There’s no denying that students often get a pretty bad reputation for their questionable money management skills. University is likely to be your very first time living away from home, and with all of that new-found independence, combined with a lump sum of cash dropped into your bank account at the start of the term, comes the temptation to spend your money exactly how you want to. Though, we don’t even have to tell you that that’s a bad idea.
Although that’s certainly not the case for everyone, it’s still no secret that when you’re a student, money is tight nonetheless. With student loans barely stretching to cover the cost of rent alone, it’s no surprise that, these days, the very thought of having to get by on a student budget is putting more and more young people off the idea of going to university at all.
Whilst it’s definitely no easy road, living on a student budget is, of course, entirely possible - all it takes is some money savviness. To help see you through the academic year, here are some easy peasy ways to save money as a student to make sure your money stretches further at university.
1. Student accommodation vs living at home.
Many new students tend to opt for moving out of their family home and into student accommodation, whether it be on or off campus, during their time at university. Living at home while studying isn’t typically considered the norm, and many are too afraid to feel as though they’re missing out on new-found independence and the student social-life. However, living at home and instead choosing to commute during your time at university may just prove to be a significant money saver, especially when you consider the rising cost of rent. There are pros and cons on both sides, though it is important to consider what might be best for you and your personal financial situation.
2. Budget as soon as your loan comes in.
We get it. As soon as your loan has dropped into your bank account, it’s hard to ignore that little inner voice screaming at you to “TREAT YO’ SELF!” - resisting the temptation to do so is nothing short of excruciating. But trust us when we say that budgeting as soon as your loan hits your bank account is absolutely crucial for saving your pennies at university. Seriously. Before you do anything else, set aside money for your essential expenses such as your rent, utility bills, food shop and any savings. As a result, you can be sure that all of your expenses will be paid and you’ll know exactly how much you have left to spend how you want to.
3. Shop around for the best student bank account.
Each and every year, banks will offer a plethora of irresistible perks to draw students in. Before diving head-first into the first offer you see, be sure to make the effort to clue up on the best student bank accounts on the market and compare. Arguably, one of the biggest priorities when selecting your student bank account should be an interest-free overdraft - having one makes for a reliable back-up when faced with any sudden, unexpected or emergency costs.
4. Make the most of pre-drinks.
We’re serious. Even the local student-friendly bars and pubs in your university town can be rather expensive, especially if you hit them every other night. So, gather your friends and make the most of pre-drinks beforehand. Drinking games with your mates before a big night out can be half the fun, anyway…
5. Leave your card at home on nights out.
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Speaking of nights out - taking your card out with you on a big night out is a dangerous game, and we don’t recommend paying with it. Instead, take out some cash and leave your card safely at home. That way, you can be sure that you won’t drunkenly spend way over budget, and you won’t have the fear when you look at your bank balance the next morning.
6. Don’t food shop when you’re hungry.
Having the freedom to buy your own food is a truly wonderful thing, but it can be so easy to overspend, especially when you shop hungry (or hungover). Instead, plan your meals in advance down to the very last ingredient. That way, you’ll know exactly what you need to buy, and how much you’ll need to spend - and you’ll be way less likely to waste anything. As well, pre-planning your weekly meals means you’ll be less inclined to order an expensive takeaway.
7. Make the effort to cook with your housemates.
On the subject of cooking - why not try to reduce the cost of your food shop even further by clubbing together with your housemates? Not only will you save money, but you’ll get to spend quality time with your housemates, and maybe even improve your cooking skills. You don’t even have to splash out on a cookbook - you can find a plethora of easy, student-budget friendly recipes on sites such as BBC Good Food.
8. Get to know your discounts.
One of the biggest perks of being a student is the sheer amount of discounts and student incentives that are on offer to you from an abundance of retailers. Get to know which high street stores offer the biggest discounts and you can save money on all of your essentials, such as study materials, clothes, food, toiletries and more. As well, don’t forget to invest in an NUS Extra card. The card costs just £12 per year and gives you access to over 200 discounts online and in store. Getting to know your student discounts could save you a fortune!
9. Earn some extra income.
If your course allows enough free time for you to take on a part-time job, grab one to earn a bit of extra income. University towns often have regular openings for retail staff, waiting staff and bar staff. If for whatever reason taking on a part-time job isn’t an option for you, there are plenty of money making opportunities to be found online, such as student brand ambassador schemes.
10. Don’t rush into buying textbooks.
At the start of the academic year, you might have a small heart attack when you receive a reading list valuing more than your parents’ house (well, not quite, but it can certainly feel like it). Believe it or not, not every book on your reading list is an absolute necessity, and buying every single one can often be a huge waste of money - especially if you’re buying them brand new. Wait a while to suss out which core texts you’ll really need, and even then you can buy them second-hand from older students. As for the others, if needs be, you can always borrow them from the library.