Saving for university: 10 tips to get you started today

Saving for college isn’t easy. We’ve compiled a few tips and tricks to help you along the way.
7 min read
Saving for college can seem like a daunting task, and the total amount of money required can seem like an impossible financial mountain to climb. However, by carefully calculating exactly how much money you’ll need for university, and by following a few simple steps to boost your savings, you’ll soon have an adequate college allowance to work with.Below, we answer some of the most important questions when it comes to funding your studies, ranging from how much you’ll need to save and when you should start putting some cash aside. On top of this, we’ll touch on some of the best ways to improve your bank balance.

How much do I need to save for university and college?

The amount you’ll need to save for college or university depends on where you study. The average costs for students in various European countries are as follows:

The UK:

  1. Living costs: around £1000 a month
  2. Tuition fees: around £9,250 per year for EU students


  1. Living costs: around €800 a month
  2. Tuition fees: around €170 per year


  1. Living costs: around €900 a month
  2. Tuition fees: €0, with an administrative charge of around €900 per year
  • Living costs: around €500 a month
  • Tuition fees: around €1,000 per year
  • Living costs: around €500 a month
  • Tuition fees: around €1,000 per year

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When should I start thinking about saving for university and college?

The sooner you start saving for college, the better—and this is all thanks to a phenomenon called compound interest. Put simply, this is a way to exponentially increase your savings through reinvesting the interest you earn. For example, if you were to save £100 at a rate of 5% interest, after one year, you’d have £105. After another year, you’d have £110.25—and after ten years, you’d have £163. Of course, it’s best to make sure you’ve paid off any debt before you start stashing money away for college so you have a clean slate to start with.

The 10 best ways to get saving for university and college

  1. Use a free savings calculator Online savings calculators are often free, and they offer much more than the calculator on your phone. Fidelity’s college savings calculator, for example, lets you input your anticipated expenses and your current monthly savings to check whether you’re on the right track. On the other hand, Saving for College’s calculator does this as well as letting you take scholarships and grants into account.
  2. Set up a bank account with a mobile app Banking apps are the best way to keep an eye on your savings without the hassle of logging in online or requesting paper statements. To make the process even easier, N26 offers free bank accounts that don’t require you to print off any forms or wait in line at your local bank branch. All you have to do is sign up on your smartphone and initiate a brief video call (or provide a photo) to confirm your identity, and then you’re good to go!
  3. Create a savings account Every bank offers savings options. With N26, you can set up sub-accounts (Spaces)—sub-accounts to use alongside your regular bank account—that let you easily manage your money, and help you save up for a particular purpose such as saving for college. You can then keep track of your goals as they are progressing.
  4. Take advanced classes in school As well as saving for college, you can look at ways to minimize your spend once you’re there. If you’re in the USA or Canada, you can take Advanced Placement (AP) classes during high school. These classes offer you credits which you can then put towards the completion of your university degree—this is something that 2.7 million students do every single year. There’s no comparable programme in Europe sadly, but it puts you ahead of the curve if you’re considering studying in North America.
  5. Get a job The easiest way to save money is to earn more money! While school will take up your 9-5 in term time, there’s still plenty of hours on the clock to make some cash to help with saving for college. For example, working five hours as a waitress in London on a Saturday afternoon could make you an extra £30.75 a week with current minimum wage rates. Similarly, stacking shelves for four hours in a Berlin supermarket on a Sunday could currently make you €45.95.
  6. Get scholarships Of course, if your college tuition is partially (or fully) paid for, you don’t need to save anywhere near as much money. While each university runs their own scholarship programs, overarching portals (such as the European Commission’s “Find a Scholarship” service) offer an insight into all the options that are out there, and how much they pay.
For example, if you fancy doing a master’s degree in conference interpreting, this portal can match you up with a scholarship worth up to €2,400. Not bad, right?
  1. Crowdfunding According to GoFundMe UK, a leading crowdfunding platform, education-related crowdfunding campaigns make more than £45 million every year. So, jump onboard—all you have to do is set up a page on whichever crowdfunding site appeals to you, and watch the coins roll in.
  2. Look for patrons Getting a sponsor to help fund your university and college expenses is like a more direct version of crowdfunding. Simply approach someone who you think might be in a position to offer assistance, and make your pitch. They don’t have to cover all your expenses in one go—in fact, ten people offering £40 a term would give you £1,200 a year and this goes quite some way in helping you balance the books!
  3. Eat every meal at home It’s no surprise that cutting down on eating out will help keep both your spending and your waistline in check. Swapping a meal out for a home-made cheese & tomato sandwich could help you really save some pennies. Think about it this way: a basic lunchtime menu in Spain sets you back around €12, whereas a home-made cheese & tomato sandwich costs less than a euro.
  4. Save rather than spend The more you want to save, the less you need to spend—but how does this work in practice? Try putting any money you receive (as Christmas presents, birthday gifts, etc.) straight into your savings account to avoid temptation.

How can I save for my child to go to university and college?

Of course, you might be looking 10-20 years into the future, but what can you do to ensure that your child starts their higher education off on the best financial footing possible? The principles of saving for college are the same, no matter who’s actually going to university—but of course, there are some handy savings accounts that can help even more. Take a look at the following:
  • The USA: Benefit from an “Education Savings Account” (ESA), which allows you to save up to $2,000 per annum (tax free) towards your child’s education.
  • The UK: An Individual Savings Account (ISA) lets you save up to £20,000 tax-free every year. Although you can use this money for any purpose, it’s an ideal account type for long-term savings, such as saving for college.
  • Spain: Open an account known as a “European ISA,” an option that is tax-free like its UK counterpart. However, unlike the British ISA, there is no limit to how much you can save in this account every year.
  • France: Consider a host of tax-free savings accounts, including the “Livret A,” which lets you save up to €22,950 tax-free.

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Your money at N26

Regardless of how much you’re looking to save, you’ll be able to start feathering the nest for your college days by taking these simple tips into consideration. At N26, we want to make banking easier for everyone.We’re bringing you a series of articles that shine a light on the basics of money, finance and all things banking-related—it’s often a lot simpler than you might think.


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