Since leaving school in 2016, there’s been countless times when I’ve had to work something (very important) out by myself – or, more realistically, ring my mum late at night to ask for advice. And I’m not the only one. My friends and I often chat about why we had to spend hours finding the value of x, but no one spent even a minute explaining how mortgages work or how much to budget for food whilst you’re at uni. So I’m taking it upon myself to tell you the things I wish my teachers had told me.

How much does life cost?

Before I moved out and went to uni, I had NO idea how much my parents spent on things like bills, groceries, and hobbies. No one told me what to expect. Did I need to budget £50 or £500 a month? Of course, everyone’s outgoings will be different and will depend on income, location, diet, and many more factors. But here’s what you can roughly expect:

  • Groceries: Aim to spend about £25 a week on groceries. Keep you receipts each time you do a shop so you can see if this seems high or too low and adjust accordingly. After you first few weeks at uni, you’ll get into the swing of it and will know how much you’ll spend on food (and booze). Once you’ve worked it out, make sure you’ve got this money put aside so you don’t spend it on something you don’t need – there’s nothing worse than having to eat plain pasta for a week.
  • Car: How much can a car really cost after you’ve bought it? The answer: A lot. Firstly, you have to get your driving license which costs up to £98 just to take the tests. Then you’ve got to think about driving lessons. There’s also road tax, a yearly MOT, petrol, insurance (which can be very high for young people), repairs and servicing, parking permits and more. Nimble Fins estimates the average UK car owner spends upwards of £3,100 to run their car each year. The bus is sounding a lot better now, isn’t it? I’d also recommend finding a parent, sibling or friend who knows about cars and asking them to run you through things like how to check your tire pressure, how often you need to change the oil, and what the things under your bonnet do.
  • Household bills: Do you love having the heating on all day, everyday, and take long, luxurious showers? Well think again. The average student spends £37 on household bills each month (according to Save the Student). But wait, what are household bills? You have to pay for electricity, wifi, water, gas, and a TV license, and if you forget, you can get some pretty big fines.


What is a loan? Where do I get one? Do I have to pay it back?

There’s a lot of different types of loans – but yes, you do have to pay them back (sadly). If you’re thinking about taking out a loan, it a really important that you research it properly, and it’s best to talk it through with someone you trust so you can be reassured in your decision. Here’s some that are useful to know about:

  • Student loans: If you’re planning on going to university, you will most likely decide to get a student loan. There are two types and most students will use both, unless they, or their family are in a position to pay up-front.
  • Tuition Fee Loan: this pays for your tuition fees for each year of your course. This money will go straight from the Government to your university, so you will never see it in your account. It will gain interest and you will start paying it back once you’ve left university and start earning £26,565 a year.
  • Maintenance Loan: The Government will loan you up to £12,010 each year that you are at university. This will contribute to your living costs and help you pay for things like rent, bills and groceries – and make sure you do set it aside for this, because you will majorly regret it if you decided to use it for a night out and a new designer outfit.
  • Mortgages: These are low interest loans to help you buy a house. Traditionally you have 25 years to pay your mortgage, but you can opt for longer or shorter periods depending on your financial position.
  • Business loans: You might be interested in starting your own business when you leave school. If so, you should research business loans. These can help get your ideas up and running and turn your dream into a reality. Make sure you fully understand what you’re doing before you sign any paperwork.
  • Payday loans: You may have seen exciting adverts on TV for payday loans, but you should be very wary of taking money from these companies. They have very high interest rates, so you will end up paying back a lot more than what you received. It is very easy to get in a mess with these, and people often end up borrowing from another payday company to in order to pay back a previous payday loan.


I’m only 18, why do I have to pay for my pension now?

It is a strange concept to be thinking about a pension when you still have around 50 years until you’ll be able to claim it. But nonetheless, this is a very important subject, and it can be hard to get your head around. When you reach the State Pension age the Government will pay you a secure regular income. This age is dependent on when you were born (I will receive mine in 2065 – yikes!). Your employer is likely to arrange a workplace pension for you, in which a percentage of your salary will go to each month. Although tempting to just have that money now and start paying into your pension pot later, the earlier you start saving, the better chance you’ll be able to do all the things you want to when you retire.


Politics and government

It’s easy to switch off from politics because it seems just too confusing and boring. But if you understand it, it can be some of the best reality tv out there – as well as being crucial in your day-to-day life. Here’s some resources to help you get to grips with it all:


This probably hasn’t covered everything you want to know about leaving home, getting a job, and paying for electricity, but it should get you going in the right direction.