Swapping school for university is an exciting experience, full of promise and the prospect of newfound knowledge. But for many students, it also comes with the challenge of managing finances on a limited budget. Balancing textbooks, tuition, and the allure of social activities can often feel like walking a financial tightrope. But fear not! With the right strategies, it's entirely possible to thrive academically without breaking the bank.
We’ve come up with 10 ways to save money as a student, so that you can make the most of your time in higher education.
Make a budget
For many students, going to university is their first experience of managing their money. When loans and grants come in, it can be tempting to spend, spend, and spend some more. And the money will soon disappear.
Making a budget is the best way of working out what you need to spend money on, and when. Try and stick to your planned spends, but be sure to allocate some cash for unexpected expenses.
Haven’t got catered accommodation? It’s time to get to familiar your new kitchen! Whether you’re the next Gordon Ramsay or you struggle with burning toast, learning to cook a few simple dishes is a great way to save money. It’s also kinder on your waistline than having too many takeaways. What’s not to like?!
For a student saving money preparing meals, your freezer will become your new best friend. If you don’t mind having the same meal two or three days in a row, you’re on to a winner! Try cooking multiple portions of the same meal, and freezing half.
Avoid your overdraft
Most banks don’t charge interest on student overdrafts. It can be tempting to think of your overdraft as an extension of your bank account, but it is still money you’ll eventually have to pay back.
Being careful with your overdraft is a good habit to get into early. If you build up your overdraft throughout your studies, when you finish at uni your account may convert automatically into a graduate account, and you might suddenly find unexpected interest charges.
Get a railcard
Sometimes you need to spend a bit to save a lot. If you’re likely to be travelling by train with any regularity, a 16-25 railcard is a must. Especially if you’re commuting from home. They cost £30 for a year, and get you 1/3 off rail fares. You can also get a three year railcard for £70: which can save you even more if you can commit to a lot of train travel.
Some student bank accounts offer a free railcard as an incentive for signing up – these are definitely worth some research to see if that’s right for you.
Shop in the evening
Did you know that your groceries can cost a different amount depending on when you shop? Well, sort of. In the evening, supermarkets will start to reduce the prices on some items they need to sell by the end of the day.
By delaying your shop by a few hours, you could get the exact same food that’s still perfectly fresh, for a lower price than it was earlier in the day. Look out for those yellow stickers and become a savvy shopper to save.
Don’t shop when you’re hungry
Speaking of food shopping, another student money saving tip is to avoid going to the supermarket when you’re hungry. When hungry, it’s easy to overspend, especially on snacks. Instead, write a shopping list and stick to it. Eat before you go the shop, and you’ll be less likely to buy food you want, rather than need.
Between you and your flatmates, you might decide to do an online food shop. This can be an easier way to make sure you only buy the food you need, and can save a bit of money.
Don’t buy your textbooks straightaway
It can be tempting to start buying your textbooks before your course starts for some early research. Textbooks can be expensive, and buying books you don’t end up using is a waste of money. Instead, wait until you know what modules you’ll be taking, before you work out if you need to buy the book or not.
Depending on how well stocked your library is, or if resources are available online, you might get away with not buying many textbooks. But there could be some key texts where it makes sense for you to own your own copy.
Look for student discounts
One of the best things about being a student is the number of discounts available to you. Some are more obvious than others, and it’s always worth asking in shops whether they offer any student discounts.
Some might require you to have a TOTUM card, but with others you might just need to show your student ID card. Have a look at online subscriptions with student discounts as well, such as Perlego – perfect for academic resources.
Split the costs with flatmates
Depending on how well you get on with your flatmates, you may all decide that you want to split the cost of some shared items. Are there any types of food and drink you want to share, such as milk and teabags? Do you want to split the cost of cleaning products? These are all things you need to consider.
Textbooks can be expensive. And you might have a hard time getting hold of some. If you can avoid buying textbooks, using the library and online resources is the way to go. But if you need your own copy of a book, have a look at the secondhand market.
You might find in university Facebook groups that students who took our modules last year are selling their old textbooks – you might get yourself a bargain or two.