much you have left over for socialising or shopping with?

Organise a budget for yourself. My best tip would be to work out what you have left to spend at the end of each week (after rent and bills) and then separate that into categories such as: food, going out, clothes etc. then take that amount and leave your card in your room in a safe and secure place. I find this helps because it stops you from spending little bits here and there when you have your card on you 24/7, as each little bit really does add up!

Get a student account. Most banks offer student accounts with some perks for signing up also. They offer interest free overdrafts (which trust me, do come in handy in emergencies) and I even got a free four year rail card too! It’s worth it because the little costs of these also add up.

Saving whilst spending is every students’ dream! As a student you get discount in most retail shops and even restaurants and trust me when I say, take advantage of this. When you head out into the adult world after university and can’t take advantage of the discount anymore it makes you realise just how much it was worth having. It may not seem like a massive saving at the time but adding up student discount over your three or four year course will make you realise just how much you saved on all your shopping and eating out.

HOWEVER discount is great but if you have to ask yourself the question ‘should I REALLY be buying this?!’ then stop right there. The answer is NO. You probably shouldn’t. If the item you want is just too expensive, look for a cheaper alternative. Once I got into the swing of money saving at university my friends were forever asking me ‘where did you get that from?’ and ‘hey! I paid so much more for the SAME item!’

Apps and websites can really help to also make you money. Get rid of those unwanted clothes on apps or websites such as eBay, Vinted, Depop and Gumtree. You can also make money from shopping with Top CashBack and Quidco. Sign up, read the terms and conditions and get started. As the saying always goes ‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ and you will be surprised at how much stuff you can get rid of to make some extra cash.

Another tip I will add is for students to make their own budget spreadsheets and write down everything they spend using the categories’ technique explained above. This way you can keep on top of your spending weekly, monthly, annually and review it like I did every month. You can then see where you could cut back on your spending and save it for something else or simply just pop it in a savings account for a rainy day or for travelling after university, the choices are endless if you can become a money conscious student!

Work experience for students

CV

Three months off is a long time – a very very long time! Plenty of time to see friends, family, have a good catch up and even earn some money. However, it is also plenty of time to gain some valuable work experience in an industry your degree potentially leads to or perhaps one that interests you.

You don’t need to commit yourself 24/7 to your placement, as they will offer various lengths of placements ranging from as little as a few days to full time (4-5 days a week) for a couple of weeks. So don’t worry, it won’t take over your summer completely!

Work experience is especially important for graduates seeking employment. The job market nowadays is becoming more competitive by the day, with more and more students graduating with degrees and more applicants per job. Employees now aren’t only just looking for that 1st/2nd class degree in a potential candidate, but also work experience in industry. Both are just as valuable as each other – yet both will teach you different sets of skills, therefore a combination of the two is the best chance you can give yourself in the job market…

So – why are these placements so valuable to students?

  • They will add that extra string to your bow (or CV) and increase your employability.
  • Placements are a great way of sampling various careers and industries, which can help you to determine the right career path for you!
  • They show off your passion and interest in an industry, both of which are favourable traits in an employee. You are also giving up your own time for the placement, an environment in which you have never experienced before, with no financial incentive at the end of the day it shows dedication and willingness to learn.
  • Introduces you to a working environment, which you can apply to multiple careers.
  • You will be able to identify your strengths and skills in the workplace, not to mention your weaknesses – you might have graduated with a first class degree, but you don’t know all the tricks of the trade!
  • Some placements (usually only if they are successful!) could even lead to job offers to full time work, paid work experience or graduate schemes, further placements or links to other opportunities. That is providing you make a good impression within the business you are working in and stay out of trouble!

Where can I find a work experience placement?

  • Sometimes it’s a case of who you know – so ask around friends, family, friends of friends and family friends for an in to a business. It’s worth a shot!
  • Go into businesses and try to talk to management (or whoever is in charge) face to face, equipped with your CV and a big smile, and offer up yourself for some voluntary work!
  • Your university may have a department that helps students seek suitable work placements, so look into what they can do for you.
  • There are various websites including ac.uk and Targetjobs.co.uk that will help university students seek placements/internships in their chosen industry in locations all over the UK.

I am lucky enough to have a mandatory work placement built into the 3rd year of my degree, and as I’ve started to look around for various opportunities, I’ve realised how important and useful it’s going to be when I graduate next year. So if work experience isn’t a part of your degree, perhaps it’s time to get searching for a placement and get the ball rolling!

Good luck! If you’ve got any great websites for work experience placements or tips for starting on your placement, share with fellow students in the comments section below!