Everything I wish I’d known about money at university

A big part of university is learning how to manage money and it something that a lot of people struggle with. We wanted to write something that might be helpful for people about to university or students currently at university. One of our content writers, Jonny Long, who graduated a few years ago, has put together some of his money wisdom and advice: https://monzo.com/blog/2019/07/03/money-at-university


Another strategy is to not go to Uni, and just buy course books instead. I realise this doesn’t work in every field, but it’s been an amazing strategy for me.

It turns out the worlds experts in every subject area tend to write books. You can learn almost anything from a book and avoid the student loan.

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Scholarships, bursaries, part time jobs, apprenticeships (many will pay you though uni). Going onto things like masters and phds many companies will pay you though these as employees.

A good strategy for uni is to not do a pointless degree, and get someone to pay for some or all of your university via the above options.

There’s plenty of options, you could actually come with more money than you went in with with a little planning, work and money management.

The blog mentioned books. If your library doesn’t have the book your require… request the library purchase the book. Most will if your course requires it, dont know why that wasn’t mentioned. There’s no need to buy it or get your course mates to chip in for it.


Totally agree about the library. Though I bought all my books and now my company buys them for me.

Uni can be great, and in some cases, it’s necessary. But there are also high skilled, high paying jobs out there without any formal requirements.

What about those who don’t go to university? :thinking:

It wouldn’t strictly apply to those people obviously :smile:

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Few things I’d suggest:

  • Completely agree with the “Don’t buy coursebooks” piece of advice - either get it out of the library or find a PDF online.

  • When choosing a student bank account the two main things to look at are the size of the interest free overdraft and how long the overdraft stays interest free after you graduate. The best student bank accounts slowly decrease your interest free limit over a number of years (up to £3000 interest free for 1st year after graduation, up to £2500 interest free for the next year etc…).

  • Buy own brand food, especailly in Tesco or Sainsbury’s - it basically tastes the same and you’d be shocked by how much it decreases the amount you’re spending on food.

The only thing id say here is not to advocate theft. Get a PDF if they author has provided one free, or buy the pdf if its cheap. Better still take out the ebook version from your library for free.

I did an apprenticeship, and when I finished started doing a Computing degree with Open University part time while still working.

Allows me to easily pay for it, and gain work experience at the same time.

I’ve been working for 6 years now, and studying for the degree for 5 years. One year left and I’m all done! It takes a long time, but you have half the amount of work to do per year compared to a normal degree so it’s manageable.

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I was making the point that books are actually one of the best investments you can make, because they’re such a great, cheap learning resource. Each good book I read tends to earns me 10 times the cost of the book per year or more.

In contrast, University - at least in the current system of getting kids into heaps of debt early on in life - might not be right for everyone.

The debt is just not the same as other places like the US. For most people it’s written off, and what you do pay is comparatively cheap amongst your other living costs.

There is though plenty of useless degrees.

Why not go further and not buy the book? Plenty of online university courses and experts giving away knowledge or just go to a library and read all the journals there.

If your course is remotely worth the fees, you’ll be getting a huge amount of tacit knowledge no book can ever teach you by itself.

And thank God some people still go to university to learn and to satisfy their curiosity for knowledge not solely as a career investment. I’ve read lots of great books that have earned me huge amounts in my life so far but my favourite books have enriched my life in a non monetary way.

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Seems to be a fair bit of negativity towards degrees here, so I’ll add some counter balance (not saying anyone is wrong, but there are definitely two sides to it).

Even if you don’t use your degree at the end of it all, those 3 or 4 years can make you the person that you are.

For me, I grew up a tremendous amount that I wouldn’t have done if I’d stayed at home and got a job. Arguably, that’s priceless.

I 100% think the fees are outrageous, and I’d certainly not tell kids that it was essential. But I’d also not dissuade them if it was something they wanted to do.

In terms of money, i just don’t know many under 18’s who have a chance to be responsible with their money.

Which is why I’ve always asked about genuine kids accounts (ages 10 and up for example).

Learning from that age, with a mobile bank where you can see your money in real time, and track what you’ve spent (hopefully little and not very often) would be such a good lesson for kids.

Pocket money, birthday money and everything else could be easily accessible. You could see your savings, see when you’ve treated yourself, and give you a an ownership of your money that currently isn’t available.

If I could change one thing, it would be that.


Plenty do, so it has nothing really to do with age.

The fees aren’t really real. Your not personally responsible for it, it’s not a fully repayable loan. Maybe the student loans should be scrapped, fees then would have to change to be in line with demand and realistic pricing.

There’s still a difference. There are lots of utterly useless degrees out there that can in the end not teach you anything.

Your right in that uni is about more that just the degree it’s self, but you should be coming away with an education that improves you as a person.

I’ve paid my loan back through my salary… Whilst a good portion of people never will, it’s still an added expense once you start earning.

I can’t say I’ve spoken to people who have genuinely done an utterly useless course.

But, I’m probably using a fraction of the degree in my current role, yet a large part of why I got the job and the person I am is because of the degree and University as a whole.

Sure, if you are just looking at education and what you can write down about the things you’ve learned during your course… Yeah, there are some poor choices.

But you can’t separate the education from the life lessons IMO. it’s a package deal.

It’s proportional. It’s not like your paying back a normal loan. It’s also the reason they change £9k a year. You don’t actually really pay it so there’s no reason not to change the max.

It’s just a tax for us that goes up the more you earn. Like I mentioned earlier as well though, you can reduce these costs as well if you wanted to or even get it paid for free by your employer.

Apologies, I’m not really following this line of reasoning.

You pay the loan back as a proportion of what you earn, yes.

So if someone was fortunate to earn a higher salary, they’d pay more (or all of it) back… even at 9K per year fees.

I mean, you absolutely do pay it back if you earn a decent(ish) salary. It’s only those on a lesser salary that don’t pay it back.

If the loan is written off, the degree didn’t really help much with your career.


I totally agree with you, but I wouldn’t want to do that in a society where we charge people to study.

Given that you’re personally paying for university, and you’ll have to pay it back, I think of it as an investment. And if it’s an investment, you should be looking for a return.

Not to undermine your point that universities and degrees are important. They absolutely are. But the reason so many people feel like 3 or 4 years at Uni made them the personal they are is because it took place during the formative years of their lives.

I also feel like my 18s to 20s have been the formative years of my life. I’m 26, so can’t comment on all of my 20s.

Sadly, there are plenty of careers that are never going to pay enough to fully repay the loan - Despite how important those jobs can be.

I think my perspective was more from who I’ve seen not go to Uni.

They stayed at home, took a local “generic” job and didn’t really grow as a person during the same time frame.

Granted, if you leave home, or even stay at home but challenge yourself, then it’s a different story.

But so many of the people I know, didn’t do that, got comfortable earning a modest wage with zero outgoing costs and chugged along in comfort.


I’m on the cusp of paying mine off. It’s certainly a decent chunk of my pay packet that disappears every month. I have no issue with paying it back though, as I’m under no illusions that what I learned and the people I met have, in a large way, shaped my career and attitudes to many things.

I do have issue with the rate in which it accrues interest, which in my opinion is criminal.

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