Students Spend Nearly £400 In Freshers’ Week

Students spend nearly £400 in Fresher's Week

How much is Freshers’ Week costing your teen?  Research I read this week shows that students across the UK can spend around £400 in Freshers’ Week.  Put this in the context of the average annual student maintenance loan of £1500 and the reality of the maths is scary.

As the mother to a Fresher myself this year, I know first hand the financial pressures involved and whilst staggering, sadly this figure does not surprise me.  What does surprise me is that the biggest spending city according to the research isn’t London but Edinburgh, with past and present students spending an average of £426 during Freshers’ Week and Bristol students spending the least at £334.

Tuition fees and accommodation costs aside, before even setting foot on campus for Freshers’ Week, students have numerous additional start up expenses including insurance, the TV licence fee, access to the university internet, a student rail card and of course the all important books.  Yes of course some of these costs span generations and had to be paid in my university days, but for the 21st century student the impact of inflation on day to day living, makes that first week so much tougher.

Paying for entry to Freshers’ parties, signing up to become a member of various clubs and societies and simply going out and being sociable with new-found friends, places huge financial pressure upon our teens and it is easy to see how this number can be reached so quickly.

In fact the rising cost of being a student has meant that twice as many students who graduated last year compared to 2015 or earlier, felt unable to actually enjoy themselves at Fresher’s Week and with such a current emphasis on the mental health of our young people this is a worrying statistic, with potentially far-reaching consequences.

For many leaving home for the first time, keeping track of their spending is a daunting task.  They have worked hard for their exams but it doesn’t end there, there is still more to come.  Going through our son’s allowance with him before he headed off, it suddenly dawned on him that he would need to manage his budget carefully.

He worked hard to save for the customary bucket holidays with his mates over the summer as a final farewell to those fond and cossetted schooldays, but come last weekend he was close to penniless before his loan dropped into his account.

Numbers are his thing, so dropping him at university we had high hopes, that he of all people would manage it. Needless to say and maybe like most parents, we gave him a cash bonus as we left, to ease the pain of the first night at least.  Only 72 hours in and we had our first anxious call about the possibility of exceeding his allowance, alongside a text saying “it is not me to be fair, it is just how Freshers’ is”.

Has peer pressure got anything to do with it?  Well the research says yes and no doubt as a young teen trying to make an impression and not wanting to be left out of the party bubble in the first week, no doubt it has.

But what do those in the know say?  London is littered with universities, so I contacted London South Bank University for an opinion on Freshers’ spending.  Student Advice Manager, Chris Wright said “For many students when they get their student loan it is the first time they are receiving such a significant amount of money in one go, therefore it is easy for them to overspend during Freshers’ as they think they will have a lot left. Freshers’ is an opportunity for many to meet new people and to have a good time; everyone is trying to keep up as they do not want to be left out. Therefore many will spend money not taking into account that other students are maybe spending money they have saved over the summer or that their parents have given them, or that they have earnt.  Students can also see their loan as a way to update their wardrobe and to buy the things they have wanted for a long time, especially if they are going to events and would like to make a good impression on their peers.”

The bitter truth is that the maintenance loan doesn’t cover all the costs.  So is it another case of falling back on the bank of mum and dad?  No parent wants their teenager stressed.  How far can we or are we able to go to support them in their ambition?

Of course there will always be those parents (for whom money is no object) who do step in and bail their teens out, but life’s harsh lessons are not learnt that way.  There comes a time when the safety net of mum and dad needs to be removed and they learn to stand on their own two feet.

I worked throughout my time at university.  My allowance was set and there was no room for manoeuvre.  It dawned on me very early that if I wanted to keep up with the Jones’ and remove all financial angst, a job was the way forward.

There is nothing worse as a teenager than being told “when I was your age” but sometimes needs must and I have banged that message home all summer.  It is a divisive issue, some think working is a distraction but there are plenty of part-time jobs out there that won’t get in the way of their studies.

So what else can they do to alleviate the burden? Well my advice to my teen was avoid going out every night.  Some low key nights are good. Leave your card behind.  Contactless payments are a devil to anyone, let alone a young teen starting out alone on  a budget.  Make the most of student discounts and the NUS extra card is certainly worth applying for.

What next?  Well hopefully not a financial hangover and a recognition of some vigilant budgeting, plus the knowledge that of course we understand and we will be there if needs must, but 72 hours is too soon for that. To coin a well worn phrase, your university years should be the best of your life, it would be a shame if it starts out so soon for our son and many others under a cloud.









