The average student at a Scottish University will graduate with approximately £11,000 of debt. Whilst this is a dizzy amount, it is the harsh reality of the cost of education. Almost all students will graduate with debts, be it a student loan, bank overdraft or credit/store card.

The chances are that at some time during your university course you may find yourself in difficulty – when that happens contact the people to whom you owe money as soon as possible. They can be surprisingly understanding and helpful.

Whatever you do – do not miss a payment – at least pay whatever you can afford.

The first thing to do is to make sure you are getting all the money you are entitled to. If necessary contact The Student Advice Centre staff to check this for you.

There are a number of different places you can go do discuss your money worries- see the facilities and services section to the left for further information.

Rent Arrears

Rent is your biggest outgoing and the most important thing that you should keep on top of. First off, never skip a month's rent on the assumption that you’ll make it up another time- chances are that if you can’t afford one month, there’s no hope in hell of you finding the money for two. Landlords can, and will, evict you if it comes down to it so do keep this in mind. 

However as a tenant, you do have some rights and eviction does require legal intervention. If you are worried, call into The Student Advice Centre for a confidential chat with one of our assistants.

Council Tax Arrears

Most students won’t be paying any council tax, but those of you who are need to know that it’s another priority. Aberdeen City Council has all sorts of powers to recover money without having to go through the normal court hearing, and this can include freezing your bank account or demanding a cut of your wages direct from your employer.

If you are eligible for Council Tax exemption, make sure you get your exemption form stamped by the Registry and sent or handed in to the Council as soon as possible.

Please note that you can collect your council tax exemption form from the AUSA Student Advice Centre.

Utilities Arrears

After paying your rent, utility bills are next on your priority list (yes you CAN live off dry pasta and tinned tomatoes if you have to). We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again- budget for these things. Work out how much roughly you will need to set aside a month/ quarter or year depending on when the payments are due. 

It might be useful to nominate one person to deal with each type of bill, so that you avoid confusion over who paid what and when. Make sure you are clear about the rules right from the start – if somebody is hardly ever in the flat are they still expected to contribute an equal share? Will you be going through the phone bill with a highlighter pen or just split it equally and hope no-one’s taking advantage?

In the event that you are having problems with paying your bills, get in touch with the suppliers and demonstrate that you are a responsible customer and are doing your best to sort the problem. Often they will be willing to help and you may be able to negotiate lower monthly payments or even discover that you’ve been paying too much. 

Read the meters at the beginning and end of your stay. If a bill or statement comes in based on an estimated reading, check it – you may be overpaying or you may be underpaying and will be landed with a bigger bill next time.

Being charged for not paying by Direct Debit? Send a letter of protest to your utility company.

Consumer Debt

Bank loans, overdrafts, credit cards, store cards, catalogues, credit arrangements, hire purchase agreements. All of these are ‘consumer debt’ and you will probably have at least one of them at some point. Quite frankly, they are overly expensive and unless you are 100% sure that you will be able to pay them back at the end of the month, steer well clear of them. 

If you are shopping around for credit make sure you check the APR figure which is designed so you can compare the cost of different sources of credit. Usually store cards have a fairly high APR, credit cards a bit lower, bank loans lower still. Some catalogues and credit agreements are interest free, provided you pay within a certain period.

One thing to look out for is a monthly charge for PPI- Payment Protection Insurance. Check to see if you actually need such cover as it is normally irrelevant to students.

Whatever you do, have a realistic idea of your budget and how much you can really afford in repayments, before you sign up to anything.