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How To Get Debt-Free As A Student In One Year

With increasing fees and seemingly endless extra costs, student life can be a financial nightmare.  No matter how carefully they manage money, thousands of students find themselves in significant debt every year.  With a positive attitude and this helpful guide, you will soon be debt-free and once again able to fully enjoy university life.

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    Image by: Karen Bryan

Make Sure You Receive Everything You Are Entitled To

Many universities will offer additional bursaries, scholarships and grants to students with an excellent background in certain extra-curricular activities. These tend to include areas such as music, art and design or sport. Local charities or organisations may provide similar support to ensure the student is still able to pursue this hobby whilst at university. Some places have multiple deadlines throughout the year, so if you get into financial trouble it is important to investigate these opportunities.
If you underestimated how much money you would need and subsequently did not accept your full student loan amount at the beginning of the year, it is not too late. Simply log into your account, change you details and the Student Loans Company will do the rest.  Remember, you don’t start paying back a student loan until you are earning £21000 or more a year, making it the easiest loan you will ever receive.

Do Not Rely On Overdrafts Or Credit Cards

Some banks and building societies offer student accounts, with interest-free overdrafts. However, do not fall into the trap of thinking this provides you with extra money. It will all have to be paid back, and the longer you leave it, the more it can build up. Once you graduate, the terms of your account may change, leaving you a large overdraft to repay in a short time period.
Relying on credit cards creates similar debt problems. Credit cards can provide students with a safer way of shopping online, but when they are used to cover monthly bills or shopping they are often more harm than good. If you rack up a credit card debt, try to clear as much of the bill as possible every month, rather than just making the minimum payment.

Beware Of Payday Loans

Payday loans are becoming increasingly popular as a source of short-term funding, whether you are a student or not. They may be easy to get but they are not a good idea. Payday loans provide small amounts of money until you receive your next month’s wages. Essentially, this provides part of your pay check early.
The interest rates are extremely high and, if the loan is not repaid on time, extra bank charges will also arise. Many people then take out another payday loan to repay the first, continuing the cycle of debt. Instead of relying on a payday loan because it is easily available, look for better alternatives.

Keep Track Of Your Spending

Budgeting is an important life skill and learning it now will benefit you throughout your entire life. Keeping track of your expenses can be easily achieved using spreadsheets. Spreadsheets such as Microsoft Excel will calculate the totals for you as you type in your costs.
In addition to this, make sure you know the deadlines for any payments, from utility bills to library books. This will help you avoid late payment fees.   When living in a shared student property, certain bills are often allocated to different housemates. Remember, if your name is on the bill, you are the one the company will look to if it hasn’t been paid. So, be sure to get contributions from your housemates before the date the bill is due.
Unexpected costs can and will arise. The important thing is not to panic about them. Calmly, try to factor them into your budget when they occur or ask for extra help if needed.

Make Use Of Discounts

Special deals and discounts are some of the best parts of being a student. The National Union of Students (NUS) offers an ‘Extra’ card to help students save on a variety of things; including travel, food and drink and fashion. The average student saving with an NUS Extra card is £521 per year. This card also acts as proof that you are entitled to other student discounts.
Many student websites provide unique discounts and freebies. Some are even organised by city, so students can find the deals which are most appropriate to them.  Save the Student has some brilliant money saving deals.  They are organised by category and regularly updated so the website is very easy to use.

Some Sacrifices Are Necessary

Cut down on takeaway or restaurant meals and expensive nights out. Fast food is not cheaper than shopping in a supermarket and can be very unhealthy. Not looking after your health can lead to extra costs, such as medicines or even prescriptions. Buying clothes during end of season sales or shopping at supermarkets in the evenings once the reduced section has been restocked can save you all-important pounds.
Nights out at the student’s union or local clubs are important parts of the student experience so don’t feel that you have to cut them out altogether. Limiting the number you have, however, can make you appreciate it more when you do go.
You could swap that expensive gym membership for a daily walk or run around campus. Substituting household items like bottles of food tins for weights can still give you a good workout but without costing you cash. Some university societies will also offer the chance to get involved in free sporting activities.  You will be surprised what you are able to live without if you have to.

Find A Part-Time Job

Part-time jobs are a brilliant way to earn some extra money and pay off existing debts. A range of evening, weekend and holiday jobs are available, so you can match your job to your free time. Part-time jobs are also great for your CV and research has shown that they can actually benefit your academic study.
Student websites, like Save the Student, often provide lists of part-time jobs in your local area. Some of the opportunities listed here are not featured on the more professional job seekers’ websites. Many universities will employ students in their union or cafés on campus. However, when applying for part-time jobs, be careful not to let them interfere with your studies. Most universities offer guidelines on how many hours students can work during term time.

Prioritise Your Debts

When you are in debt, every penny you owe will seem important. However, some debts have more serious consequence than others. Missing a month’s rent payment can result in you needing to find new accommodation. Ignoring a TV Licence bill can result in a prison sentence.  If you are faced with a variety of debts, these are the most important ones to clear quickly.

Don’t Get Attached To Your Textbooks

Purchasing textbooks can give you more freedom to study when and where you decide. It is important not to get too attached to them after you have finished though. Once you have moved on to different topics, sell them on Amazon or EBay. Creating an account is quick and simple and you can choose the price.
EBay may charge you to set up a selling account, but they frequently have special offer weekends where listing your items is free. Amazon, on the other hand, will not charge you to set up the account but will take a small per cent of the price of any item sold. Textbooks are often worth a lot of money and the amount you will receive from selling them will easily outweigh the cost of setting up the account.

Remember, Help Is Available

Your university will offer a student support service, which will be able to provide you with expert advice. If you are really struggling, you may be eligible for an ‘Access to Learning Fund’ loan or grant. Debt charities and student websites can offer additional advice on how to get out of debt.
Money worries can keep you awake at night and affect both your university work and how you interact with others. So, it is extremely important to get your debt problems sorted as quickly as possible. By following these top tips, you will be able to manage your finances and even find ways of making extra money. Soon you will be free of the money worries affecting your everyday life.
Have you got any other practical suggestions to help alleviate those dreaded student debts? Share in the comments.

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  •  License: Creative Commons image source

Rhosanna Jenkins is a passionate writer. As a recent graduate and soon-to-be self-funded postgraduate she really understands the financial pressures on students. She recommends The GKBC Writer Academy.

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