Planning for university on a budget

The big push towards university truly begins from the moment you put your pen down in the last A-level exam of the summer.

The day you get to wear a funny hat seems a long way off as a fresher

You talk with friends about the grades you need to get to your first choice university, what the nightlife is meant to be like there and whether any of your mates will be in the same city as you.

All very exciting, but then there's the bit we don't like to think about - money.

If your last summer before going to university is lined up to be anything like mine was, you'll spend it working to pay for your university starter kit. That means a laptop, printer, digital camera and more.

You'll want to turn up to freshers week with as much cash in your pocket as possible… or at least delay going into your overdraft for a couple of weeks.

The number one purchase

You'll use it to take notes in lectures, write up assignments and crucially, use it to do all of your best Facebook stalking after a night out. Cheap laptops are at the top of every prospective student's shopping list.

Before you buy a laptop, think about what you're going to use it for. An English student might only need a basic laptop which can run Microsoft Office and browse the web, but an architect or graphic designer will probably need a much more powerful laptop.

Why not check the minimum spec of the programs you're going to use against the laptop you have in mind?

Give some thought to where you will use your new laptop. Go for a smaller laptop if you're planning on taking it to every lecture, but if it's mostly going to be sat at home then you may prefer a bigger screen for watching HD movies.

But above all, you should buy a laptop that will fit your needs for the duration of your course, whether that's three years or more. So it might make sense to spend a bit more to future-proof your laptop.

What else?

Taking your own printer to university might not be essential, but it will help you dodge the cost of printing off at the library. Be smart and factor in the cost of ink when you're buying a printer. Paying a little bit more in the first place could cut costs in the future.

A good digital camera could also more than pay for itself come the end of your contract in halls or a rented house. Take photos of your new home, especially any damaged bits, when you move in - then you'll have photographic evidence if there's any dispute with your landlord when you leave.

While laptops, digital cameras and printers are all very practical, your biggest moneysaving gadget could well be a drinks chiller. You can cut down the cost of a night out by enjoying a couple of beers at home before hitting the town.

Getting enough money together to pay for university is hard work, but you can still pick up some pretty clever gadgets and leave enough money rattling around in your pockets to buy another round of drinks.

Are you off to university in the next few months? Which pieces of tech top your shopping list? Comment below or tweet @DixonsinTheKnow