Nationwide to scrap cashback on its credit cards
30 October 2020
Whatever your means, there's no need to fall into the cash-strapped, debt-ridden student stereotype. We've put together a student MoneySaving checklist with over 50 quick tips to help get you through university or college without a serious debt hangover.
We've been swamped with angry questions about this, asking 'Am I due a refund on £9,000 tuition fees if my course is now mostly online?' Martin's bashed out a quick video to help explain the situation (and why a reduction in fees wouldn't reduce what most students end up repaying anyway). The full transcript is below.
Now, many people, both students and often their parents, have got in touch with me, saying, "Look, this is outrageous. I'm still being charged £9,000 in tuition fees, even though the university's saying all or most of the courses are going to be online. Can I get a refund?"
Well, I think to an extent you're right. Much of the experience of university is what you gain from being there,face-to-face, talking to lecturers, teachers, other students, and all the soft skills that you learn, whether it's being engaged in clubs and societies or student unions. So certainly I can understand the feeling of being disenfranchised by not being able to attend, and that you're not getting your money's worth.
However, governments across the UK - the UK Government and national governments - have all said as long as online courses offer quality and are fit for purpose, you are not due a refund merely because you are being taught online. Of course, in Scotland there are no fees, but it's a general point I'm making.
So that's the rule that we're hearing from government. My suspicion is that's been done for a couple of reasons. One - university finances are under stress, like any business's right now. They're struggling themselves due to Covid, and many universities have been struggling for funding anyway. And also because if you pay less tuition fees, there isn't enough money for the universities to run. Who makes up the gap? The Government.
Remember, the entire loan system was brought in because, in the past, the governments gave universities money rather than the student. Then students gave some of the money in the form of student loans, and governments paid the rest.
The shift towards £9,000 tuition fees - many people think that suddenly, from nowhere, the universities got a huge amount more money. No. They lost some of the grants they were getting, and it was replaced by being paid by students in the form of a loan. This was a shift of the burden from the state towards the individual, who, if they earn enough, would repay later.
I'm not going into my student finance talk. It's a big one. I've got a 60-minute video on it called Student Loans Decoded on Money Saving Expert. Have a watch of that. So, governments would have to make up the gap. Now, I've said what the Government perspective is. Of course, you're paying, arguably, for a service. I say "arguably", and I'll come onto why it's arguable later.
You're paying for a service, and you're not receiving what you thought you were going to get and what you signed up for. In which case, it is potentially challengeable in a court of law.
You would need a lawyer to go through that, but it would certainly be a potential test case for someone to go forward and say, "Am I getting the service that I paid for under tuition fees if I'm only learning an online course, when I signed up to an in-person university course?" Not been tested in law. I don't know what the result would be. But I'm sure it is open for someone to take that challenge. It is perhaps something a student union, the National Union of Students, or some other interested organisation could look at a test case, if there was enough weight behind it.
But there is a later point why, actually, I think people are over-worried about this tuition fee issue, and I'll come to that more.
So, it's always best to speak to the university if you're unhappy before making any decisions. Or speak to your university welfare office if you're struggling financially, or speak to the student union for representation on this. Hopefully, if there are many other students in a similar position to you, or with similar feelings to you, then it's something that the university can address on a wider scale.
But one of the important things to understand, surprisingly - it almost feels counter-logical - is that lowering tuition fees won't actually make any difference to the majority of students going to university in the UK. I'm going to focus this on the English system, which is where it's most pertinent, but similar principles apply.
Let me try and explain why. When you go to university, the Student Loans Company pays your tuition fees for you, in most cases. And then you have to repay in the April after, when you leave, 9% of everything above a threshold.
That threshold is currently £26,575. And you will repay 9% above that threshold for 30 years. If you earn below the threshold, if you earn less than £26,575 - I'm going to call it "the threshold" - then you don't repay anything in that year.
Now, the current stats are that 83% of students are not likely to repay what they borrowed - which is tuition fee loan, plus the living loan, plus interest - in full, within the 30 years. So they will, in some cases, partially pay that - repay what they borrowed, plus interest. In some cases they'll pay less. You'll repay what you borrowed. Some will repay less than they borrowed. Some, if they never earn over the threshold, will repay nothing at all.
Only the top 17%, generally, highest-earning graduates will repay, in full, what they borrowed at £9,000 tuition fees.
So what happens if we reduce tuition fees to £6,000 for this year... and it remains at £9,000 for your remaining years, because we hope - you know, fingers crossed, please, God - that everything's back to normal next year, you go to university, and everything's fine? What happens then?
Reducing your total loan by £3,000, for someone who takes the tuition fee loans and the full maintenance loan they're entitled to... won't make any difference in what you repay, in most cases, because you still won't earn enough to repay that £3,000 lower loan, plus interest over the 30 years. So you will still just repay 9% of everything you earn over £26,575, or "the threshold" this year, and as it raises in future years, each year for 30 years.
So you can have this big fight now. Now, total back-of-the-envelope, not really a proper calculation, just intuitively, if currently 17% of people will repay in full over the 30 years, then you would probably guess somewhere around 25-30%, maybe even less than that, would repay in full with £3,000 lower loan.
And maybe there's a few percent more who, while they wouldn't repay in full, will pay slightly less because of the £3,000, because they would nearly repay in full. So what we have, let's call it 30%. Thirty percent of people, the highest-earning graduates, would gain from slightly lower tuition fees for this year.
Let's say you reduce from £9,000 to £6,000, or even £9,000 to £4,500. Most won't. Most people going to university will not see any reduction in the amount that they have to contribute to their university education after they leave because of reducing tuition fees.
Now, I say this not to say it's cheap, not to say it's fair, but to say if it's really panicking you and making you angry, and it turns out there is nothing you can do - which is probably the most likely outcome, unless someone takes it to court and the court rules... then at least you can shrug your shoulders and say, "You know what? I'm only going to end up paying this full whack back if I'm a high-earning graduate afterwards."
In which case... Well, I mean, I always have this line that says, "I hope going to university costs you a shedload of money, because it will only cost you a shedload of money if you earn a shedload of money afterwards." So I hope that explains to you the premise.
Just one quick thing. We do have more on this on Money Saving Expert, but one other question, which is about accommodation. If you're told it's online and you thought you would need to be at university, and you don't now want to go, what are your rights?
Difficult one here again, I'm afraid. I mean, many halls of residence in the last term, pre-July, and over the Covid period, were giving people refunds. If you're staying in university accommodation, it is worth talking to the university about that, and the hall of residence: "You're telling me not to come. Why do I have to pay?" Again, difficult. You don't have a right. But universities tend to be more forbearing on that.
If, however, you have signed a contract with a private landlord, I'm afraid there is no causal link here. You have asked somebody to provide accommodation for you. You've paid a deposit. The accommodation is available for you. The service is there. The fact that your plans have changed, due to the university, not due to your fault I'm not saying this is anyone's fault, I'm being realistic - does not change the fact that you asked this individual for accommodation. This individual or this organisation. You have still signed up to have accommodation.
The best analogy I can give you is if you buy a tennis racket from a store and the tennis racket is not faulty, and you break your arm, you can't take the tennis racket back, saying it's faulty because you can't play. And unfortunately, that is the situation for renting.
Now, you know, there should be some forbearance. Talk to the landlord, see if you can come to an accommodation, meet somewhere in the middle. They may be able to get a rental holiday from their mortgage provider until 31 October, which gives them some help. If they've got a mortgage. They may not. But unfortunately, again, it is very difficult to find a way around, if you've agreed a tenancy with someone.
The fact that you don't want to go to where your university is because you no longer have courses there is not the landlord's fault, so it will be a question of negotiation. I hope many of them will understand. I hope many of them will put something in place, be forbearing, offer you a rate reduction, a rate freeze, something of that ilk, but forcing them to would be difficult.
There you go. I've seen I've been talking for nearly 11 minutes. That's quite a long time on the back of this. I hope it hasn't been too long and is understandable. I'm sorry I haven't got firm answers, but these questions are milling around with lots of people, so I wanted to get them out there.
Officials across the UK have said students who normally pay tuition fees will continue to pay full fees in the 2020/21 academic year - whether or not universities are back to face-to-face teaching by the time term starts. For example, the universities minister in England has said as long as online courses offer "quality" and are "fit for purpose", you won't be able to get a refund.
This stance is potentially challengeable in court, as many students argue they're not getting the course they signed up for if it's taught online rather than face-to-face - it's not been tested in law.
We've full info on your consumer rights as a student below. However, if you're unhappy with what's being offered, you should speak to your university about your concerns and see what it offers - certainly before going down any legal route.
Crucially, a reduction in fees won't reduce what most students repay. The way student loans work means many won't end up repaying the full amount they owe. You'll simply pay a portion back each month, provided you earn over a certain amount. After 30 years, any remaining debt is wiped.
So for many people, the exact amount they borrow is irrelevant. See Student loans mythbusting for full details of how it works.
As a student, you have consumer rights. Once you've accepted an offer to study at a university, you've entered into a contract. This means the university's terms and conditions apply to you. But crucially, the terms aren't allowed to be unfair – and this means the university has limited ability to change the cost or content of a course once you've accepted its offer.
A course provider is required to give you certain information before you accept its offer of a place. This includes:
Check carefully in case anything has significantly changed, and you don't feel you're getting the course you signed up for. If this is the case, you can complain via the process below.
If you feel that you haven't got what you paid for, or the teaching hasn't been up to scratch, you can complain in the normal ways. This will mean a complaint first to your university using its internal procedure.
If that doesn't help, you can escalate your complaint to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator, which acts as an ombudsman for university students in England and Wales (also see its coronavirus help).
If classes are all online and you don't need your halls room or student house anymore, sadly there's no obligation on universities or private accommodation providers to refund costs - though some may offer limited flexibility.
Most UK student accommodation will be open as normal this year (albeit with new social-distancing rules and extra cleaning services). And there's no legal requirement for accommodation providers or landlords to refund you once you've entered into a contract for your term-time accommodation. After all, it's not their fault if the accommodation is open, but you choose not to live there.
For Martin's view on this, see the last section of his video above.
The National Union of Students (NUS) has been campaigning since March for students to be able to leave contracts penalty-free at any point in the new academic year. While we haven't seen any accommodation providers explicitly offer this, some do say they'll be offering flexibility, or will 'reconsider' their position if the situation changes.
Here are some examples of what we've seen offered by universities and private accommodation providers:
Even if your provider isn't offering much flexibility, it's worth asking if it will look at your individual circumstances and consider releasing you from your contract and/or refunding you.
If you're renting privately, it's worth remembering that the normal rights of tenants apply, and it may be worth speaking to your landlord to see if it's possible to agree a solution. For more on the support available to renters during coronavirus, see Coronavirus Renters' Help.
Local authorities control council tax support. Each one decides what help to offer its residents. Ask your local authority what discounts and benefits are available in your area, but here are the basic rules for wherever you're living:
Only live with students? If you're a full-time student living alone or with other students you don't need to pay council tax, whether there's two, three or even 10 of you living together.
Live with a non-student? The cost of council tax is based on a minimum of two adults living in a home. Some people - like students, people on apprentice schemes and carers (see Gov.uk for a full list) - don't count as adults and are known as 'disregarded people', which means they're entitled to a council tax discount.
So if a student lives with a non-student, the student is disregarded. This means the council tax could be reduced as if only a single person lives there, leading to a potential 25% reduction.
But this poses a moral dilemma. Is it fair for the non-student to pay the entire 75% due, or should the student contribute? Our suggestion is to split the 25% difference, so the non-student pays 62.5% and the student 12.5%.
Live with more than one non-student? Here, while the student again is exempt, because there are two non-students the house has to pay the full 100% charge. So again, it gets complex. The student hasn’t added to the council tax bill, but nor has their presence resulted in a discount.
So again, you'll need to decide if and how you want to split it, though the legal stance is that full-time students aren't liable for the bill if non-students can't or don't pay. See Council Tax Discounts.
Whether you're studying full or part-time, there may be a grant or a free course to help. They're dependent on your circumstances so it may not be easy to get one, but there's certainly no harm in trying.
Here are the main ones to get you started - see the Education Grants guide for information on more.
Educational Grants Advisory Service. This service offers students, especially disadvantaged ones, guidance and advice to help secure funding for education and training. Its site, part of Family Action, has a searchable database of over 30 educational trusts.
Scholarship search. There are some nifty search tools on the Scholarship Search and Student Cash Point websites, including bursaries, scholarships and award funding. You'll be surprised at what's available - some are very specific, aimed at specific religions, locations, parental occupations and more.
Big banks love tempting students with 0% overdrafts and free stuff, then relying on their custom for decades to come. Here are six key tips to help choose your student account.
Beware: you will be credit-scored. When you apply for any debt product, including an account with an overdraft, the lender will credit score you to decide how desirable a customer you are. See the Credit Rating guide for more.
Don't base your choice on the closest branch or ATM. You can withdraw cash free of charge from any bank's ATM and almost every bank offers online access. So which branch is nearest has little relevance for most able-bodied students. To compare, just examine what's on offer and go for the best deal.
Don't just go for the one with the best freebie (but do weigh them up). Calculate the value of the freebie, and then compare that account's overdraft with the best on offer. Would the interest charged on the difference be more than the cost of the freebie? It's not as relevant this year as it is in other years, as the freebies aren't worth shouting about as much, but Santander still offers a four-year railcard (usually £90) with its student account, so, it's worth a look.
You'll need to apply for any overdraft increases. Students must apply for overdraft increases on certain accounts, even where the guaranteed maximum rises each term or year.
See the Student Accounts guide for the full list of top bank accounts, plus masses of tips to help you choose.
Also arm yourself with knowledge of how interest works with the Interest Rates: Everything You Wanted To Know But Were Afraid To Ask guide. It's worth getting your head around the basics now so you aren't stung in future.
If you work during term time or over the summer to keep yourself afloat, make sure you're paying the right amount of income tax.
Students are taxed just like anyone else. If you earn less than £12,500 a year, you shouldn't pay any tax, whether you're 20, 30, 40 or 50.
If students are employed (not self-employed) and taxed via Pay As You Earn (PAYE), they are automatically charged tax on earnings, so may need to reclaim it. Crucially, even if you only do summer or temp work, you'll be taxed as if you'd earn that rate all year.
If you're a student and total earnings for the 2019/20 tax year came to less than £12,500 (the 2019/20 personal allowance), and you paid tax, see the Gov.uk website for how to apply for a refund.
If you’re working throughout the whole year, but still need to reclaim, you need to wait until the end of the year and reclaim tax then.
If you know you're only working for a short time, eg, just the summer, then you can fill in a P50 to reclaim tax back at that point. You need to wait four weeks after your last day at the job to make the claim.
Check what tax you should pay. Use our Income Tax Calculator to get the true picture.
Even if a store offers a discount to students, you often need more than just your university ID card to qualify for it. A number of websites have popped up in recent years (such as Unidays), which are free to sign up to, and offer exclusive discounts when you shop online and in certain stores.
We've the full lowdown on which sites you should join, to bag the best discounts on your uni essentials. Plus what you need to do to get money off the big retailers offering discounts direct to students, such as Apple, Boots and Spotify.
Student-discount site Unidays is free to use and offers a range of ongoing discounts. You'll need an active .ac.uk email address to sign up.
As your university ID card generally only nabs you certain in-store discounts, it's well worth registering with Unidays to access them online as well. For example, you can flash your student ID in-store at Topshop to get a discount, but you'll need a code from Unidays if you're shopping online.
What's more, Unidays offers some cracking discounts for free, which you used to only get if you paid for an NUS Extra card (now called Totum). It's worth checking out the similar Student Beans site, which is also free to sign up to.
Current deals include the following (see the Unidays website for a full list):
It's well worth keeping an eye on the Unidays website for new offers. Occasionally you'll see deals boosted, particularly during towards the end of September, to entice new students to sign up.
A Totum card (formerly NUS Extra) unlocks a number of exclusive student discounts in the UK, both in-store and online, and it also doubles-up as an International Student Identity Card for use abroad. It costs £14.99 for a one-year card, £24.99 for two years and £34.99 for three years.
Anyone aged 16+ and studying in further or higher education either full or part-time can get one. Your course must have started, and there's no upper age limit.
It's also worth checking out the new Totum Digital, which is free and offers a limited range of discounts.
Discounts exclusive to Totum cardholders include the following (see a full list of discounts here):
Extra 25% off student tickets at Odeon Cinemas Mon-Thu
It's worth bearing in mind that plenty of discounts are available using your institution ID card, or other free student discount schemes like Unidays or Student Beans. So check whether places you usually shop at accept those first.
Otherwise, simply work out what you expect to spend and do the maths to see if it's worth it for you. For example, if you're likely to mainly spend at a retailer giving a 10% discount exclusively via Totum, will you spend at least £150 over a year?
We've uncovered a nifty trick that means you can continue to get student discounts even after your course ends. Totum says students with an active .ac.uk email address can buy Totum cards right up until the last day of their course.
This means that your Totum card will be valid even after you graduate and your standard university ID card expires. If you reckon you'll save more than £15 over the course of a year using the card, it could be well worth buying one towards the end of your course.
Boots now offers a 10% student discount, which anyone with a Boots Advantage card (the store's loyalty card) and valid student ID can get. You'll need to take both to the checkout and ask the cashier to link the cards. You'll then get 10% off whenever you use your Advantage card in a store or online.
Some products are excluded, such as NHS prescriptions, infant formula, Dyson products, mobile phone top-up cards, gift cards, and postage stamps. See the Boots Website for the full list.
There's a version of Amazon Prime specifically for students - Prime Student*. It gives all those aged 18+ who are in higher education access to free one-day delivery, Amazon's video streaming service, its Kindle lending library and photo storage - plus some student-specific discounts.
It costs £3.99/month or £39/year for membership (compared with £79/year for Amazon Prime), but students can get a six-month trial free. The trial excludes Kindle library services though.
You need to sign up with a valid .ac.uk email address or other form of student ID. Don't forget to cancel if you don’t want to continue or you’ll be charged (to cancel, go to Manage Your Prime Membership).
Amazon often offers 75%-off and better reductions, but it directs people to other areas, sending them to higher profit margin products instead. Yet there's a geeky way to manipulate Amazon's links to show all heavily-reduced bargains.
As it's a faff to do this yourself, we've made the Amazon Discount Finder tool. It lets you create your own super-specific sub-department pages in seconds, where you choose the discount and if you want free delivery.
There are plenty of free music streaming services, and if you don't mind putting up with ads then you can't beat the price. But if you want the full ad-free service you'll need to stump up the cash for it.
Apple Music uses Unidays to verify your student status. With Spotify, you'll need to enter your university email address.
Let's be honest - new Apple products are rarely MoneySaving, so if you're determined to buy, make sure you've budgeted properly. But Apple's student discounts are pretty generous, and can save you a fortune when you're forking out £100s.
You can get up to 10% off Macs and 5% off iPads (depending on your place of study), and a chunky discount on the three-year Apple warranty too (a useful purchase for Mac owners).
What’s more, until Thursday 29 October, you can get 'free' AirPods earphones (normally £159), when you buy certain products via the Apple for Education* website or at an Apple Store. Alternatively, you can opt for discounted AirPods Pro for £90 (normally £249).
See our Apple Deals page for full info.
Always ask for student discounts when you're out and about. These aren't always advertised, but several places still offer them.
You'll usually need to show a form of student ID with a photo on it (if your institution one doesn't have that then it's also worth bringing an ID card that does). Share your finds in the Student discounts discussion.
Since 2016, anyone that uses BBC iPlayer – even just for watching catch-up TV – needs a TV licence, as well as anyone watching or recording live TV. See Do I need a TV licence? for the full low-down.
However even if you do watch live TV or iPlayer, there's a loophole specifically for students which allows some to avoid this. Crucially, you don't technically need a TV licence if:
Even if you're only watching TV or BBC iPlayer on your laptop, if it's plugged in at the time you WILL need one though – see TV licence student loophole for full info.
If in halls of residence you'll probably be covered for communal areas, but not your room – do check though. If in a shared house and with a joint tenancy agreement, you'll only need one licence for the household. But if you've separate agreements, you'll need one for your room.
If you bought a TV licence during the academic year, and you're going home over the summer, you may be eligible for a refund when you leave your uni digs, if you've already paid for the period you won't be there. For full details, see Student TV licence refund.
If you aren't living in halls, it's likely you'll have to pay for gas and electricity on top of rent. It's possible to make hefty savings simply by switching provider.
You've a right to switch and save on energy - even renting. When renting, you're free to switch if you pay the energy company directly (rather than your landlord). Also check your tenancy agreement - some contracts ban switching, but challenge this as it’s often considered an unfair term. See Renting Tips for full help.
Our free-to-join Cheap Energy Club is designed to keep you constantly on the cheapest tariff. It'll tell you when you can save and will even help you switch. Plus you'll often get £25 dual fuel cashback if it can switch you - there really is no excuse for paying more than you have to.
You don't need to know how much your bill will be. Even if you haven't a clue what you'll be paying, you can still enter your house size on some of the comparison sites and they'll estimate for you.
Watch out for exit fees. If you're on a longer fixed tariff or thinking of signing up to one, be aware that suppliers can charge exit fees if you leave before your contract term, typically about £30 per fuel. Most suppliers do waive early exit fees if you’re moving house however. Always check and factor this in.
On a prepay meter? You definitely haven't got the cheapest deal. To save, first try switching to a credit meter (though you'll need your landlord's permission). If you can’t, do a comparison to find the cheapest prepay provider (again, comparison sites will often be able to estimate your usage if you're unsure). See the Prepaid Gas & Elec guide.
At the start of a new term, it's likely you'll be given a list of books you'll need over the year. Depending on your course, some textbooks can really break the bank and leave you out of pocket.
The uni library is likely to have the texts you need, but in the first few weeks of term there's usually a rush on them, meaning you could be left waiting. So, instead of buying them new, see if the local library has a copy. At the very least you can take time assessing how often you'll need it.
Alternatively, scout around campus, department noticeboards and even Amazon and eBay (see our eBay buying tips for help) for anyone selling books they no longer need. If no new editions have been released since they bought them last year, you're getting exactly the same book, possibly just with a worn-in look. Charity shops are also good for cheap textbook hunting, especially in your university town.
And thanks to the internet, consider year-long book rentals. Sites like VitalSource will loan you the e-version of textbooks for up to a year, for up to 80% less than buying the text new – though of course, always compare prices before renting.
Students are also often able to get free access to specialist resource websites via their university, although sometimes you will have to be on campus to sign in. The library will be a good place to start to see which are available to you.
Your parents may decide to give you money to help while you're at uni, if they can afford it. But for most, the amount of maintenance loan you get depends on your parents' income – those who come from wealthier homes get a smaller loan.
This is because your parents are expected to contribute. If you don't get the full loan, while there's no way to force them to pay, and they're not legally required to give you money, it's well worth having the conversation with them in advance about whether they'll contribute.
Show this to your parents. This can be a thorny area, yet their contribution can make a big difference while you're studying. Broach the subject sooner rather than later, and feel free to show them this tip and Martin's Money for uni blog, including ready reckoners to help calculate how much to contribute.
Most students and those working in education with an academic email address can get Microsoft's entire Office suite of programs, and other freebies, for zilch.
To see if you're eligible (those at 99.9% of universities, 87% of colleges and a "large number" of schools are), enter your academic email address on the Office website. You'll be asked to log in through your institution's online portal and if you're eligible, you'll be redirected to a page where you can download the software.
You can also get 1TB free online storage with OneDrive – for full details see Microsoft Student Freebies.
It's not just Microsoft either - here are some other useful software freebies:
For typing, spreadsheets and presentations: The LibreOffice software suite includes a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, database and design package. Handily, it's compatible with many Microsoft documents, and is available for PC, Mac and Linux.
For image editing: If you're after something for basic cropping and editing, Paint.net is easy to use and PC-compatible. For a more advanced photoshop equivalent, GIMP is a powerful tool with free add-ons and (PC and Mac), while Inkscape is handy for scalable vector graphics and works on PC, Mac and Linux.
