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Mind Your Money

In this section, you will find information on all things money related. It is important to Mind Your Money wisely from the start to avoid any money worries or pitfalls whilst studying.

Be Prepared - getting ready for the student life

There are a number of upfront and additional mandatory costs associated with coming to University, whether this is buying a laptop, paying for studio space, covering the costs of injections or field trips. 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.

If you are returning to study, make sure you readjust your budget around your new Student Funding income. See ‘Drawing up a budget’ for more tips.

REMEMBER! Your first loan has to last you to January – Christmas could be quiet if you have not planned your money wisely.

AVOID uncontrolled spending, especially in the first week of term. Many students blow their loan in the first few weeks of term leaving them relying on friends, family, overdrafts and often costly credit facilities to carry them through to January.

ASK for help or advice before things spiral out of control – you can visit our Student Money Advice team on campus, contact them by email or arrange a telephone appointment.

UPDATE If you are in receipt of Social Security Benefits, ensure you update your situation with them to avoid under or over-payment and eliminate any risk of benefit fraud.

Check out our list of Student Guides

NASMA Student Money Matters

Consumer council Student Guide

Money Charity Student Money Manual

Making Your Money Work

NIHE Energy Saving Guide

Drawing up a Budget

What is a budgeting and why should I do it?

Budgeting is looking at your money coming in, your money going out and making adjustments so you can live without overspending.

Overspending can lead to uncontrollable debt, causing severe financial problems, which can have a knock-on effect on your relationships, mental and physical health, and can affect your credit rating, hampering your changes of future borrowing and limiting your access to mortgages and loans in later years.

Getting started

Click here before you get started, then try using a template or online budget planner.

  • Income - this can be earnings from part-time work, student loans, grants or bursaries, or if you have dependents or caring responsibilities, Social Security Benefits.
  • Outgoings - include everything from rent to field trips. Make sure you include all those one-off expenses during the year, and save a little each month to cover them. Do not forget to put some money to the side for any unanticipated costs that may arise during the year.
  • Student Funding - this usually comes through three times a year, ensure you have divided your payments by the number of weeks or months it has to cover until the next payment is due.
  • Remember! Holidays and nights out, are luxuries that can be considered with what money is left after all other bills and expenses have been taken into consideration.

Unanticipated costs

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

  • What they are not - rent, car insurance, field trips, travel costs, materials for your course and normal everyday living expenses.
  • What they could be - car or household repairs, medical bills, replacement of items due to theft.

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

How can I maximise my income?

  • Ensure you are in receipt of the correct funding for your course and circumstances. If your Student Finance NI 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.
  • Working 8 hours per week at £5.90 per hour (minimum wage for an 18 year old) can boost your weekly income by £47, that’s over £2,400 per year, not including extra shifts you can avail of during student holidays and summer break.
  • If you have dependents or caring responsibilities, ensure you have updated your details with your local Social Security Agency to avoid any under or over payments. If you are unsure of what support you may be eligible to apply for, contact your local Citizens Advice or Social Security Agency for advice.

How can I minimise my outgoings?

Your time at Ulster will fly-in! Sacrificing those non-essential luxuries for a few years will free-up money for more important outgoings. Consider the following:

  • Swap branded items for shops-own, this can save up to 75% for an average monthly shop. Check out some more Food Shopping Tips.
  • Bring your morning coffee and packed lunch with you. This could save you £35 per week.
  • Can you justify that £80 TV package or holiday abroad when rent or childcare needs paid?
  • Click here for more ideas on how to make your money stretch.

Essential vs. non-essential spending

The best way to determine what your essential and non-essential spends are, is to determine your needs from your wants. To help - ask yourself, ‘what are the consequences if I do not spend money on this?’

For example:

  • Rent – you face being evicted if you don’t keep up to date with your payments
  • Holiday abroad/weekend away – you may lose out on a nice tan and save a few pounds
  • Bus/train fare to University – you will miss classes, miss enough you could fall behind and have to repeat modules or the year, potentially ruin future career prospects
Some activities/items are essential, but you can reduce the amount of money spent on these to give you the best of both worlds:
  • Socialising with friends and family – this doesn’t have to involve a £70 night out, it could be a night in making pizzas from scratch with a few shop-bought drinks saving you ££’s
  • Mobile phone contracts – do you really need the latest smart phone 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 to taking the bus or train (and be sure to apply for student discount card or use SmartLink cards)
  • Try the Demotivator – it stops you spending when you can’t afford it.

Cooking vs. eating-out

The temptation to call in somewhere on your way home from a long day at University 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.

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

Check out the following links:

Eat Well, Spend Less

Love Food Hate Waste

Keeping the cost down

Food Hacks for Students

Cooking for one

101 Square Meals

Top Money Tips

Consider some of the money tips below to help you mind your money better:

  • 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 Permit.
  • Avoid using contactless, as these transactions do not deduct from your ‘available balance’, which could mean when the money leaves your account 3-5 banking days later, you can become 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 following links:

REMEMBER! It’s YOUR responsibility to manage YOUR money!  Review your budget regularly to ensure you are living within your means.