  1. Jo
    October 16, 2017 / 11:31 am

    I am hearing more and more horror stories about the expenses our teens have to face during the first few weeks and it seems like they have to spend time cutting back in other areas to catch up and keep their head above water. My son has a lot of friends who have started working already and I heard one story of a young man spending his whole term’s allowance in the first 2 weeks. Scary stuff for sure. Thanks for joining us Anna hope to see you again. #TweensTeensBeyond

  2. October 3, 2017 / 12:51 am

    I’ve mentioned above that my youngest got through a whole year with money left in her pocket, so I asked her about freshers’ week, thinking the quoted figures might be exaggerated – and was told one of her friends got through £2000 in the first fortnight!
    Mary Mayfield recently posted…Pride and Prejudice – Nottingham PlayhouseMy Profile

    • Jo
      October 3, 2017 / 8:46 am

      Oh my goodness Mary that is staggering and very worrying. Where was her friend at University?

  3. October 2, 2017 / 12:33 pm

    Gee! I think I’d better get a savings pot going for this little lark. This is a worry for you and I guess one can only hope that part-time jobs are secured post-haste. It seems there is no end to the spend. I guess it’s a strict exercise in budgeting and knowing that there is no never-ending pot. Greaat post Jo x #tweensteensbeyond

  4. Jo
    September 29, 2017 / 4:02 pm

    The cost of living in London is crazy and I know when my eldest goes out to a club and it’s not a designated student night he can easily spend in excess of £50. I am hoping that being out of this environment for a while will benefit his bank balance but whilst he hasn’t spent anywhere close to the amount cited in this study it has been more than his weekly allowance. University should be an enjoyable and rewarding experience and it is sad to think so many are turned off because of the cost and the inevitable debt that goes with it. #TweensTeensBeyond

  5. September 28, 2017 / 11:01 am

    My kids are very small for this yet. But still I am also worried about these expenses which teenagers does . Thanks for warning us in advance about this. Thinking about this now. #Tweens Teens Beyond

    • Jo
      September 29, 2017 / 4:03 pm

      Hopefully by the time it comes around to your children going to University there will have been some changes. Thanks for reading and commenting. #TweensTeensBeyond

  6. September 28, 2017 / 10:24 am

    I can’t believe how much students are spending during Fresher’s Week these day – that’s crazy! But I can see how they have to with buying tickets for various events and wanting to obviously join in with as much as possible. My memories of Freshers Week also involve cheap lager in the student’s union and living off bread and jam. But as you say, things have changed an awful lot I imagine. I don’t know how anyone can afford to be a student at all anymore. Much harder for the kids going off now financially wise that it was for us. #TweensTweensBeyond
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    • Jo
      September 29, 2017 / 4:06 pm

      The figures shocked me. Talking to my son some of the sporting societies at his University cost £250 to join – crazy money but with those kind of expenses you can see how quickly these kind of figures can be reached. #TweensTeensBeyond

  7. Cal at Family Makes
    September 27, 2017 / 10:58 pm

    I don’t know how students these days manage, and it fills me with dread that my kids won’t be too far behind. It’s such a fine balance between wanting them to be sensible with money and wanting them to have a good time and not be left behind in having a social life isn’t it? Phew, I can hardly get my head around it! #TweensTeensBeyond

    • Jo
      September 29, 2017 / 4:09 pm

      It is easy to see why so many students do pick up a part-time job. I know it made a huge difference to the quality of my life as a student and alleviated the financial burden too. It is a balancing act though and I know many parents want their children to focus purely on studying. Thanks for your comment. #TweensTeensBeyond

  8. September 27, 2017 / 9:46 pm

    This is such an interesting post Jo. My eldest daughter seemed to manage her finances very well but I think she saved money by living close to home. There were no travelling costs and she nabbed things like toilet roll from me whenever she came home. It all adds up! I do worry about the amount of debt that young people are building up. xxx

    • Jo
      September 29, 2017 / 4:13 pm

      Yes it is all those little extras that they have not had to consider before which can make such a big difference to their budget over time. I laughed when we dropped off our son as there were families carrying industrial sized packs of loo roll, obviously stocking up their kids for the year ahead. I feel a bit mean with our pack of 9! #TweensTeensBeyond

  9. September 27, 2017 / 9:43 am

    I think it’s unavoidable for them to work apart time job during uni. I don’t think it can cause too much of a distraction from studying surely…. maybe the nights out it funds might cause a distraction but hey what do I know,I’m just an old lady who went to uni a billion years ago as far as the kids are concerned I think!!! #TweensTeensBeyond
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    • Jo
      September 29, 2017 / 4:14 pm

      I agree Kelly. I have said to my son to settle in this term and then to look for something in the New Year. There is no other way around it really and when they do have so much spare time it does make sense. #TweensTeensBeyond

