The workshop

Planning your finances as a student

OT  poses questions from members to our resident experts. This time, AOP affinity partners, Lloyd & Whyte, on managing your money as an optometry student


The scenario:

Sasha, AOP member

“I am a first year undergraduate currently studying for my optometry degree, and would benefit from some advice on how to plan my finances effectively. Are there tips and tools you can share?”

The advice:

Harmy Bains, Lloyd & Whyte independent financial adviser


of young people feel anxious about money

Financial planning while you’re at university may be towards the bottom of your list of priorities. Your focus is likely to be on studying, exams, and let’s face it: having fun. But it’s never too soon to develop and maintain good habits around money – habits and strategies that can last a lifetime.

According to the London Institute of Banking and Finance, 81% of young people feel anxious about money. Concern around their current and future finances could stem from the lack of financial education in schools. Although showing signs of improvement in the past few years, only 27% of 17 to 18-year-olds had access to education around money within the last school term.1

When anxiety around money is prevalent, getting information and putting a plan in place can help you feel and be more organised. Good money habits apply to people of all ages and economic circumstances and preparing for your financial future sooner rather than later can make the difference between realising your goals and falling short of them.

Open a savings account

It’s always good to have a practical and attainable savings strategy, which can motivate you to set financial goals that are both manageable and within reach. Opening a savings account and if you can, making regular deposits into it, will help you build up a fund for emergencies and life events.

Create a budget

Keep a record of your income and expenditure (Excel spreadsheets can be a great way to organise information effectively). You will be able to see how much you spend, what you spend on, what your income is (especially useful if you have more than one income stream) and it will also show you how much you may have left over at the end of each month. Your budget can include rent, bills, contents insurance, books, tech, and other study tools. You can also account for socialising and other expenses such as clothes, sports, and hobbies.

Clearing debts

We advise you prioritise repaying any debts you may have. If you hold credit cards, store cards and overdrafts, consider paying them off or reducing them as much as you can. If you have debts, make sure you make the minimum payment (at least) each month and target the loans with the highest interest rate first.

If you hold a mortgage and you’re struggling to manage it or are coming off a fixed-rate deal in the next few months, it’s worth talking to a mortgage adviser about your options. Our qualified in-house Mortgage Adviser can potentially help you find a deal that suits your circumstances.

Build a good credit score

A good credit score can be useful when you’re buying your first home, getting credit for larger items such as a car, or getting a loan for a wedding or other significant life event. Making credit card repayments, car finance payments, and even paying your Netflix subscription on time can all help towards building a stronger, higher credit rating.

Protect your contents

We provide cover specifically designed to protect students and graduates living in halls of residence or a shared house. For a quote or to find out more, please visit us online.

Paying tax

Make sure you don’t overpay tax. If you’re employed during term time, you may need to pay income tax and National Insurance contributions (NICs) on earnings over £12,570 a year, which equates to around £1,042 a month.

Please note: the current Income Tax allowance stated above is for the tax year 6 April 2023 to 5 April 2024. As a student, if you earn more than £190 per week, you may need to pay National Insurance (NICs) contributions.

If you’re self-employed (for example, side hustling as an app entrepreneur) you will need to complete an annual Self-Assessment form, which can be found online.

Any tax owed will need to be paid by 31 January, or you could be fined for late payment.

If you have paid too much tax, you could be eligible for a tax refund.

HMRC does not include UK bursaries and scholarships as part of a person’s Personal Allowance and therefore, it is not taxed, but it’s worth double checking this with HMRC.

Stop worrying; start planning

Financial goals are usually divided into the short-term, medium-term, and longer-term.

  • Short-term: saving for the items or life experiences that you’re aiming for within a one-to-two-year timeframe. This might include buying a new laptop, saving up for a holiday or buying a car
  • Medium-term: usually within one-to-five-year timeframe, medium-term goals consist of plans that may need more funding such as further education, a wedding, or a longer overseas trip
  • Longer-term: these are financial goals that may take longer to save for such as a deposit on a first home or planning for retirement.

You might want to start investing and planning for retirement when you have your first job, but thinking about how you’d like your retirement to look sooner rather than later can put you on a more solid footing when it comes to making decisions on how your money can work for you.

Talking to an independent financial adviser can help

Remember, you don’t need to have a lot of money to talk to an independent financial adviser. Lloyd & Whyte’s independent financial advisers are not tied in with any specific product or plan, so they can provide expertise around building a tailored financial plan for you as an individual. They’ve been working in association with the AOP for nearly 10 years, providing insurance and financial planning for AOP members.

Lloyd & Whyte are proud to be part of the Benefact Group – a charity-owned family of financial services companies that give all available profits to charity and good causes.

If you’d like to start building a financial plan with Lloyd & Whyte, please book an appointment or call 01823 250750.


Lloyd & Whyte (Financial Services) Ltd are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England No. 02092560. Registered Office: Affinity House, Bindon Road, Taunton, Somerset, TA2 6AA.

It is important to take professional advice before making any decision relating to your personal finances. Information within this article is based on our current understanding of taxation and can be subject to change in future. It does not provide individual tailored investment advice and is for guidance only. We cannot assume legal liability for any errors or omissions it might contain. Calls may be recorded for use in quality management, training and customer support.