Advice for parents about the career options for their children

5 ways to help your kids be better off at university

planning

With official funding for university dwindling - and the cost of a degree on the up- it's no surprise students are feeling the pinch. The National Student Money Survey 2016 reveals more than half find their diet or studies affected by lack of cash - but it doesn't have to be inevitable. Here are some simple ways to plan for the challenges of university life.

1. Plan ahead for living costs

While tuition costs can seem painfully high, most UK students won't have pay them until after graduation. In the meantime, it's daily living costs which cause the most stress. Getting an accurate idea how much you need to get by is vital - and it's as simple as listing every cost that might crop up, comparing it to monthly income and, if needed, cutting costs or increasing income to match. It's good old-fashioned budgeting, and it's a life-long skill to being better off!

2. Be organised about banking

Match account features to spending, not the other way round! If your child struggles to stay in the black, an account with a 0% overdraft can provide a fee-free safety net for over spending. If they want to set aside or grow funds for emergencies (or treats), go for an account that pays interest or has a decent savings component. Take a look at the best student bank accountsand compare what's on offer before deciding.

Other features to look for include:

  • the bank's app or online/phone access, to keep an eye on spending

  • branch locations - talking face-to-face when problems strike, or loan instalments are delayed - can be worth it

  • opening more than one account (i.e., bills Vs everyday spending) makes sound budgeting sense, too.

3. Look further than Student Finance

While most funding is doled out by Student Finance, there's a lot more cash out there, much of it non repayable or non-means tested. Scholarship-search has a comprehensive list of bursaries and scholarships: don't assume these are only for low incomes, top grades or new starters - there are incentives for everything from subject choice and sporting talent to gender and nationality.

The university may have funds and advice for emergencies or managing debt, too: their welfare team or a student money adviser is the best place to start.

4. Understand means-tested funding

Whether it's for Student Finance, State benefits or repaying the Student Loan later on, these kinds of means-tested calculations are based on taxable income. Including non-taxable income (ISA interest, tax-free savings and some benefits) could mean getting less support than you're owed, or starting to repay the Loan earlier.

5. Get the basics under your belt

How your kids cope with money has a lot to do with how your family approaches spending and saving - so it's well worth getting things out into the open:

  • Have an honest and upfront 'money talk' early on. Can you give them any financial support while they study? How much, and on what terms?

  • If student finance gets your head in a whirl, it's time to get untangled. Have a look at the Student Finance portal for your country, or check the national press for advice and how-tos.

  • Do you plan your spending, have a budget, and regularly shop around for better deals on everything from bills to groceries? Are you enthusiastic about how money and banks work, and finding ways to get extra for your cash? If you don't already, it's time to start.

    Finding the money to go to - and stay at - university can feel scary. Saying organised and in-the-know can help you feel more confident about it all, and gives you options if things don't go according to plan. Remember that there's funding and advice out there to help - make sure you find it.