  10. September 26, 2017 / 7:46 pm

    My youngest was some bizarre paragon of student financial planning and actually finished her year with money left over! Whether that would have continued if she’d stayed there I can only guess but she did seem pretty strict with weekly budgeting, so that once a month she could have a treat like a cheap train ticket to visit friends in other places (possibly cheaper than paying to get into a club!) #tweensteensbeyond
    Mary Mayfield recently posted…When children decide they’re old enough to holiday alone …My Profile

    • Jo
      September 26, 2017 / 10:51 pm

      To coin a popular teen phrase in our house “oh my days!” Good girl. That is impressive. It is good to hear that it can be done. I will use your daughter as an example. Thanks for sharing that Mary. #TweensTeensBeyond

  11. September 26, 2017 / 7:22 pm

    The maintenance loan only acts as a basis, unless your child gets the full whack of about £8k (a child of friends of ours gets £6k annually). It’s then down to mum and dad to pick up the shortfall. Our teen will also be getting a part-time job to top up his beer money lol! I’m glad you’ve warned us about Freshers’ though, as that’s something we’ll need to give him as extra. As you say, that first week is very important – it’s when initial friendships are formed and no teen will want to miss out on any of it #TweensTeensBeyond
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    • Jo
      September 26, 2017 / 10:50 pm

      Yes I think it is nigh on impossible to avoid picking up the shortfall and the list of expenses is quite expensive. Most of the universities and UCAS offer very good advice to students before they arrive and when on campus and then really it is over to them. Our son is very good at spending money but this is a good learning curve for him as Freshers’ Week has made him almost paranoid about overspending and he is not getting a bit anal about checking his money. Not that I am complaining of course. #TweensTeensBeyond

  12. September 26, 2017 / 6:38 pm

    Few years to go, but you have got me thinking. I really need to start thinking about this now, so I can get them used to the concept of budgeting. I knew it was expensive, but breaking it down to the expenses for the first week, really brings it home. Thank you for sharing. #TweensTeensBeyond
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    • Jo
      September 26, 2017 / 10:47 pm

      Yes it is a really good idea to get them used to managing money sooner rather than later and there are so many tools for introducing them to that now. Nicky did a great post on the GoHenry card which whilst we didn’t use it for our teens I have heard really good reports about. #TweensTeensBeyond

  13. Jo
    September 26, 2017 / 5:39 pm

    I think budgeting when you first leave home is incredibly tough and I know I found it hard when I first headed off to University but they certainly didn’t have the kind of events that are organised now. Good luck with the whole process, between Sharon and I we are a minefield of information. Thanks for linking. #TweensTeensBeyond

  14. Celine Bell, Bell from Bow
    September 26, 2017 / 4:02 pm

    Gosh, this is a quick look into the future! £400 is a huge amount of money to blow in a week, especially after the expenses of moving out of home. I hope that real alternatives to Uni in the form of apprenticeships or similar open up to allow kids from all backgrounds – financial and otherwise – to enjoy higher education #TweensTeensBeyond
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    • Jo
      September 26, 2017 / 5:42 pm

      Isn’t it just? I am glad to report now that my son’s Freshers’ Week is over that he did not spend that amount. I think I would have had a mild panic attack. With numbers like this bandied around you can understand why so many turn their back on University for a more vocational route over higher education. It will be interesting to see how the educational landscape changes over the next few years and particularly when your children go. Thanks for joining us again. #TweensTeensBeyond

  15. NR
    September 21, 2017 / 8:06 am

    Last year I couldn’t believe it when my son said they had to pay to attend Freshers events, most of which were in huge nightclubs! My memories of Freshers week consist of sweaty discos in the student Union and plastic cups of warm wine served by the various clubs in an attempt to get you to sign up.

    It’s very difficult I think for these students to stick to the budget when all the banks are offering huge free overdrafts on student bank accounts. There is little or no threat of actually running out of available funds so resisting the lure of yet another night out with new friends is difficult. I’m not sure what this teaches our young people about managing finances and attitudes to debt, but it’s not altogether good!

    One tip is to set up an Uber account so they can get home even if they don’t have any cash. If all passengers have Uber accounts they can split the fare too.

    • Jo
      September 21, 2017 / 9:52 am

      Your memories of Freshers’ Week sound identical to mine! There certainly weren’t any glitzy club nights!

      Similarly I was shocked when my son said he had bought tickets to five events in the first week. Living in London he is used to paying high prices for events and going out and I hoped that getting out of this environment would help him curb his spending. Obviously whilst the tickets for Freshers’ events are not high in comparison they all add up to a Fresher on a budget. It also appears that these tickets are not a guarantee of entry. Tickets are oversold and despite queuing for ages many have been turned away or given up on getting in.

      I will be interested to see how much my son does spend this week and how he manages going forward.

      Thanks for popping back and sharing your experiences.

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