Three students from the University of Hull, Nottingham Trent University and York St John University share what being in control of their money means to them, how they approach their personal finances and their use of fintech.
Here are 10 insights from the students’ answers to a series of questions, to give university and college staff a deeper understanding of how today’s students are managing and making (and sometimes losing!) money online.
Meet the students
- Aelesia is an estranged student who is studying for an undergraduate degree in Politics at York St John University.
- Danielle is studying International Business at Nottingham Trent University. She’s in her fourth and final year after completing a placement year.
- Suzette is an international student from Nigeria. She has an undergraduate degree in Law and is currently studying for a Master’s in Business Management at the University of Hull.
What does being ‘in control’ of your money mean to you?
1. The definition of being in control differs from one student to another
Feeling financially independent is highly important to all three students but being in control means different things to each.
For Suzette, it’s about not running out of money, whereas Aelesia’s concern is meticulously planning (using a spreadsheet) to try and avoid any unexpected financial surprises. Danielle feels in control when she has peace of mind that she’s living within her means.
For me, financial freedom or being in control of my money is having peace of mind. Peace of mind for me is that I’m able to control my money, know I can still do this and that, and be happy and comfortable. I don’t believe in living beyond your means – what can I do and make from what I have?
2. Feeling responsible for personal finance can lead to better money management
While all three students feel a strong sense of responsibility for their personal finances, each one has their own reason for this that’s related to their individual circumstances.
As an international student, Suzette feels unable to call home to Nigeria for money – believing that she’s old enough to look after her own money and take control of herself. For Danielle, she finds that simply by putting freedom and trust in herself, she’s more motivated to better manage her money.
Things are slightly different for Aelesia as an estranged student, who plans religiously to ensure a feeling of safety, minimise the chance of financial surprises and make sure there’s always enough money for food etc.
I’m an estranged student so I don’t have that backing from my parents. I have to be meticulous and I have to plan everything otherwise there is no safety net – I would just fall straight through.
How do you manage your finances? And how does fintech help?
3. Cash divides opinion
The students have conflicting attitudes when it comes to the value of hard cash.
According to Suzette, no one carries cash anymore – it’s all about fintech. Whereas Aelesia makes a conscious effort to use cash, finding it easier to keep track of what’s being spent when the money is physically disappearing.
4. Fintech can be useful for separating different money for different purposes
All three students have money in multiple online places and regularly transfer their finances from one account or app to another.
Suzette, for example, uses fintech to manage her money for three different purposes: savings, long-term goals and short-term goals. She regularly moves money out of her “traditional banking apps” to Revolut and Moneybox.
I use fintech a lot to save money and also every day for my daily spending for groceries etc. as it helps me to manage my budget.
I tend to use Monzo as it’s a more modernised bank and I like how it has the savings pots and savings goals.
5. Some are more cautious than others
As is maybe expected and likely tied to varying appetites for risk, some students demonstrate a greater willingness to trust fintech than others.
For example, Suzette uses Moneybox religiously but Danielle named the app as something she’s sceptical of. While Danielle has also used apps in the past that automatically save money for you, she became worried about third-party apps having access to her bank account – highlighting the need for fintech providers to be transparent and clear.
Aelesia’s tip for other students, particularly those who perhaps err on the side of caution, is to make use of having multiple cards for multiple accounts. For example, if purchasing something from somewhere online that isn’t fully known or trusted, using a card for an account that has only a small amount of money in it. If something goes wrong and that card has to be cancelled, it would be much less of an inconvenience and other finances would be separate and off-limits.
What advice would you give to friends who feel less in control of their money?
6. Budgeting is essential
All three students consider budgeting to be an essential foundation of financial wellbeing and it’s top of their list when it comes to giving advice to friends who are less financially savvy.
My friends call me ‘The Economist’ as I’m very particular about money and how I spend it. What I generally tell my friends is that the time will come when you can afford what you want, go on vacation etc. But right now you’re a student, so don’t let your expenses become more than your income.
7. Students must live within their means
When it comes to budgeting, being realistic and living within your means is key. While this can be frustrating and may mean going without something you might want at times, it’ll pay off in the long run.
Making the most of the opportunities available to students can help make this a bit easier – using discounts, looking out for student offers and buying second-hand.
Danielle and Suzette share the same mindset when it comes to living within your means as a student; both find it reassuring to consider university life as a relatively short period of time and like to reassure themselves that they will have enough disposable income in the future to afford some luxuries.
You can think you have a lot of money, but money goes so quickly. So don’t live beyond your means. Really think about whether you need something. My mum always tells me: ‘cut your cord according to your budget’.
I don’t fancy borrowing just to satisfy a craving or a kind of lifestyle, so I’ve learned to be content with what I have. At this point in time, I’ll live according to my income. The time will come when I can spend more.
8. Keeping a focus on the future helps with managing money as a student
For Danielle and Suzette, imagining life post-graduation is the reason why they avoid overspending and getting into debt. Aelesia takes this one step further and is already putting steps in place for a successful financial future by focusing on building a credit score. Aelesia’s advice for other students would be to do the same and if you do find yourself with extra money, to save or invest it.
The students all see going to university as an investment in their future in and of itself. They feel it’s important to keep this front of mind and avoid doing anything at odds with it – like getting a part-time job that impacts on the ability to study or make the most of the opportunities offered at university.
I had a lecturer in first year who used to constantly remind us how much we were paying for our degree. It gave me a headache! But I appreciated it because it encouraged me to be positive and make the most out of all the university resources and opportunities. By going to university we’re investing in ourselves.
Is there anything practical you wish you’d learned at an earlier age when it comes to managing money?
9. Part-time jobs aren’t always a good idea; consider employment that will work best alongside student life
Some caution should be exercised when it comes to having a part-time job while at university. For Suzette, financial wellbeing is related to good time management as without knowing how to manage studying alongside a part-time job, it could lead to failure at both. Danielle recommends agency work, as this can be dipped in and out of.
Aelesia would have found it helpful to have more information about the types of part-time jobs available for students prior to coming to university. For students considering part-time work, Aelesia’s advice would be to first seek out any jobs that are offered directly by the university as these will likely be more flexible and fit better alongside student life.
Try to apply for jobs at the university as they are usually designed to fit around your studies and often pay more than jobs outside of the university. Also, working in the service sector with the general public can be quite mentally draining, so working at the university helps to avoid that.
10. Learning how to invest would be useful
The students are also in agreement that it would be useful for young people to be taught about investing. All three have investments in some form, but that’s because they have taken it upon themselves to learn about investing and are perhaps more financially savvy than the average student.
For Suzette, it comes back to being an international student. She has lots of investments back in her home country of Nigeria, having started investing at a young age, but she hasn’t got any in the UK as she’s unsure of what to invest in.
I wish I was taught more about investing, just small amounts. I’ve been working since I was 14 so if I’d started investing small amounts after someone had educated me, it could have paid off and I would be more confident now too.
Hear more from the students
Watch the recording of the conversation between Aelesia, Danielle and Suzette and our Founder & CEO, Vivi:
We hope you’ve found these insights useful. Look out for a follow-up blog coming soon with Aelesia, Danielle and Suzette’s thoughts on how universities can best support students with financial wellbeing – sign up to our staff newsletter to get it straight to your inbox.
In the meantime, read Student Money & Wellbeing 2022 for further insights from a survey of over 1,000 students.