Understanding your Finances



Budgeting can be difficult both in university and after you graduate, no matter your living arrangement – please visit our Advice Service for more tools and tips to assist with this.


Benefits and How to Claim:


Here are the most common benefit schemes that graduates are entitled to when unemployed:

Job Seekers Allowance

Name: Job Seekers Allowance (JSA)
Maximum Potentially Eligible For: Up to £114.85 a week for a couple, £73.10 if you are over 25, up to £57.90 if you are under 25
Other Non-Financial Benefits: Support in looking for a job, which you must agree to actively do to keep getting your payments 
Progression System? No
Only Eligible if claiming another Benefit? 
Can you receive it if you are still in work? Yes, must work less than 16 hours a week
Requirement of a Disability or Illness: No
How do you get paid? Into your bank account, after you have proved you have been job seeking
How do you find out more? Go here

Note: this is one of the benefits which is affected by the recent changes to Universal Credit, so see the advice at the top of the page about Universal Credit.


Universal Credit

Name: Universal Credit
Maximum Potentially Eligible For: £489.89 a month if you are in a couple and over 25 - there are then additions for if you have children or a disability 
Other Non-Financial Benefits: None
Progression System? Yes, depending on your circumstances
Only Eligible if claiming another Benefit? No, this replaces several other benefits however
Can you receive it if you are still in work? Yes, the amount you receive reduces the more hours you work, but there are no restrictions on hours worked
Requirement of a Disability or Illness: No, but this can increase payments 
How do you get paid? Monthly into your bank account
How do you find out more? Go here

You might also be eligible for help with NUS prescriptions and health costs, and you can take this five minute checker to see if you are eligible. 

How can you claim the benefits:


You will need to register for them through the government’s website.


Council Tax:


Who has to pay it?


If you are over 18 and rent or own a home, you will have to pay it unless you are exempt. Full-time students are exempt.

Other exemptions are:

  • children under 18,
  • apprentices,
  • if you get funding from the Skills Funding Agency or Young People's Learning Agency,
  • student nurses,
  • foreign language assistants with the British Council,
  • people with a severe mental impairment,
  • live-in carers who look after someone that isn’t their partner/spouse/child under 18 years of age
  • diplomats

How much is it?


This depends on three key things:

1. Your property

  • All properties are valued from Band A to Band H.
  • The lower the band, the less you pay; the higher the band, the more you pay.
  • The value of each house in England was decided in April 1991, so there is a chance that you think the value of the house is wrong- you can challenge this by: 
    • Find your property's Council Tax Band on the valuation list.
    • From 'Council Tax band details' choose 'Do you think your Council Tax band is wrong' choose 'Check if you can formally challenge your Council Tax band'.
    • Answer the questions on the checklist to find out if you can make a challenge.
    • Select 'Make a formal challenge to your Council Tax Band'.

In England, the Bands are as follows:



Band A

Up to £40,000

Band B


Band C


Band D


Band E


Band F


Band G


Band F

More than £320,000    

For Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, find out the information here.

2. Where you live

  • It can vary dramatically dependent on the part of the country you live in, so it might be something you want to consider when looking to buy or rent a property.

In Leicester, for the 2018/2019 financial year, the charges are as follows.


Annual Charge

Split into 10 months

Split into 12 months

Band A




Band B




Band C




Band D




Band E




Band F




Band G




Band F




You can find your local council and how much it will charge by using this checker.

3. Who lives in the property

You may be entitled to a discount, across England and Wales you get 25% off if you live alone or you are the only person in the house who has to pay council tax (for example, if you are working full time and all of your housemates are full time students. 

Other local authorities (i.e. councils) offer varying discount schemes as well. Enter your Postcode on this checker here to see what other discounts your council may be offering. 

How do you pay it?

  • Councils tend to have a variety of different options to pay including:
    • Direct Debit
    • Standing Order
    • By Phone (With a Debit or Credit Card)
    • Cheque
    • PayPoint
  • If you are living in Leicester, look at your payment options here
  • Most councils ask for 10 monthly instalments, with no tax owed in February and March, although more and more councils are starting to allow you to pay in 12 monthly instalments instead -so you should check out your local council to see if this is an option. 
  • If you want, you can pay it all in one go at the start of the tax year (May), but it is probably easier to spread it out over the year!

What does it go towards?


Council Tax makes up about 25% of the council's income (Source), the rest comes from the Central Government and business rates. 


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