Sending your child to university can prove to be a costly few years – Catherine McKeown (Head of Financial Support) from the University of Sheffield would like to share her top 10 tips on how your child can budget, minimising your concerns and the holes in their pockets!
1. Be aware of what financial support is available – there is a wide range of financial support offered for those wanting to go into higher education. This falls into two main categories: government support and direct money from universities, and the amounts available often depend on household income.
2. Choose the best bank account out there – don’t let your child be swayed by offers and freebies; encourage them to go for a bank that offers the best overdraft deal as this will be crucial in those tricky situations
3. It is vital to calculate their budget before going to university – the lifestyle change is huge.
Help out your child with practical tools they can use: a printed weekly budget sheet for example – see the online money planner on the Sheffield University website. They may not use it all the time, but you’ll be confident you’ve helped them out as much as you can. Take your child shopping and try discount brands for a change, work out which brands are still worth the price tag and which can be easily substituted by discount brands.
4. Encourage them to sign up to discount websites – Moneysavingexpert.com, Studentbeans.com and Voucher Cloud are three examples. They often run great competitions; highlight the best deals out there and nifty restaurant 2 for 1s for those special days. See if they can make a rule to only buy with a discount voucher, code or similar.
5. Buy text books and supplies second hand if possible – many university book stores will offer this service. Ask your friend’s children for unused copies, look on Ebay and Amazon. Remember when you have finished with the book, sell it!
6. Encourage them to cook with their flatmates – cooking as a group is good fun and saves a lot of money. Great books that move them beyond beans on toast include Student Grub by Alastair Williams and Cheap as Chips, Better Than Toast: Easy Recipes for Students by Miranda Shearer
7. Try a part-time job – why not encourage your child to balance studying and a part-time job? It will not only provide them with some extra cash for the essentials of student life but it can help them develop transferrable skills. The University of Sheffield has a Student Jobshop and an online vacancy service.
8. If you’re providing money for living costs, avoid providing a large sum up-front – a monthly allowance will avoid them having the temptation to spend it all at once, and will prepare them for the working world in a few years’ time
9. Keep them entertained – if your child is into their live music, the Free Events guide has listings of the top gigs nationwide. They’ll find free festivals across the UK, covering everything from rock and jazz to carnivals and outdoor theatre.
10. Don’t get stung by the insurers – students typically carry more than a thousand pound’s worth of technology such as mobiles, laptops and iPods around with them. Before your child forks out on expensive insurance, see if they are covered by your family insurance, or if they are eligible to be covered by their hall of residence
Catherine McKeown is Head of Financial Support at the University of Sheffield.