Two fifths of students are only just balancing their finances while one in six falls short each month, a study found on Wednesday.
Some 16% of those surveyed said they do not have enough cash to meet their monthly outgoings, while a further 40% said they are only just keeping within budget and money is tight, Lloyds TSB's student finance report found.
Lloyds TSB estimated from current account transactions that the average student income is around £7,000, of which nearly half (46%) comes from student loans.
More than three quarters (77%) of people surveyed said they expect to leave university with debts, while three in five (60%) said they are likely to end up owing more than £10,000, although around one in six (16%) students said they expect to leave university owing nothing at all.
Nearly half (47%) of the students surveyed said they were concerned about the level of debt they were taking on.
Some 49% had taken on a full or part-time job within the last academic year - and a quarter of those who worked during term time said that it had affected their studies in a negative way.
Nearly half of those who had taken on paid work said they had done so to make ends meet, while 14% said they had done this to build up their CV.
The report comes a day before this year's A-level results and amid a move to triple tuition fees.
Students starting degree courses at English universities this autumn will pay tuition fees of up to £9,000. Loans can be taken out to cover the fees, which are repayable when a graduate is earning £21,000 or more.
Jatin Patel, director of current accounts at Lloyds TSB, said: "For many, going to university is one of the biggest financial commitments they will have to face in their lifetime, and with the introduction of higher tuition fees from next month it is perhaps more important than ever for students to stay in control of their finances.
"Our research shows that the majority of students already expect to leave university with some sort of debt, and most expect to see the amount they will owe extend into five figures."
Peter Vicary-Smith, chief executive of consumer body Which?, said: "With increases in fees and young people leaving university with more debt than ever, deciding which university to go to is one of the biggest financial decisions they will make.
"It is vital for prospective students to have access to independent advice which is why we are launching a new, free website Which? University to help everyone applying to university to make the right choice."
While more than a quarter of students said they placed any leftover cash into a savings account, almost the same proportion said they used their spare money to treat themselves.
Some 2,000 people in full-time education at university in the UK during the 2011/12 academic year took part in the survey. Research was undertaken over July and August this year.