Check out the Top Money Tips below to help get you started.

  • Planning for the student life

    Now that you have chosen what course is perfect for your career progression, it's time to think about what you can do to prepare yourself for the student life. Check out our tips below to help you get ready for Ulster:

    • Visit 'Funding your Studies' to see what funding is available for your course. If you have previously completed a degree and will be self-funding, make sure you will have enough to live on before you start uni.
    • Research expenses involved with Living away from home. Don't forget to include the price of utilities if you are not staying in UU accommodation. If you plan on travelling, make sure you check out any discounts available through Translink.
    • Read up on any additional mandatory costs required before commencing your course. Make sure you have done your research so you are fully aware of the expenses you will face at the start of your academic career and throughout the duration of your course. For example, laptop, text books, materials, vaccines, uniform.
    • Why not consider working part-time whilst you study. Part-time work can help you gain experience, such as, Team Working, Time Management, Communication and Customer Service skills. Starting before you come to University will give you the chance to get some savings behind you and will cover any unanticipated costs that may arise. Registered students can avail of support from Employability and Careers. Specialisterne recruits and supports people with Autism, Aspergers or Communication differences in the workplace.
    • If you are in receipt of Social Security Benefits, ensure to update your details with them to avoid under-payment / over-payment of support, and eliminate any risk of benefit fraud.
    • If you have dependents, check with your local Education Authority for financial support you may be eligible to apply for.
    • Once your funding has been confirmed for the year, and you have completed your research, draw up a budget. For more help around 'Drawing up a Budget' see below.

    If coming to University would put you in financial difficulty, consider deferring for a year to allow time to gather up some savings.

    REMEMBER! Your first loan has to last you to January – be sure to plan your money wisely.

    ASK! For help or guidance as soon as possible. You can contact our team on 028953 67000 or email sma@ulster.ac.uk

    AVOID! Erratic and unnecessary spending. Many students blow their loan in the first few weeks of term leaving them relying on family, overdrafts and often costly credit facilities to carry them through.

  • Tracking your Spending

    Why track your spending?

    • It will give you a clear picture of where your money goes.
    • You will notice any unusual / fraudulent transactions and can report these to your bank more quickly.
    • You will begin to think before you spend.
    • It will help you achieve your financial goals!
    • Once you know how much you're spending, you need to stick to your budgets and actually stop spending once your limits are reached.
    • Set up direct debits/standing orders to go out on a date that suits you best, for example, after you get paid

    Activity

    Grab a pen and paper and give yourself 2 minutes to quickly jot down everything you've spent in the last 2-3 days and total up your purchases - don't be reaching for the mobile banking app just yet, go solely from memory!

    Next, log into your mobile banking and see how much you actually did spend. Did you spend more, less or the same as you first thought? If you spent £20 more than you thought over the 3 days, think how much more you could have spent over the month...

    The point of this exercise is to help you realise, that without keeping an eye on your spending, you could very easily spend more than what you have, or spend money that was held in your account for the likes of your rent, or mobile phone bill.

    Repeat this exercise every couple of weeks to see if you are getting better at tracking your spending. It will also help you think twice before you spend, and live within your budget.

  • Essential vs. Non-essential spending

    The best way to determine what your essential and non-essential spends are, is to ask yourself, ‘what are the consequences if I do not spend money on this?’ For example:

    • Rent – if not paid, you face being evicted if you don’t keep up to date with your payments
    • Holiday abroad/weekend away – if not purchased, you may lose out on a nice tan and the chance to buy cheap souvenirs.
    • Bus/train fare to University – if not purchased, you won't make class, meaning you could miss out on vital information, fall behind and potentially have to repeat modules or the year.

    Activity

    To get an idea of how much you typically spend per year on those non-essentials, open up the Money Saving Expert's Demotivator.

    • Think of three or four things you regularly buy, that wouldn't be an essential spend. This could be a daily coffee, take-away for dinner or even taking the kids to the cinema.
    • Enter the details into The Demotivator
    • Add in your hourly rate if working part-time, if not, put in your student funding for the year.
    • The result will tell you how much this costs over the year and how many weeks you would have to work to pay for this. Bear in mind that the working week is based on 35 hours, so if you only work 12 hours a week, you will have to multiply the total number of weeks by 3 to get the full picture.

    The point of this activity is to get you thinking about how much your non-essentials add up to over the year. It's great to have a treat, give the kids something fun to do and catch-up with friends and family, but think of how much this can add up to, and maybe consider swapping some of those spends for something free or less expensive.

