Top Money Tips


Getting a handle on your money early on can help alleviate undue stress and allow you to focus on other areas of your student life. 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.

    Check out our list of Student Guides

  • 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 maxmimise 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 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.
    • Consider working part-time work. Working 8 hours per week at £6.45 per hour (minimum wage for an 18 year old) can boost your weekly income by £51, that’s over £2,683 per year, not including extra shifts you can avail of during the holidays and summer break.
    • If you are in receipt of Social Security Benefits, ensure you have updated your details. This will avoid any under-payment, 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.

    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:

    • Be aware of your essential verses non-essential spending - see the drop-down below for more info on this.
    • Choose to cook instead of eating out or ordering take-away. See below for more info.
    • Swap branded items for shops-own, this can save up to 75% for an average monthly shop. Check out some more Food Shopping Tips & tips on how to make your money stretch.
    • Swap nights out for nights in.
    • Consider changing your TV package to a cheaper streaming service
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • 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 your could miss out on vital information, fall behind and potentially have to repeat modules or the year.

    How much does it really cost?

    To get an idea of how much you typically spend per year on those non-essentials, why not check out Money Saving Expert's Demotivator. Put in your non-essential spend, how much it costs, whether it is a daily, weekly or monthly spend and your typical income. If you are working part-time put in your hourly rate, 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.

    For example - Spending £50 per week on nights out, earning £6.15 per hour and working 12 hours per week will cost you £2,600 over the year, and you would have to work 54 weeks to pay for it. (Notice how you would have to work more than a year to pay for this!?)

    Reducing the cost of essential spends:

    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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 than 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, check out apps like Gander or Too Good To Go and Price Spy.

    Cooking on a budget:

  • Drawing up a Budget

    The What! and Why? of Budgeting

    Budgeting is looking at all your money coming in (student loans, part-time wages, money from parents), all your money going out and making adjustments to live without overspending.

    Overspending can lead to uncontrollable debt, causing 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

    Watch this video for tips on where to start. Try using a printable 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.

    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.

    Budgeting Tools

  • 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.

    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.

    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: