Has Christmas drained your bank balance? Or are you just keen to avoid last year’s money troubles this time around? Detox your finances with our money makeover!
Ah, Christmas. There’s nothing quite like it for rinsing your finances. Once you’ve factored in travel home, presents and New Year shenanigans, you’ll be lucky if you can afford the train back to uni.
Never fear: we’ve narrowed your rescue remedy down to just nine essentials to get you back on track in next to no time.
New Year’s financial resolutions
Get the most from your unwanted presents
Now, we’re not saying that you should be ungrateful – any gift is a lovely thing to receive from someone. However, there’s no denying that sometimes you unwrap a present and think “what am I going to do with this?”.
Your first port of call should be thinking about how you can make use of what you’ve got. This way, you save yourself having to buy a new version of whatever it is you’ve been given.
For example, if your gran’s got you a pair of socks or a jumper that you don’t fancy wearing out and about, why not add it to the set of clothes you slob around the house in? Or how about wearing them when you do the cleaning, to avoid getting your nice clothes covered in antibac?
If you can’t find a use for your unwanted gift, now’s the time to think about selling it. We’ve got a couple of great guides on selling your clothes online and making the most money from eBay, but heading to Facebook Marketplace or just selling directly to a friend can work just as well.
Alternatively, if you happen to know where the gift was purchased from (or you’re brave enough to ask whoever got it for you), you might be able to get a refund from the shop itself.
Shops don’t have to take back presents if they’re not faulty, but if you’ve got a receipt (or, again, the nerve to ask for it from the person who bought the gift), they’ll probably cut you some slack. Check the returns policy first – you may end up with gift vouchers, which are only useful if you plan to shop there again.
Failing all of that (or first of all, depending on how generous you’re feeling), why not give the gift to a charity shop? Admittedly it won’t really play into your money saving New Year’s resolutions, but it’s an admirable thing to do and it could someone else very happy indeed.
Do a savings challenge
It’s easy to want to save money, but actually doing it is a lot harder. Fortunately, savings challenges make the whole thing a lot easier – and, dare we say it, a little bit fun.
Our favourite is the 1p savings challenge, which as the name suggests, starts with you putting away just one solitary pence. On the second day you put away 2p, on the third day 3p, and so on. By day 365, you’ll have saved a total of £667.95 (or £671.61 in a leap year)!
Although you can technically start the challenge at any time in the year, the fact that it takes a whole year means that it’s best used as a New Year’s resolution.
Check out our guide to the 1p savings challenge to find out more, including variations that could save you even more money!
Start a regular budget
You’ve probably been told countless times that a budget is the best way to keep on top of your finances. And if you’re waiting for us to tell you that there’s a much more fun way of doing things, we’re sorry to disappoint you.
However, budgeting doesn’t have to be as boring as it sounds – and what better time to start than in the New Year, motivated by the “New Year, new me” ethos?
Our guide to budgeting as a student has everything you need to know about starting your very own budget, and even includes a pre-made budgeting spreadsheet – all you need to do is put in your numbers, and we’ll do all the calculations for you!
Or, if you want to avoid Excel at all costs, why not join an app-based bank? While these aren’t technically prepaid cards, there’s nothing to stop you using them this way – in other words, transferring a set amount of cash to the account every week/month and using that as your budgeted amount of spending money.
The beauty of using an app-based bank account for this, as opposed to a standard bank account or prepaid card, is that these newer banks typically have much more advanced budgeting software built into their apps.
With pretty colours and intuitive functionality, this is as close to fun (and certainly as easy) as budgeting gets!
Put your Student Loan in a savings account
With Student Finance payments landing around now, get on the case to make it last.
If you’ve other income to get by on, stash your loan in a high-interest savings account or ISA to earn extra in interest. Or, try one of these automatic savings bots (many of which you can also make manual deposits into) – one of which offers up to 5% interest!
Of course, the longer you can leave your money untouched, the more you can earn – so do it now to kickstart your holiday fund.
Get cheap insurance for your new gadgets
If Santa left top-end gadgets under your tree, make sure you keep them safe. Check what your contents insurance covers and, crucially, when it will and won’t pay out.
If your new toys aren’t covered for loss, theft or accidental damage (in and out of the house), you may need extra protection – but take phone shop insurance with a pinch of salt.
You can get mobile insurance cheap-as-chips with a third party provider, such as protectyourbubble.com, or you might even have it included with your bank account. Ultimately, insurance sold by phone shops should be avoided, as it tends to be massively overpriced!
Use the sales to blag cheaper bills
It’s not just your standard retailers who cut prices at the start of the year – you can also pick up some incredible deals on your bills in the January sales too!
Broadband is one of the obvious ones, but don’t fret if your contract’s not up for renewal yet. Providers are super keen to get as many customers on board as possible (especially when it means stealing them from competitors), so if you find a good deal, it’s worth asking providers if they’ll buy out your existing contract.
The same goes for mobile phone contracts. Although your contract’s end date might still be a way off, there’s no harm in ringing the new network and asking them to buy you out of your existing contract.
And regardless of the bill in question, if the new provider isn’t willing to buy you out of your existing contract, you should always speak to your current network to see if you can get a cheaper deal.
All you need to do is ring them up, let them know about this amazing deal you’ve seen and how you’re considering leaving, and they’ll probably try to keep you on board!
Start planning your holidays
The back to uni blues can bite hard, so why not give yourself something to look forward to? Whether it’s a holiday abroad or festival fun, start saving now.
Remember that if you save consistently, you can get away with squirrelling away less cash in each deposit. This should mean you don’t feel the hit as hard, and won’t miss the extra cash as much.
And just because it’s January, that doesn’t mean it’s too soon to start scouring for cheap travel deals, either. The best ones sell out first, so if you’re sure you’ve found a bargain, don’t let it slip!
Book ahead for travel
Conveniently (for your wallet) the Easter break is well-timed for the cheapest rail and coach fares if you book now.
While you’re at it, work out whether season tickets, bus passes or a three-year rail card will save you big in the long-term. If so, whichever one you plan to go for, grab it now!
Scout around for other financial support
If the term ahead is looking particularly bleak, there’s extra cash out there – if you know where to look!
Firstly, you’ll want to check in with your uni’s student money adviser to find out what cash is going locally.
It’s also worth having a look at turn2us.org to see if there are any benefits or charity grants you’re entitled to – you’d be surprised what unusual scholarships and funds you could be eligible for!
Of course, failing that, there are the less exciting (but just as financially lucrative) regular grants, bursaries and scholarships going too.
And if you discover that you’re not eligible for any extra financial support, it’s time to start making money for yourself!
Are you in the mood for more? We have an amazing list of money saving tips to tide you over for the whole year – and beyond!