Mollie Zacarias: My financial life as a student
Hello, my name is Mollie Zacarias and I am a second-year student on the Education Studies course, based at City South Campus in Edgbaston. I’m 22 years old, a Birmingham City local and work a part-time job at a fashion retail store and part-time student ambassador for BCU, as well as studying full-time.
Because I am local to Birmingham and my campus, I chose to stay at home with my parents and commute to university and around the city, by train or bus. The city is well connected and you can travel to the campus by multiple routes, from whichever part of Birmingham.
BA (Hons) Education Studies Student
Because I travel via public transport, I buy a student monthly bus pass through the National Express Bus app on my phone.
Buying a monthly bus pass is cheaper than buying an adult day saver every day which is £4.60 per day. A student monthly bus pass costs £41.90 on the app, to buy it from a corner shop it is £42.50. I have lectures three days a week, and work on both weekend days so having the student monthly bus pass saves me a lot of money. To break it down; I work 2 days a week, study 3 days a week and sometimes on my 2 spare days go out with family or friends, I spend from £1.50 to £2.10 per day with this monthly bus pass, which is far just over 50% cheaper than paying an adult day saver every day. However, because I travel via train 2 to 3 times every week, I spend roughly £5+ to £7 a week, £20+ to £28 per month.
When it comes to how much I spend on food, it varies from what I want to eat in the day. Every day I’m on campus, I look forward to my breakfast from the canteen (because of the hash browns) and usually spend under £4 for breakfast and a bottled drink alone. For lunch, I usually spend under £5 and after I’ve finished my lectures for the day I often buy something to take on the bus ride home and eat like a packet of crisps, chocolate or a cheeky Starbucks Frappuccino and Krispy Kreme donut(s) which costs another £5 or under when I get home I would cook, or my mom would cook for the family, unless we order take out or have dinner at a restaurant in the city centre. So overall on food, I spend roughly £15 or under a day.
Below are some tips when it comes to saving, budgeting and using your student loans and any other forms of income –
- A financial timetable – it’s a calendar specifically for finances. I’ve made one myself and it helps me keep track of what days each bill will be taken out per month, when my next payday and student loan income comes in. This is a great way to start budgeting your income.
- Only use your credit card if necessary - It’s good to use your credit card once in a while to increase your credit rating, but it’s best to only use it for small spends such as food as it’s easier to pay the whole amount used the following month.
- Create a planned overdraft - instead of using your credit card – I wish I knew earlier but it is easier to pay back because most student account overdrafts are interest-free. Whereas a student credit card still has interest rates but at a lower standard.
- Bring a packed lunch – even if you make one and still feel like it will not be enough to fill you up during university hours, at least you will reduce the amount of money you would spend if you didn’t have a packed lunch in your bag.
- Keep receipts – a lot of people tend to throw away receipts, whether you paid by card or cash. However, it is good to keep them in a small envelope or plastic wallet so you can backtrack how much you’ve spent each day, week and month. It is best not to separate cash and card receipts, instead organise it by the dates on the receipts so it’s easier to remind yourself of how much you spent each day.
- Add some of your student loans to a savings account – it’s always best to put at least 10% of your student loan income per term into a savings account.
- Pay it all off first – when you receive your monthly source of income, it is always better to pay for all your bills in one day so you can only be left with the remaining amount that you can use for disposable means.
- Plan in advance – always plan ahead with your finances such as the bills that you will need to pay, any leisurely activities and necessary purchases in the following month ahead.
I also highly recommend, if you haven’t done so already, applying for a student bank account; a student bank account has lots of benefits that are tailored to a student lifestyle, including interest-free overdraft and a £500 limit credit card, with low interest rates. I switched my old standard HSBC bank account to a HSBC student account at my branch.
Hopefully, my blog can help you to prepare financially for university life!