For music and videos: One of the most widely compatible media players available, VLC Player can cope with pretty much any music or video format you throw at it. For recording, Audacity lets you add effects and create soundscapes from scratch. Again, both are available for PC, Mac and Linux.
Always check any software you put on your computer is suitable and compatible with your existing set-up first. For full info and loads more see the Free Office Software and Free Antivirus Software guides.
Think there's no such thing as a free lunch? From supermarkets and fast-food chains to high-end restaurants, our guide to How to get free (or cheap) food has 16 tips to grab free grub, including how to get paid to dine out.
That's right, you can enjoy many students' favourite pastime and get paid to boot – though this one's mainly for freshers. Those aged 18 or 19 can sign up with Serve Legal as a mystery shopper to check whether establishments licensed to sell alcohol ask for ID at the point of sale.
Visits typically take 3-12 minutes and you'll be paid for your time (typically between £6 and £8, but sometimes up to £20 per visit), plus expenses, and get to keep – or drink – anything you buy.
If you're kitting out your student digs with larger items, eg, a sofa for an unfurnished lounge or a TV for your new room, pick-up only items on eBay are often cheaper as there are fewer bids.
Always double-check the seller's location, and stay safe when collecting. Go with a friend, or if this isn't possible, tell someone where you're going and arrange to contact them afterwards. Take a mobile phone, and stay on the doorstep if you can. See full safety tips.
Many places will give you a discount if you flash your student card. But even if they don't offer a student discount, why not ask for one?
Haggling is chutzpah time – never buy without a try. Even if you weren't born with the gift of the gab, it's easier than you think. See the Haggle on the high street guide for tips, and give it a go. After all...
What's the worst that can happen? They say no. They won't chuck you out of the shop or punch you in the face!
The student loan system changed for new undergrads who started in or after September 2012. Any students who started before then stayed on the previous system, which would've cost £3,465-a-year max at the 2014/15 rate.
But for people starting a course now, all institutions have been allowed to charge up to £6,000 and many will charge up to £9,000, providing they make extra provisions for bursaries for poorer students. See the Student Loans Mythbusting guide for more.
If you started university in England or Wales in or after 2012 you may know that student loan interest came down to 5.4% as of September 2019 - see Martin's Should I panic or pay it off? guide for full help.
If you're a student the likelihood is you're renting (and relatively new to it too). It's important you know your rights in private digs to make sure unscrupulous landlords don't end up taking advantage.
Here are a few to get you started...
See 50+ Tips for Renters for your full renting rights and other need-to-knows.
This is where you match up money coming in with what's going out. It's incredibly important to budget - you may have a great first week splashing the cash, but spend the rest of term struggling to survive.
Knowing how much income you'll have is essential as without this your budget will be nonsense. While the rule for working people is that they shouldn't spend more than they earn, no one says what students shouldn't spend more than.
Martin's rule is count your income as your student loan + any grant + any cash from parents + any work income and don’t spend more than that. Note this doesn’t include your 0% overdraft (that’s for emergency cash flow issues only).
No matter where the money comes from, the golden rule is to NEVER spend more than your income.
Don't forget other costs, like a TV licence or toilet roll. They aren't fun to buy, but are even less fun if caught without 'em.
Here's three very basic steps to help you boss your budget:
For the full steps on each aspect of budgeting see our Budget Planner guide.
Treat yourself to a makeover. Nope, we're not talking face packs and cucumber slices. For the biggest savings, give yourself a full Money Makeover. This overhauls your finances, from mobile bills to contact lenses. It'll take time to work through, but it's time well invested.
As the year goes on, the costs of starting higher education quickly add up. So before you shell out on extras, don't forget: a company's job is to make money from you.
Don't swallow companies' promises and marketing. However well you budget, you will have to spend on tuition fees, books, transport, living expenses and, of course, socialising.
So always remember these companies want your cash and look with a sceptical eye; you'll make better decisions.
It isn't just which company you pay, but how much you use. Cutting energy costs is a mix of big and little things. A few small changes will help bring your bill down.
Turn down the thermostat and dig out that knitted jumper from your gran. Switch off lights when leaving a room, use energy saving lightbulbs, defrost the fridge and check it isn't on too high, and don't leave electricals on standby.
A good tip for students studying this winter who are finding gas bills a struggle: study at your local library.
Again, if you aren't in halls, check with your landlord to see if your water bill is included in your rent. If not, remember to budget for it, using the table in the Water Bills guide for a rough indication of how much to expect.
Home contents insurance for a student house isn’t always easy to get. This is often because most policies like to cover the house, not the person, making it tricky if you've flatmates - check our insurance for renters guide, which will particularly apply to students living together in a house share. Yet if you're still struggling, there are a few tricks to get round it:
Check parents' cover. If your parents have home insurance, it may automatically cover you under the 'temporarily removed from the home' section while you're a student. The cover only applies while in your accommodation and if your parents' home is your main permanent address.
If you need cover for any mobiles or laptops, or items you normally wear or carry away from your home, your parents could also add the 'all-risks' or 'unspecified personal possessions' section to their policy, which specifically covers your stuff while it's out of their home. Many policies allow this, so it's worth checking.
However, if you carry a lot of valuable gadgets, eg, a laptop, tablet and smartwatch, then a specialist gadget insurance policy could be worth considering.
Don't assume student policies are cheaper. Comparison sites can work for you and provide online quotes in rented rooms or shared accommodation but take note of the important warnings before committing to buy. You really need to check, and check again, that the policy that comes out top does meet the cover you need as sometimes specific conditions are likely to be put in place.
It's worth checking the following comparisons to get an indication of cost to compare against a quotation provided by a specialist: MoneySupermarket*, Confused.com*, Gocompare* and Compare The Market*. Student contents policies are also available from Barclays, HSBC, RBS and NatWest.
As a renter, your landlord is responsible for buildings insurance, so you should only be getting contents cover. As buildings insurance generally covers the building itself (unsurprisingly), this is usually the property owner's responsibility.
Generally, this means you're unlikely to need building insurance if you're renting - but check with your landlord if unsure.
Lock your doors. If you're in shared accommodation, your insurance won't cover you for theft unless there's been a violent or forced entry. So always make sure you lock your room door when you leave, even if you're just popping out briefly.