    Reducing the cost of essential spends:

    • Mobile phone contracts – do you really need the latest smartphone at £60 per month? If your phone is in good condition, you could get the same data, texts and calls from a sim only contract from as little as £12 per month.
    • Socialising with friends and family – this doesn’t have to involve a £70 night out, it could be a night in making pizza from scratch with a few shop-bought drinks saving you ££’s
    • Gym Membership – Firstly, do you use it, or could you swap it for a free run along the shoreline? Consider University gym membership. Pay up front for the year and save ££’s.
    • Sky TV Package - whilst this can be a great way to keep the kids entertained while you're catching up on coursework, streaming services can offer as much entertainment for a lot less!
    • Car – these can be money eaters, from pricey insurance, tax and fuel, to repairs and replacement tyres. Calculate the real cost of running a car against the price of taking the bus or train. Don't forget to apply for your Y-link card (this offers more discounts on travel) or avail of greater discounts by pre-loading a multi-journey travel card, such as SmartLink.
  • Cooking vs. Eating out

    The temptation to call in somewhere on your way home from a long day at Uni can be irresistible.

    The same can be said for getting an extra ten minutes in bed over getting up and making a lunch to bring with you to Uni.

    However, when you look at how much you spend on eating out, you may want to start cooking more and save the eating out for special occasions or treats.

    Cooking vs eating out price comparison

    Bought out

    Price comparison

    Take away Pizza @ £17

    3-4 days groceries (breakfast, lunch and dinner)

    Daily coffee @ £2

    Jar of instant coffee £3.25 (makes approx. 50 cups)

    Bottled water @ £1.50

    Reusable water bottle @ £3 – top up for free from water fountains on campus

    To help in your quest for good food discounts, and cooking on a budget, check out our money saving resources below.

  • Drawing up a Budget

    The What! and Why? of Budgeting

    Budgeting is simply creating a spending plan for your money. This ensures that you will have enough money to meet all your costs, whether, daily, monthly, or yearly. If you can stick to your spending plan, this will help avoid overspending and running the risk of getting into debt, reduce anxiety and stress about being able to pay for things, and allow you to focus your attention on other areas of your life.

    Getting started

    Whether this is your first time creating a budget, or you are returning to study and need to readjust your budget in line with student life, knowing where to start can be the hardest part. Take a couple of minutes and watch this Personal Finance 101 video for tips on getting started.

    Calculating your income

    So now you have an idea of what you need to do, next step is getting prepared to draw up your own personalised budget. Try using a printable template or online  budget planner or just plain old fashioned pen and paper.

    • First thing you want to figure out is how much money you have coming in. The most common income for students would be:
      • Student funding, whether this is your student loan paid in 3 times a year, or your monthly nursing bursary.
      • Part-time wages, paid weekly, fortnightly, or monthly
      • Some students also receive Universal Credit / Child Tax Credits / Personal Independence Payments / Housing Benefit
      • Parental/Familial support - this may not be money coming through, but it's important to acknowledge even a bag of groceries, or a few hours free childcare frees up money for other bills/activities.
    • To help make sense of your income, it's important to look at your money in the same terms, for example, you receive three instalments of student finance per year, and this totals £3630... but how much does that equate to each week or month? Most people find that drawing up a monthly budget is easier as larger bills, such as rent, childcare or car payments come out once per month.
    • Let's get converting that income into a monthly figure:
      • weekly payments, multiply by 52, then divide by 12
      • fortnightly payments, multiply by 26, then divide by 12
      • bi-monthly payments, multiply by 24, then divide by 12
      • 4 weekly payments, multiply by 13, then divide by 12

    Calculating your outgoings

    • Now you have your total monthly income calculated, it's time to look at your outgoings. Your expenses can change when coming to university. You may have additional travel costs, require materials or books for your course, or need to pay for additional childcare.
    • This is probably the best time to log into your online banking. Have a think about your current living expenses that will continue throughout your duration of study, then have a think about allowances you need to make to cover study costs. If you are unsure of some of the costs involved, check out your course page for information on 'additional mandatory costs'.
    • Make a note of all your essential expenses, including a little for savings where possible. There is no limit to how much you should save, however, ensure you are covering all your expenses first, before squirrelling your money away. For some, there may be very little funds available to save, however, saving as little as £5 per month sets the wheels in motion for good saving habits.
    • When dealing with expenses that vary week to week, take note of the highest amount this could be, or set yourself a limit, for example, allowing £120 per month for groceries. Setting limits like this will help you control how much you spend on certain items, and encourage you to shop smart, looking for deals/bargains in local supermarkets and discount stores.
    • If you have a number of expenses that only go out once a year, add up the total you expect to spend (it's worth overestimating these), and divide by 12. This is the amount you need to set aside each month in order to make these payments without eating into other areas of your budget.
    • Once all your essential spends are recorded, do a quick calculation to see if you have any funds leftover for those non-essential items/activities. If you find your expenses are more than your income, revisit your spending and look for ways to cut back on some spends, or increase your income.
    • If you have exhausted all other avenues, and are facing financial difficulties, visit our financial hardship fund section for more information on how to apply, including other non-UU supports. Please note that awards are one-off payments and cannot substitute a regular income.

    Reviewing your budget

    So you have your budget drawn up, what's next? This is where you need to keep a track of your spending. As each bill leaves your account, tick it off as being paid, or if you have transferred your paper budget onto a spreadsheet, highlight it in green, for example, as paid. Keep an eye on your account to ensure you are not missing any payments, or overspending in one area of your budget, which will leave you short paying for something else. Once the month is over, move any leftover funds into a savings account and copy over your budget for the new month ahead.

    To help manage the money going in and out of your account, it might be worth setting up a second account. This could mean having one account for all your bills to come out of (rent, mobile phone, childcare, etc.) the other being for your daily travel, groceries and entertainment. The important thing to do is remember that everyone is different, so do what works best for you.

    Living with housemates? Sharing household bills with others can be a tricky area to manage, however, the first thing you all need to do, is commit to pay your share. This may mean when the electric card needs topped up, everyone pays£5 or£10 towards it.

    Never open a joint bank account with your housemates as this will financially link you to them, and should they have a poor credit rating, this will negatively impact your own. For more information on Credit ratings, please visit our banking section.

    Planning for unanticipated costs

    These expenses cannot be predicted, but can be planned for should they arise.

    They are not: Rent, car insurance, field trips, travel costs, materials for your course and normal everyday living expenses.

    They could be: Car or household repairs, medical bills, replacement of items due to theft.

    In preparing for unanticipated costs,  you need to set aside a little each month or from each student finance payment, for the unexpected. Check out 5 ways to tackle unexpected costs.

    Review your budget regularly and keep making adjustments to live without overspending:

    • If you are living away from home for the first time, make sure you are fully aware of all the expenses this involves, such as rent, travel, groceries, utility bills and academic costs.
    • If you are returning to study after working full-time, you will need to review your spending and draw up a budget based on your new income.
    • In most cases, students have to readjust their lifestyle for the duration of their study to prevent overspending.
  • Making the most of your money

    In order to make the most out of your money, it is important to consider how you can both maximise the amount of money coming in, and minimise the amount of money going out.

    How can I maximise my income?

    • Ensure you are in receipt of the correct funding for your course and circumstances. If your Student Finance application has not been income assessed, it may be worth asking for a reassessment with this in mind. If you are unsure about any of this, speak with our Student Money team.
    • Consider working part-time work. Working 12 hours per week at £6.83 per hour (minimum wage for an 18 year old) can boost your monthly income by £355, that’s over £4,262 per year, not including extra shifts you can avail of during the holidays.
    • If you are in receipt of Social Security Benefits, ensure you have updated your details. This will avoid any under-payment or over-payment, and eliminate any risk of benefit fraud. If you are unsure of what support you may be eligible to apply for contact Advice NI or your local Social Security Agency for advice.
    • Have any games or consoles, books or clothes that you don't need or use? Why not try selling these online? Gumtree, eBay, MusicMagpie, or WeBuyBooks.com are all great ways to make some extra cash.

    How can I minimise my outgoings?

    • Be aware of your essential verses non-essential spending.
    • Choose to cook instead of eating out or ordering take-away.
    • Swap branded items for shops-own, this can save up to 75% for an average monthly shop.
    • Swap nights out for nights in.
    • Consider changing your TV package to a cheaper streaming service
    • Ensure you are getting the best deal on your utilities,  check out Consumer Council NI's price comparison tool for the best prices in Northern Ireland.
    • Prioritise your spending - avoid booking holidays or weekends away when you have rent or childcare to pay.

    Tips on being money smart:

    • Pay rent for the semester as soon as your loan comes in. This means you will know exactly how much money you have left to cover costs during the semester. Make sure you get a receipt.
    • Pay for your yearly car parking up front with a Student Parking Permit.
    • Make sure you have the right insurance plan for your needs, whether this is car, life or home insurance.
    • Avoid using contactless, as some transactions do not instantly deduct from your ‘available balance’, which could mean when the money leaves your account 3-5 banking days later, you could be left overdrawn.
    • Plan weekly menus and make a shopping list. Avoid daily trips to the shop as these can cost much more than one weekly shop. Always check out the reduced section as you could save 75%+ at the end of the night.
    • Make the most out of your student card. Always ask, "Do you offer a student discount?" as this could save you 10% - 30% in many stores and restaurants.
    • Check out the Money Saving Resources below for websites and apps to help you in your quest for good money management.
  • Money Saving resources

    Below are some online resources to help you save money and shop smarter. Whether you prefer Online Shopping or in-store, make sure you know the Safer Ways to Pay.

    Budgeting Tools

    Cooking on a budget:

    More for Less

    Being smart with your money and shopping around for discounts or bargains is the new norm. Who doesn't love a bargain!? Being a student brings with it added bonuses with various student discounts offered by a variety of retailers, restaurants and service providers.

    Don't forget to do a quick google search for current discount codes before placing your online order.

    Money Savings Apps

    Finding a bargain on the go is made easy with numerous different apps. Check out some of these below:

    Price Comparison

    Price Comparison sites are great to help you shop around for the best deal, whether you are looking for the best electricity or gas prices or renewing your car insurance.

    Student Guides

    Ask the experts