Managing your budget while at university isn't easy, but there are a number of ways you can keep your costs down
Keep track of your spending
One of the best ways to ensure that you don't overspend is to monitor your finances. Start by creating a spreadsheet showing your income from student loans, scholarships, parents and any part-time job you have, and note down regular outgoings such as your rent, mobile phone contract and any utility bills you pay. You'll then be able to see exactly what you have available to spend each month.
Stick to this self-imposed limit and you can't go wrong. This is easier than ever because you can always check your balance using a mobile banking app on your phone. On those occasions when you do go a little overboard, the interest-free overdraft on your student bank account will help to tide you over.
A key tip is to not get over-excited when your student loan comes in, as it is very easy to spend it all in one go and be left with nothing for the rest of the term.
Be smart with your food shopping
Food will be one of your biggest costs, so it's worth finding ways to reduce your bills. Buying supermarket value products rather than well-known brands, and shopping at the end of the day when many items are discounted, are among the simplest ways to save money.
If possible, share cooking responsibilities with your housemates and plan meals in advance. Together you'll be able to do a cost-effective 'big shop' at the start of each week and avoid the need for too many expensive takeaways - while developing your culinary skills at the same time. It's also cheaper to make your own packed lunches rather than buying a sandwich or going to a coffee shop every day.
Don't overpay for transport
Most universities are either city-based with excellent public transport links, or campus-based with everything you need on your doorstep. This means that you probably won't require a car while studying, saving you a lot of cash.
If you intend to take the train regularly - for example to visit parents, or friends at other universities - make sure you buy a 16-25 railcard. Costing £30 for one year or £70 for three years, this will give you a third off all rail fares. Combine it with cheap advance tickets for extra savings.
Buses remain one of the cheapest ways to get around town, so check whether there are any student discounts or weekly/monthly passes available on services you use regularly.
Take advantage of student discounts
Many shops and food outlets offer student discounts. Even where none is advertised, it's worth asking as they are sometimes still available.
For access to more than 200 student discounts, an NUS Extra card costs £12 for one year, £22 for two years or £32 for three years. Savings include 10% off at the Co-op supermarket, 10% off at ASOS and up to 40% off food at Zizzi. View the full list of discounts.
If you have a favourite shop, you could try to get a part-time job there in order to take advantage of the staff discount.
Buy course books second-hand
Books are expensive, but there's no need to purchase every item on your reading lists. You can usually borrow set texts from the library whenever you need them. Only buy the most important books, and even then, try to find cheap second-hand copies either through your university or online. Sell them when you've finished to recoup some of the costs.
You can also save money on other course essentials. For example, depending on how much your university charges for printing, it may turn out to be more cost-effective to buy your own printer.
Pay your bills on time
When you're living in halls of residence, utility bills will usually be included in your rent, making budgeting a little easier. However, if you're sharing a student house you'll normally be responsible for paying for your gas, electricity, water and internet. Use comparison websites to ensure you get the best deal and keep costs down by saving energy - for instance, put an extra jumper on instead of turning the heating up a notch.
Setting up direct debits for your regular bills, so that they are paid automatically each month, will make it easier to keep track and you may even get a discount. It also means you will avoid any charges for late payment.
Sharing bills among housemates can be effective (one pays the electricity, another pays the gas, etc.) as long as it is managed carefully. If you pay a bill on behalf of your housemates, make sure they give you their share promptly. Similarly, if a housemate pays a bill for you, repay them as quickly as possible. This will help to avoid any unnecessary tensions developing should anybody consistently fail to contribute.
Ensure you pay the right taxes
If you work part time while studying, you pay income tax in the same way as anybody else. This means that if you earn less than £11,000 a year, you should pay nothing. Depending on how you are paid, you may be wrongly charged income tax - in this case, you can claim a refund through HMRC.
Meanwhile, recent changes to the rules mean you need to buy a TV licence even if you only use catch-up services on BBC iPlayer. However, you can get a partial refund if you have three months left on the licence when you leave university at the end of the academic year. Find out more at TV Licensing.