Many university students dive straight into the wonderful world of meeting new people and going out more often than they are used to. This is great but it can be easy to forget that even students need money in their bank accounts to sustain this way of living.
When there’s so many new and exciting things to explore but also so many new expenses to keep up with, it can be a genuine struggle for students to stay on top of their finances. By reading this article, you can make sure you’re fully prepared to meet the expenses that come with being a university student in the UK.
To highlight the financial stress that exists on students’ shoulders, the NatWest Student Living Index revealed that as many as 42% of students are extremely concerned by their post-graduation finances, whilst as many as 43% of students claim to have run out of money before the end of a semester.
To help ease the stress of this transition into student financing, we have gathered some of the best tips and tricks to help you hack your way to a more cost-effective way of living. All without having to cancel any of those social events or train tickets home due to their cost.
Beat the public transport trap:
Often universities act as a bubble, sheltering students from the world of big commercial cities by providing neat and convenient accommodation relatively close to the university campus. Make the most of this while you can!
The UK is among the world’s most expensive public transport systems. Paying to get a bus or a train in to uni each day whilst on a student budget can rack up a hefty bill. Don’t do it to yourself!
Here’s how to beat the UK’s public transport trap…
- Cycle everywhere – Not only is it free and good for the environment but some universities offer a bicycle subsidy scheme. This could see you avoid having to pay the initial cost of the bike or even end up paying a reduced amount.
- Get yourself a young person’s railcard – National Rail offer a 16-25 railcard, which gives you a 1/3 off rail travel across the UK. Better still, this discount is applicable to any oyster card in London (the world’s most expensive public transport system, as current students based in London will know well!) Simply ask any TFL ticket office to apply your railcard to your oyster.
- Book in advance – Whether you’re visiting family back home or seeing friends across the country, train tickets can be extortionate when booked last minute. Always avoid a rip off by booking months in advance when possible.
Meal-prep your way to financial independence:
The Student Living Index revealed that the biggest monthly expense facing students today is still the weekly shop for food and groceries. On average, students in the UK currently spend £83.50 on supermarket shopping, household items and toiletries.
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This is an unavoidable expense and - even once you’re earning a graduate salary - if you move to an expensive city like London or Brighton, it will only increase so get in some good habits now!
So it’s clearly important to shop savvy if you want to save! Here are some things you can do to ensure you minimise food expenses:
- While it may not sound exciting, preparing a packed lunch to take to your lectures or seminars each day can take the cost of your lunch down from £5-£10 to as little as £1.50! If we assume a modest saving of £3.50 each day you prepare a packed lunch, then this represents a saving of £17.50 each week (or a huge £70 each month!)
- Plan your meals and do a big shop! Thinking ahead and working out what you want to eat over a week can really help to focus your weekly shop. This ensures you avoid needlessly overspending on items that then go to waste.
- Consider shopping at discount supermarkets or reverting to ‘own-brand’ alternatives of some of your favourite branded products.
Harness the power of FinTech and reap the rewards
You may have heard a lot of buzz on the grapevine lately over ‘FinTech’ apps. These are financial technology apps, and they’re revolutionising personal finances – If you’re a millennial and not using FinTech then you are missing out on money savings each day! Currently, 42% of students in the UK attempt to budget but do not end up sticking to their allocated budget, whilst 6% don’t consider what they’re spending at all.
Many products are available and designed specifically to help you make your student money work harder.
Some of the best FinTech apps include…
- Venmo – This app is great if you live with housemates or regularly go out for food and drinks with friends. It allows you to effortlessly split the bill between you and pay seamlessly using the app. It’s great if you need to split the cost of a utilities bill between housemates, for example.
- Wally – The expenses tracking app, Wally, is highly intuitive and enables you to see exactly where your money is going. You can also set financial goals and targets for yourself.
- Acorns – Not only does this app help collect your savings but it can actually invest your spare change for you and grow these savings into profitable investments.
In summary, there is no one big secret to making your money go further whilst at university. There are, however, many small improvements you can make to your day-today financial management that will combine save you a considerable amount of money each month.
If you would like a look at the Student Living Index in more detail then the findings are available in full here.