How to keep the costs down at uni

Make every penny count

Students at Oxford University

Over the next few weeks, upwards of half a million people will start a university degree course - and, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, they'll emerge in three or four years' time with a staggering £50,000 of debt.

Most of this, of course, is down to sky-high tuition fees, now running at £9,000 a year, and there's not much you can do about that.

See also: How much student debt will ever be repaid?

See also: Poorer students 'far more likely' not to apply for university over debt fears

However, a good chunk of the debt is run up on basic living costs - everything from rent to books to beer - and, here, a bit of financial savvy can work wonders.

There are all sorts of offers that aren't available to the rest of us - here are eight ways that students can cut costs.

Pick a bank account wisely

There are some great student freebies out there, from cashback offers to Santander's free student railcard. However, picking a bank on the basis of this can be a mistake. MoneySavingExpert points out that most students are likely to be overdrawn at some point during their university career, and that the costs associated with this can be pretty big. Over the course of three years, the financial advantages of a free overdraft are likely to outweigh any iTunes voucher. Go for the biggest free overdraft limit you can find, it suggests: there's a list of student bank accounts here.

Apply for travel discount cards...

If you're making more than three or four journeys a year by train or coach, you'll probably be able to save money by snapping up a discount card. The 16-25 railcard, for example, it costs just £30 a year, but gives a third off the price of tickets. Similarly, the National Express Young Person's Coachcard gives one-third off fares for just £10.

...and other discount cards too

More wide-ranging is the NUS Extra card, which costs £12 a year or £32 for three years. This gives discounts on products in every category imaginable, from stationery and travel to restaurants and even beauty products. The savings can amount to 40% or more.

Check for individual discounts

Plenty of retailers, from Apple to McDonalds, offer discounts if you have student ID with a photo. Some are only applicable at certain times, though, so you may have to get used to having your big night out on a Wednesday. Even better is Microsoft's offer of Office software for students, available here and completely free. We've also got plenty of student discounts on our own deals page, here.

Don't overspend on insurance

There's a good chance that your stuff will be covered on your parents' insurance, as long as their home is your main permanent address. If you do need to take out your own policy, make sure you shop around: so-called student policies aren't necessarily any cheaper.

Don't pay council tax

A group of students living together don't have to pay council tax at all, however many of you there are. If you're sharing with a non-student, they will be liable - but if there's only one of them, they'll be able to claim the single-occupier discount, as you still don't count for tax purposes.

Don't buy a TV licence

It's no longer possible to get out of paying the licence fee simply by sticking to BBC iPlayer rather than watching real-time broadcasts. However, you still may not have to pay. If you live with your parents outside term time and they have a licence, you should be covered by theirs. You must, though, be watching on a device that doesn't have an aerial and isn't plugged into the mains at the time.

Check whether you have to pay for prescriptions

If you're 18 or under, you shouldn't have to pay for medical prescriptions, dental treatment or sight tests. Even if you're older than this, though, the chances are you'll still get them for free, on the basis that you're on a low income. You can apply to the NHS Low Income Scheme here.

Don't overpay income tax

If you work while you're studying, during the vacations, say, you may well have tax taken at source through PAYE. The amount you pay is calculated on the assumption that you'll be earning this amount every week of the year. However, income tax is only payable if you earn more than £11,500 a year - so if you're expecting to make less than this, you shouldn't have to pay. You can either fill in a P50 form after each stint of employment or wait until the end of the year and apply for a refund from HMRC.

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