AVOID excessive spending – controlling your spending is the most important factor when trying to mind your money better. Excessive spending can also affect your eligibility to University Support & Hardship Funds.

ASK for help or advice before things spiral out of control – you can visit our Student Money Advice team on campus, contact them by email or arrange a telephone appointment.

Student Bank Accounts

Student bank accounts

  • A student account will allow you to access interest-free overdrafts for the duration of your course. Make sure you read the small print so you pay it back before the interest kicks-in. Get the low-down on student accounts here.
  • If your bank doesn’t offer this facility, shop around for one that does. Don’t let the freebies or discounts influence your decision, unless you really will benefit from them.
  • Overdrafts can help cover unanticipated costs – just remember it is not free money and will need to be repaid once you graduate.
  • Over 25? Shop around as many high street banks offer student accounts regardless of your age. This can benefit you if you are currently paying high interest on an existing overdraft or other credit facility.
  • Get your free Personal Banking Guide here.

Did you know?

Contactless Payment does not automatically deduct from your available balance and can take up to 3 working days or longer to deduct from your account.

If you do not keep an eye on your spending, you could easily spend more than you have in your account as the payment is authorised based on your available balance.

TIP! Take an extra 10 seconds and use chip and pin rather than contactless to better track your spending.

Credit Facilities - The true cost of borrowing

During your time at Ulster, you may need to make use of credit facilities to help with unanticipated costs you don’t have money put aside for. If this is the case, be money-aware and weigh up all your options before jumping at the first company that will lend you money.

  • Before you do anything, read - Do you need to borrow?
  • How much will it cost? All credit facilities come with a cost. In the UK lenders must display the APR (Annual Percentage Rate) of their products so that customers can compare the interest rate with other lenders, and in turn see the true cost of their borrowing. The total interest paid is how much the lender is charging you for borrow money from them.
  • Example 1 – Personal loan:
    • You borrow £2,500 and repay it back over 3 years
    • APR is 17.6%
    • Total repayable £3178.44
    • How much you were charged £678.44
  • Example 2 – Credit card:
    • You spend £750 using a credit card and repay it back over 12 months
    • APR is 34.9%
    • Total repayable £899.22
    • How much you were charged £149.22
  • Example 3 – Payday loan:
    • You borrow £300 and repay it back over 71 days
    • APR is 1301.2%
    • Total repayable £470.40
    • How much you were charged £170.40

Check out the Consumer Council’s Borrowing Money guide.

NEVER BORROW MONEY FROM A LENDER THAT IS NOT REGULATED BY THE  FINANCIAL CONDUCT AUTHORITY

Credit pitfalls

REMEMBER! Never use credit to pay for non-essential items. If you cannot afford it, do not buy it!

AVOID missing payments or not meeting the minimum payment. Breaking the terms of your borrowing can incur charges and late fees, and will have a knock-on effect on your credit rating, hampering your future borrowing potential.

ASK for help or advice before things spiral out of control – you can visit our Student Money Advice team on campus, contact them by email or arrange a telephone appointment.

Credit Ratings

What is a credit rating and what does it do?

  • A credit rating is what financial institutions use to assess your ability to pay back the money they lend you. Lenders look at your past repayment behaviour in order to predict your future behaviour, basically it is a risk assessment tool.
  • If you have never borrowed before, you are unlikely to have a credit rating, and the first chance you get to start building one up, may be by using a student overdraft or mobile phone contract.
  • If you have borrowed before, but have made late payments or missed some, this may have put a few red marks against your creditworthiness.
  • To register for your full Experian Credit Report FREE – sign up to Money Savings Expert’s MSE Club.
  • If you are currently paying for a credit report – sign up to the MSE Club and cancel your current subscription. This will have no effect on your credit score, it will simply save you upwards of £14.99 per month!

How to boost your credit rating

Register to vote. Why?

Do not withdraw cash on credit cards, this is seen as poor money management.

Never miss payments or be late in paying them.

Beware of opening bank accounts with friends – you will be financially linked and if they have a bad credit rating it can have a negative effect on your own future borrowings.

Avoid payday loans, these can kill your chances of getting a mortgage in future years.

Sources of Financial Support

  • If you are a registered UK student facing financial crisis, you may be eligible to apply to our Student Support Fund.
  • If you are a registered ROI/EU or International student facing financial crisis, you may be eligible to apply to our University Hardship fund.
  • If you are in receipt of specific Social Security Benefits, you may be eligible to apply for a Budgeting Loan.
  • If you are a registered student from a developing country, who intends to return home after your current course, and your qualification will benefit your home country, you may be eligible to apply for a Hardship Grant from Churches Together in Britain and Ireland.
  • For charitable Grants available to you, click here.

Dealing with Debt

Most students can be expected to get into some debt while studying at university, whether this is taking out loans or using the interest free overdraft facility on student bank accounts. Taking out loans to invest in your future can be a positive step, however, it is vitally important that this is managed carefully, ensuring you can afford the repayments, making monthly payments on time and keeping within the terms of your credit agreement, rather than leading to a serious financial crisis.

