Tuesday, 20 October 2009

miss no moneypenny part two

Part two in my 2007 financial planning series.

Most of us like shopping. Some of us are darned good at it. Back dans le jour, when yuppyism was rife, it was imperative to be able to show off the trendiest brands and most expensive items to establish one’s status. Those who rode the wave of capitalist success were the icons of the Maggie era. This century is different. There is kudos for a good bargain. In the economy bumper-pack generation, we are Primark’s children. One in twenty adults on the brink of bankruptcy, daytime TV jampacked with adverts for consolidated loans, whole economies in trouble because of massive unsecured debts - there’s almost a pride in poverty these days, as long as you’re poor with style.

And that’s why it’s difficult being a student, because the old ‘Young Ones’ stereotype just doesn’t ring true anymore, and a Glasgow resident spends the second highest amount of money on average on clothes in the UK (it must be true, I read it in the Metro). Fact – we’re that good at shopping. But did you ever think to shop for money?

You need a student bank account. No arguments. That’s what they’re there for. But they’re a product, not a service, and the banks are vying for your custom and loyalty like any other business. Chances are, your local bank succeeded. It’s nearby, you had your kiddie saver account with them, and you’ll probably stay with them for life. That’s fair enough, but you could probably get yourself a much better deal. You just need to do a bit of bargain hunting.

Like I said before, you’re not looking for the fun stuff, so don’t be swayed by gimmicks. It’s like shopping for the perfect pair of jeans. The embroidery and details might be nice extras, but you’re looking for the best cut you can get. If you’re in the money and for some reason have few outgoing expenses, you want a high rate of interest. If not, you want the largest interest-free overdraft possible, with the least repercussions for going over it. Don’t worry about the graduate deals yet.

This year, Martin Lewis from MoneySavingExpert.com recommends HBOS, RBS and Natwest for student accounts and if there’s one thing you should take from this article, it’s to visit MoneySavingExpert.com. I can’t emphasise that one enough. But Lewis also recommends that you shop around, that you forget about money monogamy and tart about. Student deals change all the time so keep up to date. Even if you’re not a new student, and even if you have an overdraft, you can still switch student accounts. I must add however – do not, absolutely do not, open up more than one student account. You can open multiple bank accounts, but you cannot have more than one student overdraft.

Next issue I’ll argue that you should aim to finance your time at University without ever needing an overdraft, but even if you never actually need to use it, you need one to remain prepared, and it’s worth negotiating the biggest allowance available with your bank if you don’t automatically get it. Pay attention to what you’re being offered.

Martin Lewis expounds an interesting suggestion for student financing, which I wish I had tried, but secretly know I would have failed at. ‘Deficit banking’ involves moving your savings and as much of your overdraft as possible into a high interest savings account and living out of the bottom of your overdraft, transferring money from your savings as necessary. I will neither recommend nor discourage this, but I will suggest that this involves more careful planning and precarious financial balancing than most young people are prepared for (I’d love to hear from you if you’ve done this though).

Without patronising my readership, I’m aiming to give advice for watching your pennies without any effort. I know that very few students seem to want to be counting their beans and discussing percentages, but it’s worth it to ask your mates what deal they’re getting from the bank, and to find out which one’s guilty of fleecing students. Ask your bank questions now, before they start asking you questions, and you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank.

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