Raising financially savvy students – A parents guide to university money management

With many children having left the nest this September and  heading to University, no doubt they are looking forward to stimulating lectures, exciting new friends, and a certain amount of socialising.

But if it is the first time out of their parental home, they may have some worries too. There’s the practical sides of things. 

But there is also the more serious business of managing your money.

As experts in helping people make the most of their money at every stage of life, at Continuum we would like to help – so we have prepared a simple guide to managing your money at university.

Do your homework

Managing your money starts before you go. Work out a budget. How much will you have coming in for each term? List all your income sources, including student loans, any grants, and any financial support from family. Will there be any other sources of income, such as part time jobs, which can make a huge difference. 

Eligibility and repayment rules differ across the UK, but student loans are typically made up of two elements:

  • Loan for the tuition fees – paid directly to the university.
  • Maintenance loan – paid into your bank account in instalments.

Students in England can borrow up to £9,978 a year for a maintenance loan if living outside London and away from their parents. This increases to £13,022 in London. 

Once you have a clear picture of your income, it’s time to plan how you will spend it.

Tuition is probably the biggest cost, but paradoxically it is the easiest to deal with, because your university will be taking it directly. Most students expect to pay it from their student loan, although there  is nothing to stop you paying it yourself if you have a large reserve of cash to call on.

The annual cost of tuition across the UK

  • England: £9,250
  • Wales: £9,000
  • Northern Ireland: £4,710 for Northern Irish students, or £9,250 for other UK students
  • Scotland: Free for the majority of Scottish students, and £9,250 for other UK students

Thinking about accommodation

Next comes accommodation. Most first year students tend to live in halls, with board as well as a room provided, although there is a growing tendency for self-catering. Like tuition, the cost of university accommodation is fixed. It also covers things like utility bills and wi-fi, keeping your budgeting simple.

In 2021-22 (the latest figures available) average rent for university-owned rooms was £6,227 per year, and £7,732 for private rooms.

You may find yourself in private rented accommodation, which can sometimes appear cheaper, but which will mean paying separately for power and heating. You’ll need to estimate these as part of your budget. And don’t’ forget you’ll need to pay for your private accommodation outside term time.

All being well, you should have income which comfortably covers these outgoings. You should even see that you have a comfortable disposable income for each term. But things will get more complicated when you actually get to where you are going to be studying.


If you are not in catered accommodation, you will need to budget for meals. You will probably want to eat in the refectory at lunchtimes. Prices tend to be moderate. But you will still need breakfasts and evening meals. Creating a meal plan and sticking to it can save you a significant amount of money. Consider cooking in bulk, meal prepping, and opting for store-brand products to keep your grocery bills in check.


Factor in the cost of public transport or fuel if you have a vehicle. Many universities offer student discounts on local transport and you can get discount on railways with an appropriate card. Explore these options. And consider the alternative of a second-hand bike.

Course Materials

Budget for textbooks, stationery, and any additional materials required for your course. Look for second-hand books or digital alternatives to save money. You’ll need a laptop. 

You might have to include things like field trips in your budget, depending on your course.

Social and Leisure

You will want to have a social life. You will find you are overspending on it at least to start with. Finding your funds are draining fast can be a sobering experience (often literally). Set aside a reasonable amount for socialising but keep it within your budget.

Take full advantage of student discounts. Many retailers, restaurants, and entertainment venues offer reduced prices for students. Get an NUS card or check if your university provides a student discount card.

Long-term goals

I know this may seem a lifetime away, but thinking about your long-term financial goals such as saving for post-graduation is important. Consider opening a savings account or investment account to begin growing your wealth. 

Most importantly

Remember that financial management is a skill that will serve you well beyond your university years, so take this opportunity to build a strong foundation for your future financial success. If you find that you have anything over at the end of each term, you might want to start looking at savings, or even investments to do just that.

If you do, or if you want some help on any other financial topic, simply call us at Continuum. We won’t give you a lecture. 

The information contained in this article is based on the opinion of Continuum and does not constitute financial advice or a recommendation to suitable investment strategy, you should seek independent financial advice before embarking on any course of action.

The value of investments can fall as well as rise and you may get back less than you invested.

The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate deposit accounts and school fees planning.

Student finance: How much does university cost and does it increase earnings? – BBC News

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