The skint student is a regular feature in the media, but you don’t need to be living on rice and ketchup to get the full student experience. Manage your money properly and be the envy of all your friends when you can still afford a takeaway in the last week of term with our guide to all things money at university.
From paying rent for the first time to being in charge of the weekly food shop, there are many new costs facing students. Controlling the purse strings can be one of the most difficult balancing acts of the university experience. So, with this in mind, we have created this guide to student money management.
Although you may already have a bank account in the UK, setting up a student account is well worth the extra effort. Banks compete with each other to attract students and offer all kinds of great incentives that can help you manage your money. Many bank accounts offer free overdraft services that last for several years after you graduate, which can be really helpful for letting you manage your student debt until you have an established graduate job.
Some also offer things like free discount rail cards, so you can get great prices on going home to see your parents. Use an online comparison tool to see which banks offer the best 0% interest overdrafts, how long they are interest-free for, and what additional incentives they offer. You can then check that there is an easily accessible branch in your university hometown and get yourself an account set up. Remember to check whether it automatically converts into a graduate account after you conclude your studies, or whether you will need to make the switch yourself – it’s always good to be prepared.
If you are moving into one of our Dublin locations, Irish banks also offer similar incentives such as cash bonuses and discounted Just Eat memberships. This guide from Bonkers runs through the top student bank accounts for freshers.
If you earn over £157 a week from any part time work you do during your studies, you will have to pay National Insurance. Your National Insurance contributions will usually be deducted from your wage by your employer through Pay As You Earn.
In Ireland, National Insurance is replaced with Social Insurance. This only applies to employees earning more than €352 per week. If you earn more than this figure, your Social Insurance contribution will be determined by your weekly earnings.
Getting a job to support yourself while you study is a great way to make sure you don’t have to live on baked beans and discount pasta for weeks at the end of each term. Most universities suggest that having a part time job won’t interfere with your studies, as long as you work fewer than 15 hours per week. You should also make sure that your job is flexible and your hours can be scheduled to fit around lectures and exams.
Many universities offer jobs on campus to students, so a great place to start is to see if any work is available in the student shop, library, canteen, or other areas. These jobs are often the best for students, because your studies are more important to the university than the hours you work, so they are often very understanding.
Other than that, universities often advertise suitable jobs you can get while you study, or you can find listings on online job boards and employment agencies. Roles in admin, retail, catering, bars, telesales, and market research all tend to be flexible enough to fit around your studies.
Students in the UK are liable for income tax on their earnings if they earn over a certain threshold. For example, in the tax year 2017-2018 you can earn up to £11,500 before you have to pay any tax on your earnings. This means that if you have a part time job while you are studying at university, you are unlikely to have to pay tax, unless you are highly paid or working a lot of hours.
Often, you will be taxed on an emergency tax code when you have just started a new job, so be sure to update your tax code as soon as possible to avoid being overtaxed. You can telephone HMRC or contact them online to check that you are being taxed the correct amount.
For working students in Ireland, it is likely their income will be taxed at a rate of 20%. Almost all incomes up to €33,800 are taxed at this rate, with exemptions reserved for over 65s.