Check if your bike's included. If you're bringing a bike, your contents insurance may cover it. Always check though, and find out how much extra it is to add if not. See the Bicycle Insurance guide for full tips and info.
Finding affordable car insurance can be a nightmare, especially for younger drivers – the average for a 17-22-year-old is over £1,400/yr. Our Young Drivers' Car Insurance guide has a step-by-step system to slice off every spare penny for under 25s, but if you're older and heading to uni, see our normal Car Insurance guide.
Do you really need it? Bringing an unused car to uni can be an expensive and unnecessary hindrance, so consider the alternatives. See the public transport point.
Pay when or how you drive. Specialist 'pay as you drive' or 'black box' policies are well worth checking to see if they undercut comparison site quotes. With these, a GPS or tracking device is fitted to your car, so what you pay depends on your mileage and time or driving style. For more info, see the Young Drivers' Insurance guide.
Specific young driver brokers. While comparison sites are very good for those with normal situations, for others they can underperform, so check specific young driver brokers separately (full listings in the guide).
Learner driver insurance. If you're a learner, it often means being added to parents' or friends' car insurance as an additional driver which can up the cost, and put no-claims bonuses at risk. Yet you can get specific policies just for provisional drivers. Find full info on all these and more in the guide.
Don't forget to update your address. You can usually keep your parents' address for correspondence if you want, but you need to tell your insurer where the vehicle's usually kept.
If you have a part-time job, tell 'em. If you forget to declare it – even if you don't use the car to get to work – it could invalidate future claims.
If your car's uninsured while at uni, SORN it. All cars need to be insured unless you declare it's off road. The only way out's to apply for a SORN (Statutory Off Road Notification) declaring your car won't ever be driven - but you must park it on private land, not on the street. See Gov.uk.
Never get someone, such as one of your parents, to add their name as main driver on your car instead of you. This is called 'fronting' and is fraud, and can lead to prosecution. Don't do it.
If you regularly face a palpitation-inducing mobile phone bill, there's a mass of tips 'n' tricks to help.
Haggle down contract costs. If you'd rather not change network, this can still yield big savings. When you're near the end of your contract, call 'em and ask for the best deal possible - not just on your network, but any out there. See the Mobile Phone Haggling guide for tips on how to give your haggle some chutzpah!
After an iPhone or Samsung? Top-of-the-range new smartphones are never MoneySaving, but you can pay less and get a shorter contract if you know where to look. To quickly compare tariffs, use our Cheap iPhone and Cheap Samsung tools.
This is the big trick everyone should know. Instead of buying tickets for the whole journey, bizarrely, buying separate tickets for its constituent parts can slash the price – even though you're on exactly the same train.
It's perfectly allowed within the National Rail Conditions of Carriage, and has been confirmed by the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC). The only rule is that the train must call at the stations you buy tickets for.
Savings can be massive; it depends on how long your journey is, but we've managed to shave over £200 off a return ticket from London to Durham before using this method.
See Split Ticketing tips for a full how-to.
If you're currently studying, but are thinking of taking a year out, make sure you know how much it'll cost you.
If you're working for part of your year out then you need to be aware that you may pay tax. Earn more than £1,042 in a month, and you'll be taxed. However, if you only worked six months of the year, you wouldn't reach the £12,500 tax allowance so you'll likely need to apply to HMRC for a rebate. If you're not sure whether you should have paid or not, use our tax calculator.
If you're going overseas, budget for your trip - and don't forget travel insurance. Many insurers offer backpacker policies which cover you for extended periods out of the UK, whether you're backpacking or living in luxury.
A mass of companies offer to recycle your mobile for money. This is a really quick 'n' easy way to make extra cash if you've old handsets lying around.
Once you agree to sell, you're even sent a freepost bag for it. For how to quickly find the best payer for your make and model, see our Sell old mobiles guide.
This trick also works for other gadgets, including games consoles, iPods and more. Remember to factory wipe your devices and remove personal information before sending them off.
Things might be a little different this year due to coronavirus, but musuems and art galleries should be open as normal (though you'll need to wear a face covering). See our Coronavirus life-in-lockdown help for updates on the latest rules.
Many music events, including Glastonbury Festival, were cancelled earlier this year, but once they're back up and running, check out the Free Festivals guide. It has full listings of the top gigs nationwide. You'll find totally free festivals across the UK, covering everything from rock and jazz to carnivals and outdoor theatre.
You'll also find info on how to get into the big paid festivals for free, including the latest volunteer schemes. Eg, MSE Sarah has been to Glastonbury Festival for free by volunteering with Shelter.
Alternatively, the Free Museums and Art Galleries guide lists venues across the UK on everything from forensic science to footie. Use 'em for research, entertainment, or even an unusual date on a budget (don't forget your restaurant vouchers!)
Find 'em near you: To find your nearest at a glance, click on your area on the in-guide maps for full listings of venues in your area, plus opening times and what to expect on the day.
Do you know the difference between a best-before and a display-until date? If not, it's likely you're binning a lot of food unnecessarily.
To help, we've a free printable Food Saving Memo. Stick it on the fridge and check before you chuck.
The coach can be an economical alternative to pricey train fares (even if you do have a railcard), and if you're aged 16-26 or a full-time student, National Express' Young Persons Coachcard can make it even cheaper.
It costs £12.50/year (or £30 for three years) and gives a third off all standard fares – peak times included.
It's easy to think "I've got to get a student loan, why not borrow a little more?". But you need to understand how special student loans are.
Not all debts are the same, and no other loan only needs you to pay if you're earning enough. With others, it'll never go away. They'll chase you even if you can't afford it, and the interest is higher and will multiply at speed. Remember:
Some debts, like student loans, are much better than others. Be very careful taking any other form of borrowing.
Sadly in the UK, students are educated into debt but never about debt. Many in authority concentrate on telling students to avoid debt – which is impossible – rather than focusing on avoiding bad debt.
Ditch your spending demons: Use the free Demotivator tool to instantly see the real cost of your non-essential spending, from mags to chocs. Then print and stick the results on your wall to help you stop buying 'em.
This is a quick 'n' easy way to make decent savings on your grocery shopping, particularly if you're still just buying big brands you're used to at home.
