What students could teach their parents about money

Six financial lessons students have learned the hard way that we could all stand to learn from

Updated: 
A-level results

A-Level students have been cautiously opening envelopes and jumping in the air for press photographers today, as the dreaded A-Level results day strikes. If they go off to university, they have a shockingly steep learning curve - not just academically but in all the practical aspects of taking care of themselves. The financial lessons can be some of the hardest. However, Charlotte Burns, editor of Student Money Saver, claims that by the end of their course, most students could teach their parents a thing or two about money.

She told AOL Money there are six key money lessons that their parents could benefit from too.

1. Not living paycheque to paycheque

It's easy to spend exactly what you earn (and in some cases more), so many adults end up living for payday, and desperately stretching their cash for the last few days of the month. Students, on the other hand, only get three bulk payments a year. Burns says: "When they get their money, they have to budget over a far longer time to ensure they can afford their bills (and Jägerbombs)."

She points out that the problem with living paycheque to paycheque is that it's really easy for it to all go wrong. All it takes is for the boiler to break, or for you to get sick and need time off work and you have no money to pay your bills. She adds: "Planning out your budget over larger amounts of time can prevent financial disaster."


2. Taking the extra step to get a discount

Students love a discount. It's the way they can get necessities and stay within their means. However you don't need to flash a student card to get a discount, everyone can get one.

Burns suggests your first stop is to check out deals sites like hers for freebies and discounts. After that, make sure when you buy online, you go via a cashback site, to get money paid back into your account every time you spend.

She adds: "You need to release your inner Del Boy and get haggling too. It's not just for marketplaces and independent stores, you can do this in big high street shops. If the item has a flaw, ask for a discount, if you're buying in bulk - ask for a discount. At the least, ask them to throw in something for free - you'll be surprised what a cheeky smile will get you."

3. Stop food wastage

We throw away 7 million tonnes of food and drink from our homes every year in the UK, and more than half of that is food that was perfectly good to eat. Wasting this food costs the average household £470 a year (£700 for a family with kids) - this is £60 a month.

Burns says: "Students get a lot of flack for the food they eat (it's not all Pot Noodles by the way!), but the reality is they simply can not afford to buy a lot of food that will go to waste." Among the tips they could give their parents are to avoid big bags of fresh fruit and veg, and stick to frozen or tinned varieties. She adds: "They also are experts at making meals with whatever is left in the fridge." And she recommends getting creative instead of binning food past its best.

4. Not being supermarket snobs

It's easy to always buy your favourite brands and never really think about alternatives. We sometimes believe the hype that costliest is best, usually due to fancy packaging that doesn't really represent what's inside.

Burns says: "Students rarely go for big brand items, and are more open to cheaper stores and economy range alternatives. The reality is, own brand food is not just cheaper - but often tastes better than many of the big labels. It's really worth testing out cheaper versions of the items you buy to see if you can taste a difference or if you prefer it, the cash you'll save not buying big brands will really start to add up."

5. Not relying on credit cards

If you find yourself using credit cards each month to cover the last week or two until payday, you're never going to build up wealth and are probably paying an arm and a leg in interest fees. Generally speaking, you need a decent credit rating to get a credit card, so students aren't normally able to get one. Students have to either think ahead and spread out the money they do have or go hungry. There's no in between.

Burns suggests: "As a rule, if you can't afford it on your debit card, don't pay for it on your credit card - and get them to reduce your limit."

6. Be more willing to accept financial help

It's really hard to ask for help - especially when it comes to money. It's too easy to not reach out for help, and get stuck in a debt cycle, especially if you get payday loan companies or loan sharks involved.

Burns points out: "Society seems to accept that it's OK for students to be poor - it's not taboo. They will ask parents for money if they are in trouble, or go to the university for a grant. They are also not afraid to chat to the banks about having no money." This, she says is something we can all stand to learn from.

If you run into a cash flow problem, talk to your lender. You should also seek out free debt counselling from charities like Citizens Advice, Christians Against Poverty and Stepchange.

Naturally, it's never going to be easy to accept financial tips from your kids. However, after three years of learning the hard way, you might be surprised how much difference their insights can make.

Family stories on AOL Money

The average British family revealed

Are you relying on an inheritance that will never come?

Boom in adult children stealing from parents

The top ten jobs graduates want

The top ten jobs graduates want


Universities Minister: A-Level Results "Terrific News"