Saving money at university: advice for parents

saving for university


MoneyPlus Features Team

17th August 2015 at 4:44pm

Saving for university

If you’re a parent with a child heading to university this year for the first time, you’re most likely feeling a mixture of pride, excitement and monetary concern. It can be hard to know where to start when it comes to finances for the student in your life, as university costs amount to more than just tuition fees (which vary across the UK, but stand at about £9000 per year in England).

Although tuition fees can be hefty (though thankfully non-existent in Scotland), every student is entitled to a loan to cover them until earnings are deemed high enough to start paying them back, so they don’t necessarily need to be a burden during term time. When it comes to the cost of living though, loans are harder to get, so you’ll likely need to draw on other financial resources.

There’s no need to fear though! The key is in the planning. Here at Standard Life, we understand how important it is to keep a balance between savvy spending and ensuring your loved one has the time of their life at university. So, we’ve put together a handy guide on the uni costs to expect outside of tuition fees and accommodation, and how to minimise them.

Perhaps you’re looking to provide these funds yourself, or maybe your child has a part-time job and income of their own – either way, now is the time to sit down together and work out what to expect.

Travel expenses at uni

Whether it’s travelling home for Christmas or simply getting from halls to lectures, the cost of university travel can certainly add up. Here’s how to make savings:

  • Student discounts: At just £28 for a whole year, the 16-25 Railcard rewards owners with a third off rail fares. National Express also offer a Young Persons’ Coachcard.
  • Car sharing: If several students are heading home to the same city, car sharing can be a great option. Sites such as Liftshare make it easy.
  • Pay ahead: Most local bus services offer travel cards that can help students save money in the long run, and they’re more practical than scrambling for spare change too. University student services can often help with enquiries in this area.

How to save on books

Most courses demand a substantial amount of books, and the library isn’t always an option, as students are often expected to make notes on the pages. Remember though:

  • Shop around: Cheaper editions can usually be found on the internet, so head to sites like Ebay and Amazon for some bargain-hunting.
  • Make the most of discounts: Onsite university bookshops often offer student discounts for last-minute purchases.
  • Bargain hunt: Never underestimate car boot sales and charity shops – there are always absolute gems to be found.
  • Book-share: If your child is on the same course as a friend, they should consider splitting the cost of the pricier editions – although the courses are the same, students won’t necessarily be scheduled in the same classes, meaning they can ‘timeshare’ the books.

Student food: staying healthy on a budget

It doesn’t have to be all microwave meals and beans on toast. These tips won’t only lower costs, but will keep your kid(s) happy and healthy:

  • Buy frozen veggies: They’re often very cheap, and almost as good as fresh vegetables. Plus, they’re very easy to prepare.
  • Visit independent shops rather than supermarkets: The butcher is the best example here. Buying meat in bulk to put in the freezer is often significantly cheaper than even the best supermarket deals.
  • Do a weekly shop, and stick to the list: Buying day to day tots up, but making a list of necessities and stocking up once a week will help keep finances (and appetites) in check.
  • Make packed lunches: Taking food along to lectures eliminates the need for spending a fortune on the uni canteen’s greasy offerings. This saves pennies, as well as cholesterol levels!

The cost of uni: all the extras

The final costs to consider on a monthly basis – don’t be alarmed, just plan ahead!

  • A laptop: It’s not impossible to get through university without a laptop of your own, but it’s not enjoyable either. Don’t rule out second-hand models, just be sure to carry out plenty of research to find reputable computer dealers in your area.
  • Insurance: All those work tools and materials add up, not to mention phones, TVs and other costly personal belongings. Shop around for student contents insurance deals, just in case the worst should happen.
  • Printing and photocopying: They’re usually not free. In most universities, students buy a card which they need to top up with credit before scanning for different services.
  • Library fines: These can and should be avoided, but accidentally abusing deadlines is all part of the university experience!
  • Socialising: This may be seen as a luxury, but when moving away from home with no friends in town, it’s an absolutely crucial part of student life. Even fancy dress parties and student club nights help build confidence and networking skills – but unfortunately, they do cost money.
  • Utilities: Some student rents are charged with bills included, others aren’t. Things such as TV licences and the cost of Wifi always stand alone though. Be warned, if a student has a separate tenancy agreement for their room, they are expected to acquire their own TV licence.

Remember to bear in mind that university is a learning curve for students both inside and outside the classroom. Discovering how to budget comes with the territory when living away from home for the first time, so be there to guide your children at the start, but don’t be afraid to let them carve their own path too.

Let us know what you think

Join the conversation and follow us on twitter @StandardLifeUK and Facebook and share your thoughts.  Are you saving for university or have you done so in the past?  We’d love to hear from you!