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Obviously a university education is the best way for young people to give themselves the best chance of getting ahead in the increasingly competitive job market, but it is also a great training ground for honing life skills, providing as it does, a unique buffer zone between living with parents and being completely independent.
One area where this is particularly pertinent is the managing of finances. Many new undergraduates live away from home for the first time and find themselves with unprecedentedly large sums of money to manage. The monetary habits they acquire at this stage of life could provide an invaluable basis from which to move forward in life with sound financial management skills.
Learning to budget is the first step, and the key is to keep your expenditure below the resources available to you. Being able to live within your means is a crucial skill, both at university and beyond, so it is a good idea to draw up a list of your regular outgoings such as rent, bills, travel costs and learn to prioritise these over non-essential expenditure. When you graduate, rent may become a mortgage and you may have an increasing number of regular outgoings as you reach new milestones in your life – such as promotions, meeting a life partner, or producing offspring – but the principal of prioritising will remain the same. Good habits acquired as a student will stay with you throughout your life.
Of course, it is not always possible to live within your means. The increasing cost of a university education makes borrowing inevitable for many. That’s ok as long as you can distinguish between good and bad debt and manage your debt in a responsible way.
As a student you will be the target of banks tempting you with offers to sign up for their service. Learn to look beyond the hype and free gifts and carefully consider the small print. Perks such as food discounts, free music downloads and railcards can be tempting but the value of these freebies is negligible when compared to say an extra £1,000 free overdraft. Your priority should be avoiding charges on the inevitable borrowing that you will need to do. Life beyond university will require the same ability to see past the frills to the real value of an offer. Mortgage providers for example will try and woo homebuyers with offers such as no arrangement fee or cashback offers, but these are smokescreens which should not distract you from looking at the really important information – the actual cost of repaying the loan i.e. interest rates and repayment terms.
Students have never had it so tough financially, but look on your university days as a challenge and a means to acquiring some financial knowhow. Your degree will be the key to unlocking a fulfilling and financially rewarding career and the financial skills and habits you acquire will be instrumental in managing your future earnings well and enabling you to plan your financial future beyond graduation as you face the exciting challenges to come.
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