As you all know, I am a mature student studying full time at university. I have found managing finances really difficult, especially as I spent the vast majority of my student loan on travelling the 104 mile round trip to university each day that I have to be in. Hopefully you won't have that problem. If you are living on campus then you will have very few transport costs. If you are living nearby university, then there are often student bus passes, or you could get a Young Person's Railcard for use on the train (you can do this even as a mature student who is over 26).
Your student loan needs to cover your rent, insurance, books, food and going out. You will need to budget if you are going to make it last. Trust me, I have struggled with the budgeting and every year am completely skint by July. You will be paid in three instalments, one in October, one in January and one in April. The instalments in January and April will be the biggest (it was in my experience anyway). The only exception to this is the final year, when the April payment will be lower.
What I have found works best for me is to have two separate bank accounts, one where the loan goes into, kind of like a holding account, and one which I put a monthly amount into. This really helps to budget each month. It means that you know exactly how much you have to spend. It also means that you don't spend your entire loan straight off, you have a reserve of money to see you through until the next instalment. It is basically getting me into the habit of being paid monthly, as you will be once you leave university and get a job.
Make sure you get a good bank account. Look around, do your research. Check out the comparison sites and make sure you get a bank account with a good overdraft. The majority of student overdrafts are interest free and some increase with each year of your degree. They are usually interest free up to around £1,700. Don't forget that you will have to pay interest on it once you graduate. I am trying to save up the money to pay off mine at the moment. Then I recommend getting a pre-paid debit card and you can put your monthly allowance on to that.
Once you have your account set up, use your holding account to top up your pre-paid debit card. That way you now have a set budget for the next month. Effectively, you are basically paying yourself a salary every month. I have found it really useful to manage my money like this because I know what is there every month and I am less likely to spend all of my loan straight away. Obviously this doesn't work for everyone, but I would imagine that it will also help with budgeting once you graduate and hopefully find full-time work.
Wherever possible, try not to rely on your overdraft. This has got us into real trouble, last year my husband was overdrawn to his limit, I was overdrawn to my limit and our joint account was overdrawn to the limit. A total of over £6,000. Which is quite overwhelming.
Experian have put together this video, giving advice on how students can manage their money. I recommend using some of these tips whatever year of study you are in.
I was not asked to write this post, nor did I receive any form of payment.