Over the years, supermarkets have hypnotised us into spending more by making us move up the brand chain. Many people gradually buy increasingly more expensive versions of the same thing. So here's the challenge:
Drop one brand level on everything and see if you can tell the difference. If you can't, stick with the cheaper one.
Drop just one brand level on everything and the average bill's cut by 30%. On a £20 weekly shop, that's over £300 a year less. See the Supermarket Shopping guide for tips.
Do your homework: For extra discounts, get into the habit of checking the latest Supermarket Coupons before you shop. If you tend to pop out for milk and loo roll only to return with a trolley full of impulse buys, take five minutes to make a shopping list before you go – and stick to it.
There's a mass of goodies available for free at the click of a mouse, if you know where to look. Check out these MSE pages for help tracking them down:
If you're sharing a house, it's likely you'll want to get on the web. But before you take a pricey contract, you should consider some alternatives, including checking out our Cheap Broadband guide for the top deals.
Get it for free at uni. If your campus has free internet access or Wi-fi, it's well worth using this if you can. Use the uni's computers (or charge your laptop at uni) and you won't have to pay for the electricity either.
Get it for free on the high street. Free wireless internet's the norm at high street cafes and pubs now, rather than the exception. Wetherspoon and Walkabout pubs offer all customers unlimited Wi-fi access, as do McDonald's restaurants nationwide, and many more.
Consider shorter contracts. If you decide to get the internet at home, some tariffs offer a 30-day contract. While the monthly cost may be slightly more in the short term, if you'll only need it for nine months instead of the full year, it could work out cheaper in the long run.
Beware download limits. If there's several of you downloading or watching TV online, limits for standard cheap tariffs may not be enough. To avoid being hit by unexpected charges, consider getting an unlimited plan if you live with several heavy downloaders.
Check the best buys. Some providers offer tariffs aimed at students, eg, nine-month student contracts from Virgin Media, though these are often more expensive than the cheapest deals available. Factor in any fees and monthly line rental to work out the real monthly cost, then use the Cheap Broadband guide to see how it compares to best buys in your area.
Consider going mobile. If you live in an area where broadband's pricey, you move frequently, or just don't want the hassle of chasing your housemates for their portion of the bill, mobile broadband's another option. For pros, cons and best buys, see the Mobile Broadband guide.
Don't stick with your student bank account when you graduate. By switching to specialist deals for graduates, you may be able to gain £100s a year.
This is because many offer special terms that are unavailable to other people, such as 0% overdraft deals for up to three years.
Picking the best can save you serious cash on your overdraft. See Graduate Accounts for the top picks.
Several sites let you quickly trade in old CDs, DVDs, computer games and Blu-rays for cash. The sites are easy to use and give instant quotes, so if you've got loads to get rid of, you could speedily make a bit of extra money.
Sites to try include Music Magpie* and CeX. To do it, type in the barcode, ISBN or product name on the site to get an instant valuation. Each site is different, and some offer more for certain items than others, so always compare a few.
Once you've compared and found the top payer for your items, you simply accept the valuations and send your stuff to the them. Postage is usually free, but always check.
Always ensure items are packed well, as, in most cases, any that fail basic quality checks won't be sent back to you. You'll then get paid, either by cheque, bank transfer, vouchers or store credit, depending which service you've used. For full info, plus other easy ways to make extra cash while you're studying, see the Boost Your Income guide.
Flog it: For more recent items you may be better off selling 'em individually on eBay. Check out the eBay Selling Tricks guide for a mass of insider tips and tricks on how to easily declutter your digs and make extra cash at the same time. You'll also find free tools to help.
It's possible to earn £100s a year to take part in online surveys, which are often short enough to fill in during breaks between lectures. Find the full list of top picks in the Survey Sites guide, including some which pay up to £10.
Most store cards charge a hideous 30% interest or more, and even the best aren't cheaper than bank's credit cards, so don't get sucked in by the sales patter.
They work and feel very much like credit cards, except that while credit cards can be used anywhere, store cards can often only be used in a specific store or group.
Yet they've exorbitant rates, and are often aimed at the young as stores assume they're an easy target.
Stores hide the fact this is debt.
While studying's a priority, it's commonly accepted many students will work. So if you don't have enough cash, don't overborrow (and especially don't get a payday loan) – try to find a job instead.
Babysitting, supermarkets and the library are all handy places to start, but it can pay to think outside the box too. Some earn from working as a TV extra, or even for participating in medical trials - see our Boost your income guide for some more unusual ideas.
Former-MSE Megan got paid to go lectures:
I used to get paid about £13/hr to take notes in other students' lectures (eg, if they had broken their arm and couldn't do it themselves). I found the work through the university's job centre and had to go for a quick test. It was the perfect student gig as it fit around my lectures and unusually for student work was very well paid.
And ex-MSE Rosie had an even more unusual job:
I got paid to take part in psychology and neuroscience experiments, earning around £10/hr – in some you could earn more for good performance. More exciting ones involved virtual reality headsets – all while contributing to scientific research. Some of the braver participants were even given electric shocks (not me).
Be the early bird: The earlier in the year you try to get work, the better your chances, so try to apply before other students.
It's likely you came out of school with very little – if any – training for the consumer decisions you'll have to make every day as an adult. Martin says...
Companies spend billions of pounds a year on marketing, advertising and teaching their staff to sell, yet we don’t get ANY buyers’ training.
In 2018, Martin funded 340,000 copies of the first ever curriculum-mapped textbook in schools. Your Money Matters is aimed at students aged 15 to 16, and teaches about topics such as savings, budgeting, borrowing, student loans and identity theft.
It was written by the financial education charity Young Money with guidance from Martin. It's available as a free 150-page PDF download for anyone who wants it. Many grown-ups learn from it too.
Consider a 16-25 Railcard if you spend £90+ a year. These cut a third off off-peak train tickets and tube fares and they're also valid for full-time students of any age – a huge plus.
Cards can be bought from the Railcard website for £30 a year, or £70 for three years. So spend over £90 a year, even in just one trip, and you'll save.
You can get 10% off a one-year railcard if you're registered with Student Beans, though check for other railcard deals too as those will often beat this. Alternatively, Santander's student account gives a four-year railcard for free – full info in Student Accounts.
