Belfast Telegraph

Students must be wise to debt and avail of all options open to them

By Simon Read

Students may be not so clever when it comes to their money – which is bad news for those who have just enjoyed Freshers' Week.

More than 1.6m of them lack confidence in their understanding of personal finance, reckons the money-management expert Blackbullion.

The site warns that the knowledge gap could lead people into financial difficulties. Its research showed that three out of five students don't understand the repayment terms of student loans.

Meanwhile, almost half of students go to university with no savings to fall back on and 15% actually turn up for higher education in debt. They're in for a shock. Research published today reveals that students on a three-year course now face a total cost of more than £54,000 – and that excludes student loans.

The amount has climbed 7% since last year, according to Santander. The bank's research shows that tuition fees remain the biggest annual cost, at £8,601 per year. But accommodation and bills at £4,169 also account for a sizeable chunk, while students will spend an average £1,302 a year on food and £943 on transport.

New undergraduates need to wise up fast and learn how to budget. That means working out how to make student loan money last for three months, rather than blowing it all in one go.

One of the most important lessons they need to learn is financial management. Steve Pateman of Santander points out: "Students need to have a firm grasp of budgeting to make their money stretch as far as possible."

There are several things students can do to help stretch their money. For starters they should seek out bargains, not least by using the discount deals offered on the NUS Extra card, such as 10% off groceries at 2,800 Co-operative Food stores.

But the key thing they need to learn is to say no to offers of easy credit from banks or predatory payday lenders.

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