Show me the money. The line from Jerry Maguire is one
close to the hearts of the thousands of young
people about to start college. But getting
shown the money isnt always the
hardest part. Hanging onto it can
be. Tim Relf gets a few tips
UNLESS youve got very rich relatives, a lucky line in horses or a knack for picking lottery numbers, money will be an issue in your student years. So, lets assume youve collected your local education authority student loan. What then?
"It is important not to assume that just because you have an apparently big loan cheque going into your account you are somehow loaded," says Aberystwyths education and welfare officer Ben Lewis.
The cash has to last you until your next loan instalment, which might not be until January. "So dont go out and buy that widescreen TV in the first week of term."
Try and economise on food bills, says Ben. "If you are in self-catering halls, dont be tempted to eat out every night. The McDonalds factor might be tempting in the first few days of fending for yourself but it eats the money up fast."
Try getting a hold of Grub on a Grant or another student cook book that has simple recipes designed for a budget.
And as for getting a credit card, his advice is simple: DONT. "Many card companies are going to tout for your trade and offer seemingly fantastic deals. The problem will come when you graduate when they will absolutely hammer you for interest.
"If you must get one, dont let it mount up if you can possibly avoid it and pay it off as quickly as you can – ideally at the end of the holiday with your holiday earnings."
Tim Porter, agricultural manager with Lloyds TSB, says the first priority is to draw up a budget. He recommends something simple – just the main incomings and outgoings on a sheet of A4. "A budget doesnt need to be as formal as it sounds."
Try planning on a monthly rather than yearly basis, or even better, weekly. "The easiest way to manage a budget is to break it down into bite-sized chunks."
Then comes the hard bit – sticking to it. "A good discipline is to take the money out of the budget and have it in hard cash. That way you can see what youre spending when you spend it."
Meanwhile, dont let problems arise before talking to your bank, says Tim. "Thats not the classic student approach, admittedly. They tend to say Ill go into red and wait for the letter from the bank manager.
"If you do that, you become a recognised name before you even start out in life, which is hardly ideal."
* Tell parents
Keep your parents informed, too. "The worse case scenario is that the bank or your parents end up running your account for you."
Try, also, to think about holiday work PDQ. There are more opportunities than years ago because farms have reduced their full-time workforce. "Its hard work and a grind but there are opportunities."
Ruth Nelson, who graduated this year from Harper Adams, certainly recommends holiday work. "It makes college life more comfortable. It means youre not scraping through. You can enjoy the social life. The camaraderie of college costs money."
Tish Joyce of Writtles student services department reckons thinking about a part-time job is a priority for the first few weeks of term. While there are a few jobs in the college, such as on the farm or the refectory, most people work in pubs, restaurants and shops. "But theres a lot of competition for them, so you need to get in there early.
"Students cant really go to college unless they have got parents that will back them or they get a part-time job. Think ahead and get a part-time job."
And dont forget to bring money to cover the initial days and weeks, adds Tish. Even if your student loan arrives on time, itll still take a few days to clear. "There are always things you will have to buy."
Mary Partridge, of Plymouths student union support and advice centre, says students should read the small print of anything they sign. Whether its a loan, a credit card or a mobile phone, read the terms and conditions carefully. "You need to know what youre putting your name to."
And ask for advice if you suspect you may be running into problems. "We tend to see people when they are in a dire situation, such as when the landlady is screaming at them for rent or theyve gone over their overdraft."
Fast food… Usually fast,
arguably food but
a sure-fire way of
swallowing up the cash.
"If granny is offering you a teddy for your birthday, ask for £s instead."
and welfare officer
"The biggest devil of all is managing credit card balances."
Lloyds/TSB agricultural manager
"Try to limit your trips to the cash machine to once a week. Otherwise you could easily lose track of how much you are spending."
Barclays head of
"Dont wait until youre in financial problems
to take advice."
Mary Partridge, Plymouth student union