Some debt can be easily managed by adjusting bad spending habits, putting stringent budgets in place and generally being more disciplined with your money. However, other debt can arise from unforeseen circumstances. Regardless of the reason, the most important thing is to manage your money before it manages you!

Debt is not just a money issue, it can affect a number of different areas in your life, therefore it is very important to get advice sooner rather than later.  If you feel that your debts are building up and becoming unmanageable, don’t bury your head and hope they go away, seek advice and help as soon as possible.

For sources of help and support for debt management, please see below.

StepChange Debt Charity

Offers free, confidential advice and support to people worried about debt.

Tel: 0800 138 111

Mon to Fri 08:00 to 20:00

Sat 09:00 to 15:00

www.stepchange.org 

Citizens’ Advice 

Helps people resolve their legal, money and other problems by providing free information and advice, and by influencing policy makers.

www.citizensadvice.org.uk www.adviceguide.org.uk 

Christians Against Poverty

A national debt counselling charity which offers a unique in-depth service.

www.capuk.org 

Payplan

Provides free debt advice and free debt solutions for anyone experiencing financial difficulties, whatever your circumstance or situation.

Tel: 0800 280 2816

Mon–Fri 09:00 to 20:00

www.payplan.com

Gambling & Gaming

GAMBLING

Some consider this a quick money-maker but can rapidly become an expensive habit. Gambling is a game of chance and is not a guaranteed form of income. There is a risk that you will lose large amounts of money through lotteries, scratch cards, betting shops, casinos and online.

Gambling can be very addictive and the following signs can indicate a problem with gambling:
  • regularly borrowing money from friends and family
  • avoiding people you have borrowed money from
  • neglecting responsibilities and hobbies due to gambling
  • feeling anxious regarding money difficulties due to gambling
  • relationship problems because of money difficulties due to gambling
  • being secretive about your gambling
  • regularly thinking about gambling

Click here to see if you are a compulsive gambler.

Any sign of gambling or betting will void your application for financial support through the Support Fund or Hardship fund. Please speak to our Student Money Advice team if you have any concerns.

For sources of help and support for gambling, please see below:

Gamban

This software blocks online gambling sites and apps (is offered to students for free at present)

https://gamban.com

The National Gambling Helpline  Forum

Users from NI can use the online forum to share support, advice and ideas with others hoping to regain control.

http://www.gamcare.org.uk/

Gamblers Anonymous

This website allows you to locate your nearest Gamblers Anonymous group for support in the community.

https://www.gamblersanonymous.org.uk/

Dunlewey Addiction centre

This centre is for anybody living with an Alcohol, Drug, Substance or gambling addiction over the age of 18, referrals can be made via telephone, email or form online.

Tel: 02890 392547/ 08000 886 725

Mon to Sun 11.00-21.00

http://dunlewey.net/

Be Gamble Aware

This online database contains contact details of gambling sectors if you wish to self-exclude. This means that you can ask a company to stop you gambling with them for a particular period of time.

https://www.begambleaware.org/stay-in-control/how-to-self-exclude/

Always seek advice from Student Support if you are having money worries. You can sign-up for a Mind Your Money workshop, or book an appointment with our Student Money Advice team by contacting Student Support on your campus.

GAMING

With gaming on the rise, whether through an app or games console, so too are the options to purchase upgrades, boosts, cheats, loot boxes and more. The purchase of such things, do not meet the legal definition of gambling, however, it raises the question if this is a justifiable spend, especially to those who are already struggling financially.

These purchases are believed to ‘exploit and manipulate players’, encouraging bad habits and can be the start of gambling addictions, with the worst effects being on children and young people.

Many parents pay for their child’s online yearly subscription, however, forget to remove these details once the transaction is complete. This can result in their children using their card without their knowledge, in some cases, charging over £100 to their card within a few weeks.

Gaming can include:
  • PC based gaming
  • Consoles e.g. Ps4, Xbox, Wii, etc.
  • Android Apps - anything from Mine Craft to Candy Crush
  • Social Media Game rooms or Instant Games
Things to consider:
  • Have a look at your recent bank statements and total the amount spent on gaming purchases. Could the money have been better used elsewhere?
  • Will the gaming purchase add value to your or your child’s lifestyle?
  • Have you removed card details to avoid your children using it at a later stage to purchase boost, etc. without your consent?

REMEMBER! It’s YOUR responsibility to manage YOUR money!

AVOID Gambling and excessive Gaming – prioritising your spending vital when trying to mind your money better. Gambling can also affect your eligibility if applying for the University Hardship Fund or Student Support Fund.

ASK for help or advice before things spiral out of control – you can visit our Student Money Advice team on campus, contact them by email or arrange a telephone appointment.

Being Scam Wise

What is a scam?

A scam involves a criminal tricking you into giving them money, or access to your personal details so they can pretend to be you. Scammers, fraudsters  and bogus callers are all criminals.

There are various types of scams such as:

How to spot a scam:

Students are most likely to be targeted through online scams, such as emails or social media. See the links below for more information on how to spot scams and more.

How to spot a scam

Knows the signs, stop the crime

Top tips to keep you safe from scams

The little books of Big Scams

Click here for current scams

How secure is your password

Check if your email address has been compromised in a data breach