Going to university or college is an exciting step, especially if you are living away from home for the first time. Even if things feel uncertain at the moment, with local lockdowns, online lectures and the threat of Christmas being cancelled, student life will be back to normal eventually.
And there are some pitfalls to avoid if you are going to make the most of it. While budgeting and getting the best deal on your software may seem dull, keeping on top of your money will give you the financial freedom to enjoy your university years to the full.
We've teamed up with the publishers of the Daily Mirror and Daily Express to help you create healthier habits and boost your financial freedom.
Here are the seven deadly sins of student spending, and positive steps you can take to avoid them.
1 - Don’t be a budget buster
When the first instalment of your maintenance loan lands in your account, you may feel pretty flush.
But unless you make a budget, and stick to it, it won't last very long.
Average student living costs are £807 a month, and the average loan is £540 a month.
You'll probably need help from your parents, or a bursary or a part-time job, but sticking to a budget is vital too. Use this calculator to help you: ucas.com/budget-calculator
And check if you are eligible for scholarships, bursaries or other financial support - this is a good place to start: thescholarshiphub.org.uk
2 - Rid those negative vibes
With headlines that graduates face £50,000 of student debt, it's easy to get into a negative mindset about your finances before you even start. But don’t let negative thoughts, such as ‘If I’m going to owe that much, what does a few hundred pounds on a credit card matter?’ cloud your judgement.
Under current rules, you only start to repay student loans if you earn over a certain amount - if you are on an annual salary of £30,000 you will pay just over £32 a month. Your student loan repayments will always be in line with your earnings, and automatically deducted from your salary before you get paid. This means you’ll never miss a payment, and you’ll only repay what you can afford.
There is much more info here ucas.com/student-finance-england/repaying-your-student-loan
It's complicated, but the key is to stay positive - student loans are not the same as mortgages or credit card debt, so don't let them be an excuse for bad financial habits. You’ll be grateful in the future.
3 - Can you beat the credit crunch?
Free overdrafts and your first credit card may seem like a route to easy money, but while they can be useful budgeting tools, maxing out your credit without a plan to repay it will only hamper your financial freedom in the future.
Treat your overdraft and credit card with caution - they can help you bridge gaps, and provide a welcome safety net, but you should try not to rely on them for everyday spending.
This is one of the healthiest financial habits you can embrace at university, and one that will give you financial freedom in your student years and beyond.
4 - Payday loans
Payday loans may be tempting, but the best advice is avoid, avoid, avoid. The price of this quick and easy cash is crippling interest rates, potential hefty charges, and even an impact on your credit rating.
5 - Deal or no deal?
There are loads of deals and discounts just for students, on everything from computers and software to mobile phones, groceries, clothes, travel and TV subscriptions.
Do your own research to see which works best for you, but the Ucas site is a very good place to start - ucas.com/undergraduate/student-life/student-discounts
6 - Savvy spending sets you free
Think before you commit to any longer-term spending. For example, deals on utilities such as broadband if you're living in rented accommodation off campus, run over 12 months, when you may only be living there for nine.
Most providers offer shorter term contracts - these are likely to have a higher monthly payment but may cost you less in the long run.
Being savvy with the essentials can give you the freedom to make choices about the things you want to spend your money on.
7 - Don’t let money rule your life
Money matters, especially for students who may be learning to manage their own budget for the first time.
The best way to do that is to stay on top of your finances - if your cash is under control, then you can be confident that money worries won’t stop you enjoying student life.
But if you spend every night analysing your spending down to the last penny, you won’t be getting the best out of life either.
So, strike a balance, stay in control and find the freedom to spend your money on the things that really matter to you.