Get Organised: Tip One for the New Semester
When we leave school, whether we are going on to university, work or an apprenticeship, we are given a new found sense of freedom and power over our own lives. We are free to spend our money as we please, do what we want with our time and pursue the aspirations we wish to achieve. But, with this freedom also comes the responsibility of running our own lives, and many find those first terms at university a dry run for the rest of their lives; for the first time we are the ones who have to provide food for ourselves, set our own agenda, get organised with rent and bill payments, and so on, which many students struggle with.
None of us want to be that person who burns through their student loan in the first few weeks, or gets chucked out of their accommodation, or ends up in hospital because they forgot to go to the doctors. To have a perfect start to the semester – any semester – you need to make sure you get organised, have all your accounts in order and you have all the documents you need to get yourself through the term, so you never need to worry about running out of money, losing where you live or any other thing that could come up. That way you can focus on your studies.
First of all, make sure you have your important documents with you, and they are stored in a safe place – this could be a large wallet or a travel safe. In this you should make sure you have your passport, driver’s license and any other form of identification; whether it’s simply signing in on day one, going on a night out or planning a trip abroad, it’s worth having these somewhere you can find them. If you are a British student, make sure you take a copy of your national insurance number, and before you leave make sure you have filled out the NHS’s HC1 form, which entitles students in full-time education to certain provisions beyond the usual healthcare, such as dental care and eye tests, and make sure you have your NHS number with you when you go for check-ups. For all students, it is worth taking any relevant banking details you may need.
Nowadays a wide range of student bank accounts are on offer from many banks, each with their own perks. Well before you start in September, get organised and make sure you look at the finer details of as many bank accounts as possible and choose one that suits you. Some will have larger overdrafts if you feel that is something you may require, some offer a free student rail cards when you open an account with them. Pick the account that will work for you and open one.
Then, you need to take some time to work out how much money you will be receiving for the year; this may be through student loans, grants, bursaries, scholarships or family hand-outs. If you are eligible for any extra money – either from the government or the institution of your study – make sure you claim it. Different students come from different backgrounds, so no two will have the same amount of money starting term, but what is worthwhile for all students is to make sure they organise whatever money they have so that it lasts. Once you have a fair idea of how much money you have to work with, you can get organised and begin to budget for the year.
Take the time to work out roughly how much rent you will be paying, and put that money to one side. Then work out a reasonable amount of money that will cover living costs for each term; make sure you don’t just factor in food and drink into your calculations, but books, clothes, stationary, medicine and extra-curricular activities as well. This can be done by finding a reasonable weekly cost for each, then multiplying them all by the weeks in a term and then by the number of terms you will be at university for. This will give you a living cost for the year. If you think this is too low or too high, tinker with the formula a little bit to get a budget that works for you. A common oversight when budgeting for university is to only budget for the time you are there; you may be staying at home in the holidays, but you will still be spending money. But some money aside for each holiday, and make sure it is locked away in a savings account so you don’t accidentally dip into it. Anything left over should go into a savings account as well – this is money that you should keep hold of for as long as possible.
Now you have a budget. What is the most difficult thing is sticking to it. It is worth picking a day in every week that you know you will not have much on, and taking half an hour to work out how much money you have spent that week, and if you are over budget or under for that week. If you are over, try work out what made you go over and try to limit that, and make sure you are under the next week to counter act the overspend.
For students already spent time at university, it is still worth budgeting, just to maximise your money. If, when it comes to the end of a year, you have a budget deficit, you need to make sure you establish that as a start-up cost for the following year’s budget, so you don’t burn out in your final year. If you have a surplus at the end of the year, don’t waste that money; put it away with the rest of your savings for when you really need it. What is important across all years of university is to get organised with what you need to live well.
Make sure you check out the rest of the articles in our series on Tips for the perfect start for the next semester: