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The Top 15 student money mistakes - current undergrads 'fess-up'

10th September 2014 Print

A new survey looking at how undergraduates are managing their finances reveals that only 53% of students think that they are managing their money well; with nearly one in five (19%) saying they are seriously worried about their financial situation.   

Undergraduates studying maths, accountancy and finance degrees were most confident about their money management skills, with 65% thinking they had managed their finances well, while language (including English) students were the least confident (43%).

The study by Money was conducted with 1,000 current UK students about to go into their 2nd, 3rd or 4th year of university, and provides a snapshot of the financial realities at university and includes students affected by the most recent changes to tuition fees in England.

Student money mistakes:

Nearly a quarter (23%) of those taking part in the survey, say they have made a lot of mistakes managing their money.  While overspending on nights out, food and new clothes and impulse purchases top the list of mistakes, many students admitted to making errors when picking a student bank account and in losing track of their spending on credit and other plastic cards: 

Rank - Top 15 Student Money Mistakes %

1 I spent too much on nights out 29%

2 I spent too much on take-outs and ready meals 28%

3 I spent too much on clothes 25%

4 I made too many impulse purchases 20%

5 I lent money to friends and didn’t get it back 18%

6 I failed to budget properly 17%

7 I didn’t choose the right student bank account 14%

8 I didn’t shop around for the best deals 14%

9 I paid too much for my accommodation 14%

10 When choosing a student account, I went for the best freebie rather than the best account 11%

11 I lost track of my overall spending on plastic cards 11%

12 I spent too much on credit cards 10%

13 I paid too much for my mobile phone 9%

14 I didn’t have a pre-arranged overdraft or I went over my overdraft limit 8%

15 I ignored credit card payments and incurred penalties 8%

The most common mistake maths students said they made was not choosing the right student bank account, while for business (including management, economics and IT) students it was overspending on nights out (40%), and for law students it was lending money to friends which wasn’t repaid (29%).

Student to student financial top tips:

When asked what financial advice they would pass on to people heading off to university, undergraduates appear to have learnt from their money mistakes.  Their top 10 tips were:

Make a budget and stick to it (49%)

Shop around for the best deals (47%)

Don’t use credit cards (39%)

Avoid payday loans (37%)

Don’t ignore letters from your bank (35%)

Be honest with your parents about your finances (33%)

Don’t lend money to friends (31%)

Get contents insurance for your possessions (22%)

Take care in choosing the right student bank account (21%)

Talk to your bank or credit card provider as soon as you get into trouble (21%)

Claire Peate, customer insight manager from, commented: “For most students, going to university is their first experience of living away from home and managing their own finances, so it’s perhaps inevitable they will make some mistakes.  But the students taking part in our survey have shared some good advice - make a budget, spend sensibly by shopping around for the best deals, don’t ignore money troubles as you’ll only compound the problem, and take care in choosing a student bank account.

“If you find that your spending exceeds your budget – don’t bury your head in the sand. Ignoring letters from your bank or credit card provider will only make matters worse as charges for unauthorised spending can be punishing.  Talk to your bank or credit card provider because you’ll usually pay less in fees and charges if you formally arrange for your overdraft or spending limits to be increased.” has produced an online guide to student finances: