Hints and tips

Everyone has different costs and ways of managing their money. We have put together a list of the best hints and tips that can help you to develop your financial capability whilst you are at university and beyond.

Check out our hints and tips for...

General rules to live by 

  • Use a budget planner to work out what you have coming in and how much you can spend, or check out the Student Calculator.
  • Student mentors can help you and give advice on realistic costs of living in Birmingham.
  • Avoid exceeding your overdraft limit as you will be charged. Set up direct debits (where possible) to avoid late payment charges
  • Check that you are receiving all the grants, bursaries and tax credits that you are entitled to.
  • Don't buy what you don't need and be sure to take advantage of student discounts.  Check out the NUS website for details.
  • Make the most of online vouchers and money-off deals through websites like MyVoucherCodes, which provides exclusive students offers on high street fashion, train travel, restaurants and trips to the cinema to name a few. 
  • Shop around for the best deals on services, e.g. mobile phone contracts. We recommend using the pay-as-you-go option.
  • Get a part-time job, the JobZone in the Guild can help you to find work that exactly fits in with your studies.
  • Don’t ignore financial difficulties; communicate with friends, family and your bank. Most importantly seek help!
  • Get involved with money saving campaigns organised by the Guild - just ask a mentor for details.
  • Avoid the temptation to resort to using 'payday' loans, which promise quick and easy solutions when you are short of cash by depositing money straight into your account at the click of a mouse. The typical APR offered by one of these companies is 4,214%, which means if you were to borrow £100 over 30 days you would have to repay £136.72 (including interest and transaction fees). Whilst the pressure of managing your finances can be great, there are a range of support services available at the University to help you, and if you do find yourself in financial difficulty, you can always make an application to our Access to Learning Fund. 

Accommodation

  • University accommodation may look expensive, but remember that the charges often partly or fully cover bill payments such as electricity and gas, and some halls include meal plans.
  • Most University accommodation is offered on a 42 week basis, but there are some rooms are available for 50 weeks.
  • A pre-payment of £550 is required to secure your accommodation and payment can be made in full or by instalments.
  • It is often cheaper to rent privately, but remember that contracts are for 12 months and do not usually include utility bills.
  • For private accommodation, a deposit will be required, and some landlords or letting agencies will deduct an administration charge from your deposit.

Food and toiletries

  • Make your own packed lunch - it's cheaper than buying food on campus.
  • Try to cut down on takeaways and cook with your housemates to lower the cost.
  • The website www.mysupermarket.co.uk helps you find the best deals on products from across four major supermarkets.
  • Give economy value brands a go - www.supermarketownbrandguide.co.uk lists independent taste tests on thousands of economy products, giving you the prices and a score out of ten.
  • If you have generous parents, ask them to get you a supermarket 'meal ticket' - your parents can load up the card and make sure you always have funds to buy your food and groceries. Ask at your nearest major supermarket for more details.

Travel

  • Bus and train fares can be quite expensive over the course of a term or an academic year. Consider buying a ‘season’ ticket to save money or purchase a 16-25 railcard, visit www.16-25railcard.co.uk to save a 1/3 on your train fare or buy a student travel card for cheaper bus travel in the West Midlands.

Course costs

  • Consult your reading list to identify the key textbooks you are likely to need
  • Use the libraries on campus - it's free and there is a comprehensive short-loan section. Make sure you can pick up the books you need by reserving them online.
  • Try www.cheapunibooks.co.uk to save money on some of the books on your reading list. alternatively, use the book exchange at www.guildofstudents.com/classifieds or check your departmental noticeboards or University book fairs for second-hand textbooks on sale.
  • Remember that you will need to pay for any photocopying or printing that you do. Credit can be applied and used from your University ID card using the autoloader terminals.
  • It is not essential that you buy a laptop, as the University has over 1,200 PCs in 11 computer clusters across campus that will allow you to access a wide range of network resources.

Bills and utilities

  • When you move into private accommodation in your second year, you may be placed on a provider's 'standard' tariff. This is rarely the cheapest tariff to be on, so have a look at comparison websites such as www.mystudentbills.com to find the best deals offered by a range of suppliers.
  • It is always a good idea to notify your utility suppliers that you and your housemates are new tenants when you first move in to make sure you are not left paying for someone else's usage.
  • If you are responsible for utility bills, all tenants will be jointly responsible for payment. Make sure that you decide amongst yourselves how you are going to pay before a bill arrives.
  • Remember that it is a criminal offence not to have a license if you watch or record live television programmes. A colour license costs £145.50 - see www.tvlicensing.co.uk for more details.
  • If you live in University accommodation or in a house where everyone is classed as a full-time student, you'll be exempt from paying Council Tax. To ensure your council knows you are a student, download a council tax self declaration certificate form.
  • Shop around to get a good deal on broadband. Take into account the length of the contract that you’ll be signing, and if possible get a package with a 9 month contract so you won’t have to pay over the summer. There might be an activation or connection fee to pay, and many of the packages you’ll see advertised won’t include the cost of line rental, so make sure you’re aware of all of the charges before you sign up. Use a comparison site such as www.cable.co.uk to find the best deals.

Leisure and socialising

  • When you go out leave your bank card at home - just take a set amount of cash for the night and stick to it.