Accepted a CAO offer? Time to sort out your finances
If you’re starting college, there’s plenty to think about.
CAO offers have just gone out and, if you’ve accepted an offer, that means you’ll soon be starting college.
And, whether you’re planning to live at home, or you’re moving into student accommodation, there’s a lot to consider in terms of sorting out your finances. So what do you think to think about?
Who do you want to bank with?
When you start college, there’ll no doubt be many banks around campus, trying to get you to sign up with them, but don’t just go with the first one you see.
These days, most student accounts are fee-free, but this generally just refers to day-to-day transactions, and not things like surcharges for going into an unauthorised overdraft.
This is where the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission’s student account comparison can really help. It lists all of the various fees and charges, as well as any interest you can earn on your balance, so you can compare all these items and decide which account suits you best.
Do you need a loan?
At the very start of the college year, you’ll need to pay your fees - unless they’re covered by a grant or scholarship - and if you’re moving out, you’ll also have to pay first month’s rent, plus a deposit for your new home.
Tot up how much this will be and see if you’ll be able to cover it with savings, or with help from your parents. If it looks like you’ll have to take out a loan, compare student loans and see what kind of rates and terms you can get.
Most student loans will have considerably lower APRs than standard personal loans, and generally you’ll have more flexible repayment options too, like the ability to pay interest-only for the college term, and repay the capital lump sum at the end of the year.
This kind of thing could be a big help if you plan to work during the summer, but not during term-time, but it’s important to remember that repaying interest-only for a period of time could lead to the loan costing you more in the long-term. So make sure you weigh up all your options before signing a credit agreement.
How are you going to get to/from college?
Whether you move out or are living at home, you’ll need to consider how you’re going to get in for those dreaded 9am lectures.
Cycling or walking is a great option if you live close enough but, if not, check out what student discounts (if any) are available from the company you travel with, as there are substantial savings to be made.
For example, Bus Éireann offers up to 20% off for students, while the Student Leap Card will give you up to 25% off on Dublin Bus, depending how far you’re travelling, and you’ll get discounts of between 20 and 25% on the Luas, too.
More information on the Student Leap Card website.
Do you need a laptop/tablet and broadband access?
Unless you plan to spend all of your time in the college library, the chances are the answer to both of these questions will be yes.
It might be worth waiting until you’re a few weeks into your course to see what format the lectures take, and what kind of assignments you get, before choosing either a laptop or a tablet. Once you know which will suit you best, keep an eye out for sales in the likes of PC World and Harvey Norman, as you could pick up a bargain.
You should also carefully compare student broadband deals to see if you can get a good deal.
Research from Switcher.ie shows that price and speed of service are the most important factors for Irish consumers when choosing broadband, so make sure you review these and choose your plan carefully.
And, if you’re staying in shared accommodation, it would definitely be worth thinking about going for an unlimited deal, as this means the price will remain the same month-to-month and there is no limit on the amount of broadband you can use.
If you’re worried about signing up to a long contract, remember that with Virgin Media’s Freedom Broadband you won’t be tied down - if you want to cancel, you just give 30 days’ notice.
Are you going to stick to Netflix, or do you want a TV plan?
Another question for you and your housemates is whether you’re all happy sticking with Netflix and other streaming sites and online players, or if you want to go for a standard TV package, too.
If you just want access to the standard channels, like RTÉ, you could opt for Saorview, however if you’re looking for more channels there are loads of digital TV plans out there, with features like catch-up TV and on-demand content.
TV deals start from just €10 per month, but you could get an even better deal if you decide to package it with broadband from the same provider.