I cannot believe my first year of university is over. It feels like only last week that I was opening my student bank account with NatWest and moving into my halls of residence. It is quite sad to think I am no longer a fresher, where it was more acceptable to make silly mistakes and go wild. However, I have definitely learned many lessons throughout the year, particularly with regards to my finances. Some financial decisions I am quite proud of, whilst others I regret and would not like to repeat next year.
One aspect of my finances I am quite proud of is the amount of my student loan I have saved. Each term, I increased the amount that I transferred into savings, and by the end of the year I had saved one whole term’s worth, which totalled £1,200. No doubt this will come in useful for next year when I am living out and have more financial responsibilities such as bills. I want to be more independent by paying for as much of it as I can myself, and not rely on my parents as much.
I am grateful to have a summer job, at the place I worked at last year, meaning I can continue saving money for next year’s rent.
There are other areas of my expenditure I would possibly change. In my first term, I had a few one-off expenses such as buying books and paying for gym membership. Whilst I am happy to say I have made the most of my gym membership this year the same cannot be said for the books. I was perhaps naive to think I needed to purchase as many as I did. While I am aware that for many other courses, for example law, core textbooks are necessary to purchase; this year, buying the core politics textbook was not essential for me, and if I had used the library and internet more, I could have saved £100.
I was hoping to receive a student railcard from NatWest as part of my student bank account but the bank had scrapped that benefit and I didn’t get one on my own accord. In hindsight, I should have because my journeys would have been significantly cheaper and although I didn’t go home as frequently as some of my friends did, even the cost of trips to Birmingham, for example, would have been reduced.
I was fortunate for my exams to finish two and a half weeks before the term officially ended. This meant two-and-a-half weeks of continuous partying and sleeping – in theory, anyway. In reality none of us had the energy to go out every night. When we did go out, I for one was determined to not make the same mistakes I had made in my first term and spend £50 on a night out. Now my friends and I meet for a couple of drinks before we go out so I don’t end up buying so many expensive drinks in clubs. I also make sure I arrive before midnight – the queues are much smaller and entrance fees and drinks also tend to be cheaper.
When it comes to clothes, dress swapping seemed to work quite well. No one wants to wear the same thing every time they have a night out, so my friends and I have been rotating outfits between us. When we have wanted to buy anything new, our NUS cards have got us discounts in shops and online.
Finally, as a vegan, I am happy to have kept my food expenditure to a minimum this year. I found that making midnight trips to Tesco meant I could buy food cheaper, particularly if it was coming close to its sell-by-date. It was also useful to go to the supermarket with a friend so buy-one-get-one-free deals or other similar promotions could be shared, and consequently food was cheaper.
My first year has been a rollercoaster of a ride especially with my finances. I have made many mistakes, but have equally learned a lot. Nevertheless, I would not change any of it