Freshers’ offers the chance to make new friends, try out interesting activities and explore new places. It can be tempting to blow your student loan during those first few weeks. But, to ensure you have enough money to last the year, setting a budget and keeping on top of your finances is a vital.

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calendar-icon 12 February 2018

That’s where a national campaign run by experts in students finances come in. The annual National Student Money Week was created by the National Association of Student Money Advisers (NASMA) and this year takes place from 12 to 16 February 2018, with a theme of 'Where I Live', focusing on accommodation and students’ finances.

Here at St George’s, our Student Finance Adviser, Helen Williams, has put together some simple accommodation and money management tips to mark National Student Money Week 2018 and help students aiming to start university in September 2018.

1. Choose the property where you will live wisely.

Don’t be pressured into making a decision immediately. Lots of our first year students choose to live in our Horton Halls of Residence. It’s only a 15 minute walk from the University and offers a great base to start your University life. You’ll have the opportunity to meet people from various courses and utility bills are included in the rent, making budgeting for the first year that much simpler.

If you would prefer to rent privately, or for your second or subsequent years, take some time to consider your options and think about things like:

Rent amount: does this include any utilities and council tax or will you need to pay these on top?
Work out a budget plan for the year to make sure the property you are considering is affordable for you. Remember to take into account extras like your share of the deposit, agent's fees and moving costs like hiring a van.
Location: are there good amenities? What is the travel time and the cost of getting to university or your placement?
State of the property: are any repairs needed before you move in? If so, make sure these are included on any inventory you sign.
If you can, speak to the current tenants about their experience of the property, landlord and agent.
Are you happy with everything in the tenancy agreement? Read all the small print and if you're unsure, seek advice before signing anything.
Make sure that your deposit will be paid into a Tenancy Deposit Scheme.

2. Agree on the basics with housemates early on.

How will you split the bills and who will be named on each?
Will you each be responsible for your own cooking or will you sometimes cook together in a group?
Will you share essential purchases like household cleaning products and toilet roll?
Will you have a cleaning rota?
Are you all on the same page when it comes to parties and socialising in the home? Talking about this kind of thing from the start can help to avoid disagreements later.

3. Get cooking and grab a bargain!

It's cheaper than eating out or buying takeaways. It's fun and healthy too. If you live in halls or a shared property, cooking together can save you even more money. You can split money and arrange cooking days if that works for you.
Supermarkets often discount their products in the evening, so it may be worth saving your grocery shop for later in the day. Tooting also has plenty of large fruit and vegetable markets which are also worth a visit.

4. Being sociable doesn’t have to be expensive.

Although Tooting and London offer great nightlife, it can get expensive. The St George's Students' Union is a nice alternative, offering cheaper alcoholic and soft drinks, and also runs a fun programme of activities through the year, like film nights.
You can choose to have nights in with your flatmates to save some extra cash. Some of our students have brought together saving on food and socialising by taking turns to host Come Dine with Me-style evenings. Include the cost of socialising and don't overspend.

5. Check whether you’re exempt from Council Tax.

If you're all full-time students, you shouldn't need to pay Council Tax on the property. You each need to provide evidence of student status to the Local Authority which is Wandsworth Borough Council for those nearest to the university.
Wandsworth borders the Borough of Lambeth to the east, the Borough of Merton and the Royal Borough of Kingston Upon Thames to the south, the Borough of Richmond upon Thames to the west. North of the river Thames are Hammersmith and Fulham and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.