For more info on railcards see the Cheap Trains guide.
Trick to nab another year: Don't forget – renew just before your 26th birthday to grab another year, or before your 24th birthday for a three-year card (the same applies to older cardholders about to finish uni).
Some students in special circumstances, such as those with kids or disabilities – might qualify for a special support grant instead. This will be the same amount as a maintenance grant.
Under usual circumstances the amount given for your loan might be reduced if you get a grant as well.
However, the plus here is that a special support grant won’t reduce the amount you get for your maintenance loan. For more on what's available and how to apply, see Gov.uk.
There's no need to live off pricey takeaways at uni while longing for a home-cooked meal. Take the time to learn the basics and it'll help to stretch your cash much further, and it's far healthier too.
The forums are a great place to get tips and ask questions. Read the Basic recipes for novice cook discussion to arm yourself with the essentials, while the 50p meals thread has loads of budget recipe ideas. Feel free to add your tips!
If you're off home at the end of term (and you can't coax a friend or parent to give you a lift), it's possible to find extra discounts if you know where to look.
Train and bus companies often discount heavily with regular sales to fill seats. Promotions have included £1 train and bus tickets across the UK, and London to Scotland for under £20. To find the latest offers, check out the Cheap Trains and Coaches deals page.
Cheap train and coach ticket offers go quick. To hear about them as soon as they're released, sign up to the free weekly email.
Timing your purchase accurately can make a real difference, either well in advance, or last-minute.
Buy 12+ weeks early.
Everyone knows that if you book early, fares are cheaper. These often disappear quickly, so to ensure a bargain, start looking about 12 weeks before. This is because Network Rail must set the timetable this far in advance.
Train operators commonly, though not always, release cheap advance tickets shortly after. It isn't often dead on 12 weeks, and some are currently trialling much further in advance; National Rail's future travel chart shows the latest date you can buy advance tickets for each train firm.
You can also sign up to the Trainline* ticket alert system and say which days you want to travel, so you get an email the moment cheap advance tickets come on sale (commonly the cheapest fares).
Or... get last-minute early booking discounts.
Few realise you can often buy advance tickets till midnight the night before or, in rare cases, at the station. See the Cheap Train Tickets guide for tips.
Uni can be a stressful time – financial, social and academic pressures can quickly add up. If you're struggling, don't suffer in silence. Talk to your tutor, parents or a close friend if you feel you can, but there are also organisations that can help.
Free counselling. Many universities offer free student counselling services. Ask for details at your local Students' Union.
Can't sleep? Charity Nightline offers a confidential, anonymous listening and info service specifically for students. It runs overnight from about 8pm to 8am and covers over 100 universities and colleges across the UK and Ireland - see its website for how to get in touch with your nearest service.
Alternatively, Samaritans offers confidential help around the clock.
If you're struggling, many universities have access funds to help. These aren't always advertised, but it's well worth speaking to your uni or the National Association of Student Money Advisers (Nasma) to find out more and ask for how to apply.
Before spending on anything, use Martin's Money Mantras. If you say 'NO' to any, DON'T BUY!
If you're skint
Do I need it?
Can I afford it?
Have I checked if it's cheaper anywhere else?
If you're not skint
Will I use it?
Is it worth it?
Have I checked if it's cheaper anywhere else?
Be extremely wary of credit cards. These are best avoided while you're studying, as if you don't have an income, you'll really struggle to repay the debts. This means the interest will compound and build quickly, leaving you owing serious cash.
Don't let the affordable-sounding minimum repayments trick you either. Even if you can meet these each month, they are designed to clear barely any of the debt - meaning the cost of borrowing rockets. If you need scaring out of this:
If you borrowed £3,000 aged 21, and only made the minimum credit card repayments, you'd be 50 before it cleared.
Bag mega savings by using our very own Deals Hunter blog trick which manipulates Meerkat Movies and Meerkat Meals to give you a year of 2for1 cinema tickets and meals out.
You just need to buy the cheapest product you can find on Compare the Market, which is usually something like a day's travel insurance for a couple of quid, and then you can download the Meerkat app to get the deal each week.
See the blog for the full how-to, but here's some inspiration:
Thanks, I’ll be saving over £400 a year for a cost of £3.
Payday lenders have sprung up nationwide, promising quick cash loans until you get paid. Yet interest rates are exorbitant, and the cost of the debt can easily snowball to epic proportions.
If you're struggling to make ends meet, instead contact the National Association of Student Money Advisers (Nasma), who will help with better alternatives.
If you bag a yellow-sticker discount you're on to a winner as it's a huge saving on perfectly good nosh (you'll just usually need to use it quickly).
But to help you out we (along with the help of our dedicated forumites and MoneySavers who work in supermarkets) have put together a table to spill the beans on which supermarkets discount at which time, even including the amount they are likely to reduce products by.
To pin down where you need to be at which time, see our Supermarket Shopping Tips.
Thanks to all the MoneySaving students who emailed in these extra tips below.
Freecycle prevents perfectly good items from ending up in landfill by giving them to those who need them. It’s dead easy to use and last year I kitted out my house (wardrobe, mirror, energy saving lightbulbs, bedside table).
There are so many participants it's never short of supply. Just sign up to your local group and off you go. Don’t forget to give back through Freecycle too. [See Freecycle guide]
- Ryan, London South Bank Uni
If you are lucky enough to have a car, don't run your fellow students around – place a tariff on your wall with required contributions to your petrol costs.
For example, Tesco £1.50, town £2, pictures £1 (you can also give allocated times for these trips to maximise the income!) If you're going yourself the costs can be reduced, but you will be surprised how the money adds up.
- Caitlin, Uni of Wales Trinity Saint David
Collect an HC1 form from your local job centre, dentist or GP and you may be able to get help with NHS prescription charges, dental treatment, sight tests, vouchers towards glasses or contact lenses, and even hospital travel costs.
I've had no problems with eligibility and have received these benefits free despite not always qualifying for the full amount of student grant. I was shocked to find out that none of my fellow students had heard of it. [See NHS Choices for how to apply]
- Dan, Edinburgh Uni
Clever ways to calculate your finances