'When you’re planning your budget for UK study, it’s not just course fees you need to think about. You need money for utility bills, council tax, food, books, equipment and, of course, a social life. We’ve put together some tips to help you manage your money.'
It’s also important to do your own budget planning for life as an international student in the UK. Managing your money is easier when you know about the essential things to spend it on.
Utility bills for international students
If you share accommodation with other students in the UK, you will probably have to split the cost of utility bills. UK prices for gas, electricity and water will vary depending on your provider and the UK region you live in. As a rough guide, these were the average prices per house in 2008, but remember that you will be sharing these utility costs with your housemates:
- Gas - £857
- Electricity - £514
- Water - £320
The best way to manage your money is to set up Direct Debits to pay your bills, as you will usually be offered a discounted rate. Money will be taken out of your bank account automatically on a fixed date each month. The amount and date are usually decided by your utility provider, although some will allow you to choose yourself.
As an international student in the UK, you have the same options as anyone else to pay your utility bills. These include setting up payment plans with utility providers, or purchasing pre-payment cards that you insert into your gas and electricity meters. It can be easier to budget plan with these cards, but you will often pay a higher rate.
You can compare utility prices from different UK providers on the Uswitch website.
International student household costs in the UK
If you are over 18 and come to live and study in the UK, you may have to pay Council Tax. This is a charge for local community services such as police, fire brigade, refuse collection, street lighting and leisure facilities. The exact amount varies depending on the UK region you live in.
If you share UK accommodation with other students or live in halls of residence you should not have to pay. To find out more about Council Tax visit the Citizens Advice Bureau website.
If you own a TV in the UK you must pay an annual TV Licence of around £140. One licence will cover all televisions in a private shared student house or flat, so you can split the cost with your housemates. More information is available on the TV Licensing website.
Buying equipment for your UK education
When you begin your UK education, your place of study will provide a list of recommended books and equipment. Check what is essential for your course or degree, as study materials can be expensive. Many will be available second-hand, so look on campus notice boards or check out auction websites such as Ebay.
Students in later years of your course may be happy to sell you their books if they no longer need them, so you could put up a notice yourself.
Shopping and groceries on a student budget
Before you travel to the UK, visit UK supermarket and department store websites like Tesco and Debenhams. This will help you find out what goods are available in the UK and how much they cost. You can also use these websites for online shopping when you begin studying in the UK.
It is usually cheaper to buy food in bulk at large supermarkets in the UK. Many also sell high quality clothing, household goods and electrical equipment. However, you should also try the local shops near your place of study to get a taste of traditional UK culture.
Most UK towns and cities have outdoor markets, which are good for fresh food and cut-price clothing. Cheap clothes, books and music can also be found in the UK’s many charity shops. Sales take place at many different times of the year in the UK, and some places such as coffee shops offer loyalty cards for regular customers which can – over time – save you money.