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Top tips for easier student finances

Sometimes the excitement of preparing for university – a new chapter in a student’s life – can be mixed with concerns about how to manage financially. So taking the time to consider how much money is needed to make a university experience comfortable and memorable, (and where savings can be made) is almost as important as thinking about what and where to study. 

Fortunately, there are a number of sources of funding available to students preparing for university, as well as clever ways to cut the cost of things like travel and shopping whilst studying. To ease the worry of preparing financially for university, we’ve summarised some useful ways of either gaining or saving money, to help smooth the path of your degree.

Student bank accounts

Most banks offer student accounts that benefit from an interest-free overdraft. This means that you’ll have the safety net of an overdraft at your disposal, without having to pay back more than you borrow. However, be aware that if you spend money beyond your planned overdraft, you may be hit with hefty fines, and the interest-free perk only lasts for a certain amount of time after you’ve graduated – you won’t still be entitled to an interest-free overdraft when your student bank account switches to being a regular current account, so make sure you’re able to pay back the amount you’ve borrowed. 

Loans, grants, bursaries and scholarships

Most UK and EU students are eligible for support from the Government with their university fees – UK students are also eligible for maintenance loans to ease the cost of living as well. Grants are also available to students from lower income households. Go to gov.uk/student-finance/overview to find out exactly what you’re entitled to and how to apply for it. Universities also tend to offer a number of bursaries and scholarships to students in financial need, or those who show particularly outstanding potential but would struggle financially in Higher Education. You can find out about the bursaries and scholarships we offer at UCA here.


Think carefully about the kind of accommodation you want and, if you need to save money, what you could compromise on – perhaps you’re happy to live a bus journey away from campus, or you don’t mind sharing a bathroom with other students. Work out what’s important to you and find the most cost effective way of getting it – whether that’s by sharing private accommodation with other students, living with family and commuting to university, or living in halls on campus. Remember that when living in halls, your bills are often included in your residence fees and you won’t be charged for the months that you don’t live at university (such as over the summer holidays).

Extra course materials

Where possible, try to keep a contingency budget for additional resources. The information in your offer letter should give you a good idea of what you may need to budget for, but it’s not definitive – universities can’t predict exactly what costs will be incurred by (for example) student projects over a three-year period, as these will vary depending on the choices a student makes.

When it comes to buying books or other additional course materials, shopping around is key to getting your hands on a bargain. Very often charity shops, eBay, Amazon and other online stores will sell second hand books and supplies at a cheaper rate than high street stores. Also, buying books from students in the years above is a great way of saving money and bringing new life to old books. 

Part-time work

Many students find part-time work to fit around their studies and help support their Higher Education costs. Convenient jobs are frequently available at university cafes, bars or libraries, so you don’t have to travel far to find work and you’ll be able to develop your professional skills in familiar surroundings.

We offer our students a comprehensive Careers & Employability service which can provide a wealth of information, advice and guidance on everything from work experience, balancing part-time work and your studies, and professional development. Our International Student Support team is also able to advise international students on their working rights and restrictions. 

Student discount cards

Students are entitled to a number of discounts and deals that are quick and easy to pick up. Apply for an NUS card for super savings at top brands like Pizza Express, Amazon, ASOS and the Odeon, and save a third of the cost of rail travel by buying a 16-25 railcard.

Also remember to budget for those easily overlooked costs, such as insurance, phone bills, nights out and socialising – all of which can add up. Do your best to put a certain amount aside each month for these extra expenditures so that you don’t have to dip into the finances you need for rent, bills or course materials.

Ask for help

At UCA, our Specialist Advisers are always on hand to support you if you run into any financial hardship, or if you need some expert advice on how to manage your money better.

You can find a wealth of information and advice about fees and funding for our courses here. Also, why not take a look at this helpful Student Money Manual for a comprehensive breakdown of the costs you can expect to face at university, and how to manage them.