I had been a fan of the TheSite (now TheMix) for some time, and contacted them when they posted an ad looking for bloggers. TheMix provides advice to under 25s about relationships, housing, and money (among other topics). It’s got a really great feel for its audience and never stoops to preaching.
Here’s one of the blogs I wrote about student debt and credit cards.
Luke felt foolish for accepting credit while in studentsville, but his embarrassment quickly turned to wrath.
Is “gullible student” written on my forehead or is it just me? Ever since the banks and stores learnt I was going to uni, they’ve been after me, thrusting credit into my hands and leaving out the bit about how exactly I was going to pay them back. If 77% of mortgage holders don’t understand what APR means, how the hell am I supposed to know?
Banks these days are relying on students’ ignorance about debt to make an easy profit. When I went to set up my student bank account, a credit card with a limit of £500 was thrust upon me. Staff told me it was “non-negotiable,” and “really easy to keep on top of,” but the truth is that managing your own finances can quickly get out of hand, especially when you’re away from home and trying to tackle it all alone for the first time.
Firstly, take my advice: stay away from store cards. They are evil in a shiny plastic-coated form. I was in a popular high street store the other day enjoying the fruits of payday and was talked into an “amazing” 10% discount card on top of my NUS. I felt like a fish being lured in by the Holy Grail of baits, powerless to resist. Only when the shop assistant rang to perform a credit check on me did I get suspicious. I walked away feeling utterly stupid and conned as the evil shop assistant had convinced me to get a store credit card without feeling the need to inform me first. Now I’ve got to ring up the bank that manages the card and pay off my outstanding debts. I’m old enough to have outstanding debts – how horrifying is that?
“I still think that using credit in lieu of actual money is one of society’s worst ideas, but if credit is here let’s use it and then lose it.”
Yet, uni students are already accruing debt through student loans. So let’s take charge. More than anything, discounts are our best friend. Yes, we are using our NUS and 16-25 rail cards, but there’s plenty more where that came from. We can still go out to eat with our mates by going to student-friendly restaurants which do various discounts depending on location. For example, in York there’s an Italian chain that offers a whopping 50% discount for students on Mondays.
Then we’ve got to face the fact that we are practically adults and therefore have to shoulder some responsibility for our own actions (sigh). Late nights spent in clubs drinking WKD and dancing to “Reach” by S Club 7 will inevitably lead to early morning post-booze blues after learning we somehow blew £60 in the course of one night’s bar hopping. But we can still take control. That’s why I have started budgeting. To steal a line from Cruel Intentions: “Everybody does it; it’s just that nobody talks about it.” There are some great budget calculators out there and we, as children of the dotcom boom, should be using them.
I still think that using credit in lieu of actual money is one of society’s worst ideas, but if credit is here let’s use it and then lose it. Use your overdrafts but then change once you graduate to an account which offers the best overdraft interest rates; use the student discounts while you still can but know how much you’re spending when you use them; and most importantly, learn how to get around those annoying people offering you unbelievable deals as it will most likely come back to bite you in the ass. I just have two words for them from now on: “No thanks.”