Consumer: Manage student debts... and don’t buy a car

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As the autumn term gets underway and the latest crop of students settle into university life, many will be getting their first real taste of what’s great - and not so great - about living independently.

While this dawn of a new era is crammed with excitement, it’s also a time when young people make money mistakes - some of which will have repercussions lingering way beyond their student years.

A recent Gocompare.com Money survey talked to students who are now in their second, third and fourth year at university, and found nearly half don’t think they’re managing their finances well. Only 53 per cent of the 1,000 students surveyed were happy with the way they’re managing their money and nearly one in five (19 per cent) were “seriously worried” about the state of their finances.

The Money Advice Service (MAS) has just published a report detailing the “explosion” of choices people are faced with when they turn 18.

The report lays bare the long-term consequences that a “spend today, worry tomorrow” attitude can bring. In one case, a young man named told how he bought a car to “impress the girls” using a student loan, but ended up gathering thousands of pounds of debt after the car developed problems.

This may sound like an extreme case, but financial mistakes in early adult life are very common.

In the MAS survey, 72 per cent of people in their 20s made some money mistakes which they later regretted - and 60 per cent said their biggest mistake happened between the 18 and 22.

The student tradition of spending too much on a night out topped the list of financial blunders, closely followed by blowing the budget on take-aways and ready meals.

The research also found one fifth of students let their new-found financial freedom go to their head by making too many impulse purchases.

About ten per cent of students admitting they went for the best freebie rather than the best student account.

Here are ten top tips to help new students remain financially afloat.

Make a budget and stick to it

Shop around for deals

Don’t use credit cards

Avoid payday loans

Don’t ignore letters from your bank

Be honest with your parents about your finances

Don’t lend money to friends

Get contents insurance for your possessions

Take care choosing the right student bank account

Talk to your bank or credit card provider as soon as you get into trouble

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