With many university fees at £9,000 a year, higher education in the UK can be a frightening financial prospect. It is all too easy to build up huge debts when you are still young and learning your way through life; the average student debt in the UK currently stands at £26,000.
So, how can you manage debt to minimise the amount you owe once you graduate? Here we share a few tips based on the experiences of our own staff who have benefited from a university education.
Student loans – no reason to panic
Managing student debt is made a lot easier by the favorable repayment terms of student loans. Any loans taken out before the changes to the student finance system in 2012 are linked to inflation instead of a more conventional interest level. This makes them cheaper than regular loans by quite some margin.
The other great thing about a student loan is that you do not have to start paying it back until you reach a certain payment threshold. This means that until you earn over £15,000 you can relax. Once your salary (hopefully) reaches £15,000, 9% of your pay will go towards paying off your student loans. Unfortunately, that means you may find yourself paying your student loan back for many years to come, but it means that if you are out of work there is no pressure to pay.
Credit cards – be careful
When I was at university, a credit card provider had a stall inside our student union building tempting you to sign up with an enticing offer of a free gift! Credit cards may feel like free money when you are new to the world of personal finance but beware of the appealing offers. Although a credit card may be a cheap way of borrowing if you pay the bill in full every month, most students will not be able to clear their account in full each month unless the express strict financial control!
If you have already got a credit card, you should make sure you shop around for good deals. There are always 0% interest cards available, so make sure you have the best possible deal. Once every few months it is worth comparing credit cards and switching to the best one, if they accept your application. However, these are quite hard to find and rely on a very pristine credit record. The best route is to work on improving credit through traditional methods
Find the best bank
Like any other bank account, there are plenty of student and graduate accounts out there for you to choose from. You always have the option of switching your bank account. It may involve filling out a few forms and waiting for replies, but it could prove to be worth your while.
If you have an overdraft then you should make sure you find one that charges little or no interest on your debt. Treat your overdraft as you would a credit card and shop around to bag yourself the best deal.
Struggling with debts
If it all becomes too much to handle there are various options available to current and former students. Debt advice is available to anybody from a variety of sources, so speak to somebody if you feel like you are unable to cope. There is no shame in admitting to financial hardship; you most certainly will not be the first student to struggle under the weight of debt.