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Five start-of-term expenses you weren't expecting

So you’ve sat down and meticulously drawn up a budget on which you’ll just about survive your first term. But then a sudden, large expense rears its head and throws a spanner in the works!

It’s annoying to see a chunk of your money disappear, especially before you’ve even left for university! But C’est la vie, some things just can’t be avoided…or can they? 

Below are a few last minute expenses which many students don’t plan for, plus tips to save on them:

Moving van

Renting a moving van can be really expensive. Quotes will vary depending on how much you’re taking and the distance you’re travelling (we’re guessing that you’ll be taking a fair bit while you could be moving to the other end of the country).

Try to work out as early as possible whether you’ll be able to fit everything you’re taking in your/your parents’ car. 

If you do need to rent a van, try to book this as early as possible. Or you can ask parents, friends, siblings, family friends, neighbours, anyone who owes you a favour...etc. to see if they can help (or at least drive it for you). But let them know well ahead of time when you need to move.

Laptop and printer

You’ll definitely need a working laptop, and even a printer to complete your assignments and print them off  this will save you running around campus on the morning of a deadline looking for a printer. While most universities do have computer rooms and libraries, booking these can be inconvenient.

It’s just easier to have your own, both for work and to use in your spare time eg to stream movies and TV shows. If your current laptop has seen better days, buy a new one rather than wait for the dreaded “Blue Screen of Death” to strike just before a deadline. Most good laptops have a lifespan of around three years; so a new one now should last you the duration of your undergraduate course.

As a guide, students told us they spent about £484 on a computer for their course (plus £97 on special software, programmes and apps)*.


Over half of students (56%) told us they paid out for books for their course, spending an average of £119. Note, this figure will vary depending on the subject or course you're studying ie you'll probably read more books studying English than you would computer science, for instance. 

Books can be really expensive, especially more academic titles which can’t be found in your local Waterstones. You may be able to track these down second-hand online through Amazon, Alibris and Abe Books.

While you can wait until your student loan goes in to buy the majority of books for your course, there may be a few which you’ll be told to read beforehand in time for the first week of lectures.

University students told us what they spent on typical course costs. Note, the figures below are an average your own costs will vary depending on your course and spending:

University course costs: what students covered themselves | The Uni Guide

Students also told us about equipment, clothing and other odds and ends they had to stump up for over the term, for their course again, you won't necessarily have to worry about these for your specific course, nor will you necessarily need these for the start of term:

What students forked out for: clothing - 

University course costs: clothing | The Uni Guide

What students forked out for: equipment - 

University course costs: equipment | The Uni Guide

What students forked out for: odds and ends - 

University course costs: odds and ends | The Uni Guide

Worried about affording all of this? Ask someone in your course's department about funding available to help with course-related costs.

Extra furniture & utensils

When choosing your accommodation, read carefully what facilities and utensils will be provided. This way you can take your time researching the cheapest options for anything extra need to buy. You'll also avoid wasting cash on things you don't need.

Try to find some pictures of your accommodation online, or think back to when you visited during your open day. Things like kettles and microwaves will be provided, but you’ll need to bring your own cutlery, dishes etc. When it comes to your room, will you have enough storage space and lighting, or will you need to buy anything extra?

Tip: if you're buying lots of new furniture, appliances and equipment, putting it on a credit card (rather than a debit card) can give you more protection, from a consumer perspective ie if you're buying online.


Fresher’s Week

Your student loan will go in at some point during freshers' week. Until then you’ll need some extra cash for all the activities taking place – you don’t want to be sat in a bank trying to arrange an overdraft when you could be out having fun!

You might have to buy tickets to some events, and if you head into the local town, you’ll need to pay for drinks, club entry fees and transport. Plus it’s going to be tempting to eat out at your new local haunts or order takeaways as you sit around getting to know your housemates  these can add up.

Expensive accidents can happen during fresher’s week antics too, whether cracking your phone screen or spending too much on a cab because you don’t know where you’re going. It happens!

Put some extra money aside for this first week until you settle down and know where the cheaper alternatives are in town.
* Data source: Which? University Student Survey 2018, conducted by YouthSight on behalf of Which? University, surveying 5,000 UK undergraduate students between March-April 2018. Costs are rounded to the nearest £.

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