Toy of college student stands in front of pile of euros and mortarboard cap planning for college spending

Off to college? We've got the eight best money tips for students

CAO offers have just come out.

If you’ve just received your CAO offer, you’ll have loads on your mind. But amongst the thoughts of accommodation, which of your friends are going to the same college as you, and when Fresher’s Week is, you should also take some time to think about your finances for the year ahead. Our tips can help…

1. Get your accommodation sorted

If you’re moving out of home for the first time, you’ll need to get looking for accommodation as soon as possible. If you have savings, or you’re getting a grant, loan, or a gift of money to pay your rent for the year, think about how much this will equate to each month so you know what you can afford.

If you have friends moving to the same city or college as you, it could be worth teaming up to get a shared house - it means you can share out the workload of finding a place and contacting landlords etc., and you could get value on a full house rent, when compared to renting an individual room.

If that’s not an option, never fear - Daft.ie has a dedicated student accommodation section which can help you see what your options are around your chosen college, or on transport links. You can also set a monthly upper budget limit for your search, to make sure you’re not overspending from the outset.

2. Look into your grant or benefit options

Student grants are divided into:

  • Maintenance grants, which are a contribution towards students’ living costs;
  • Fee grants, which can cover all or part of the student contribution, costs of essential field trips, and/or all or part of a student’s tuition fees;
  • Postgraduate contribution, which gives postgrads financial assistance towards the cost of tuition fees for approved postgraduate courses.

If you’re returning to education and have been getting a social welfare payment, you might qualify for the Back to Education Allowance or the student grant depending on your circumstances.

All of these grants are subject to conditions, so the best bet would be to check out the SUSI website for more information.

3. Draw up a weekly budget

If you are taking out a loan for college expenses, or you’ve been working to fund your college year, you’ll be starting off September with a lump sum.

It might seem like this will never run out, but it can be quite easy to burn through cash in the first few weeks.

Our advice is to figure out how many weeks you’ll be at college for, and then work out how much you’ll have per week from your loan/savings/part-time work. Next, deduct any expenses you’ll have - like travel, food, rent, bills, and socialising - and try to keep a buffer for unexpected expenses.

The CCPC’s budget planner can help you get started.

4. Learn how to cook and ditch the takeaway coffees

Bringing your own lunch and cooking dinner at home will save you a fortune when compared to buying these meals out each day.

To make your money go further, try doing a weekly shop - you could even arrange this with your housemates if that’s something they’re interested in. If so, taking turns to cook dinner could be a good way to operate, as everyone will get a few nights off a week.

Make your lunch the night before college and, if you’re a coffee or tea fan, invest in a thermos and bring your own instead of forking out every morning.

5. Work with your housemates to get the best deals on broadband and energy

If you’ve moved out of home, you’ll need to think about your household essentials, like gas and electricity and broadband.

You may think it’s not possible to switch energy supplier as a tenant but in fact you should be able to, and it’s definitely worth doing.

At the moment, there’s a whopping €289 difference between the cheapest energy deals and standard tariffs at the moment for the average dual fuel customer, so take some time with your housemates to compare energy deals and find the one that works best for you all.

Then, in terms of broadband, you’ll need to think about whether you want to opt for a bundle (with TV, phone or both) or you’d prefer a standalone broadband plan along with a subscription to a streaming service.

Depending on your lease, you may want to sign up for a 30-day contract, like Virgin Media’s Freedom 240 plan, so you can cancel any time without penalty. If you’ve got a 12-month lease, however, you’ll probably save by opting for a longer contract.

The most important thing is to make sure you shop around for the best value.

Compare broadband deals

6. Take advantage of special offers, and don’t splash out on books

When you’re buying things like shampoo, shower gel, toothpaste etc., take advantage of offers in the likes of Boots and Dealz - you can normally get these things from around €1.50 if you’re not overly pushed on a particular brand.

In your first few days of college, you’ll be bombarded with reading lists at lectures. Take a bit of time before you plunge in and buy all the books that are mentioned. Not all of them will be necessities, so using the library for these will save you a packet. If you live with people doing the same course as you, you could also consider buying books between you - although this could become a headache when it comes to assignment deadlines!

7. Make the most of your student discount

Your student card is your ticket to discounts on food, clothes, and tickets, amongst other things. H&M, New Look and Topshop are just some of the stores offering student discounts, and you can get meal deals in loads of restaurants, too.

You should also make sure to apply for a Student Leap Card, which can save you up to 30% on Dublin Bus, Luas, Bus Eireann and Irish Rail services.

8. Be careful about banking and credit

When you’re signing up for a student bank account, look past the gimmicks and make sure you pick the right account for you in the long-term - many will now be fee-free, but you should take into account charges for things like going into an unauthorised overdraft, as these can quickly mount up.

It could also be tempting to take out a loan or apply for a student credit card, but think carefully before you do so. Monthly repayments for these are going to eat into your disposable income, and you could end up with debt hanging over you for a while.

The CCPC has financial comparisons on student accounts, student credit cards, and student loans - so you can compare fees, charges and interest across all of the student products in the market and decide which suits you best.