How much does it cost to be a student?

You'll be paying for more than just beer and baked beans. We explain what you'll need money for as a student.

calculator surrounded by receipts

It costs HOW much?

The cost of basic student life varies from town to town, and from college to college, though the Money Advice Service do have a list of average costs. Your student union will be able to give you advice specific to your area, and the housing office can give you more information about what to expect to pay in rent.

There are always certain expenses for which you have to plan ahead and budget, so make sure you’re aware of the following outgoings.

Tuition fees

If you have to cough up for these, you face a bill of up to £9,250 a year for those starting a degree in England in 2020, usually payable in two or more installments. Fortunately, you can get a student loan to cover your tuition fee and some of your living costs too. If you’re Scottish and going to university in Scotland you don’t need to worry about your fees – find out more at Student Awards Agency for Scotland.

Rent

The biggie. Student halls might charge an all-in fee that includes rent, electricity, cleaning, and food. Or you could be in a self-catered flat, where you do your own grub and everything is metered. If you don’t have a washing machine, factor in some extra money for launderette prices, and if you’re hiring a TV don’t forget rental fees and licence money (they will catch up with you sooner or later).

Bills

If you’re in a student house you may have meters for electricity and gas, or quarterly bills. Organise a system so that everyone pays their fair share. The best way to save money is to pay for them online.

Food and other groceries

This should cover everything from cooking at home, to eating out, snacks, coffees, toiletries and cleaning products. Sharing things like bread, butter, milk and condiments can help save money.

Books and equipment

You don’t have to buy every book on the reading list, but you will need to get a few useful books, and whatever else is on your equipment list. Some stuff can be bought cheaper second-hand. Look on your student website to see if any students in the year above are selling the books that you need. Wait until the course has started before buying. That way you can work out what you really need, and use the library as much as possible to keep costs down.

Stationery and photocopying

Computer disks, paper, folders, photocopies of research papers and chapters in books you don’t want to buy. It all adds up. Your university department may offer free or subsidised photocopying and equipment, so find out.

Going out

Factor in enough for a social life, and stuff for sports, clubs and other interests. Otherwise, you’ll end up bored and lonely, which is not the point of going away to uni.

Travel costs

This covers bus fares, petrol, train tickets, late-night taxis and more. Get hold of discount cards and season passes as early as possible. Book fares in advance to get the best deals.

Clothes

Many stores offer a 10% discount when you can prove you’re a student. And remember the golden rule: if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Not all shops advertise their discounts, but once you flash your student ID their generous sides might get the better of them.

Phone and internet bills

Keeping in touch can be costly, whether it’s paying off your ISP or topping up the credit on your mobile. Shop around for the best deals.

Insurance

This is well worth having, especially if it’s a student deal. Think about how much it would cost to replace everything you own. Endsleigh offer insurance especially for students, but shop around for the best deal.

Interest and fines

It is better to take things back to the library, and avoid upsetting the bank manager by going over your overdraft limit unexpectedly, but sometimes it can’t be helped. So, if you’re absent minded, or cavalier when it comes to cash machine withdrawals, allow a little bit to pay the price for it.

Next Steps

  • Use the Money Advice Service's budget planner to take charge of your finances.
  • Citizens Advice offer free help with housing, money and legal problems. Find your local centre.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

By

Updated on 29-Sep-2015

Photo of calculator by volunteer photographer Helen Smith