Whether you have a part-time (or full-time) job to help fund your studies or not, saving money as a student in the UK is a formidable task. The temptation to spend is everywhere, everyday expenses are constantly on the rise and typical student budgets stay exactly the same.
However, by adopting a suitably frugal outlook on student life, you’d be surprised at how much money you can save, even by making the most trivial of cutbacks, without rendering yourself a penniless, debt-ridden student stereotype.
Broken down by category, here are our top money saving tips for students in the UK.
Save Money on Food
You don’t have to be rich to live rich when it comes to food, but you do have to stop eating out or succumbing to greasy takeaways so often. The temptation to do so between lectures or especially when stumbling home after a night out can be irresistible, but you must be strong!
Wait until you get home, where you can lovingly prepare (and devour) a ham and cheese toastie or reheat the rest of last night’s chicken curry etc. If you were really thinking ahead, you could have cooked in bulk at the weekend and conserved numerous Tupperware boxes of chili-con-carne in the freezer.
If your kitchen flare doesn’t extend as far as chicken curry or chili-con-carne then the solution is simple: learn to cook! Bulk-cooking is absolutely the easiest way to save money on food. Get some great ideas from studentrecipes.com.
Moreover, you needn’t throw away fruit and veg that have allegedly past its sell-by date. The difference between ‘best before end’ and ‘display until’ is probably greater than you think, but you should of course be more vigilant when it comes to meat and milk, i.e. sniff before you scoff.
Save Money on Transport Costs
In the UK, there are plenty of ways to save money on transport. Firstly, you’ll need a Young Person’s Railcard (railcard.co.uk), which full-time students of any age can apply for (so no worries if you don’t consider yourself to be ‘young’). For just £30 a year (or £70 for three years), students get one third cut from the full price of any train ticket. It’s simply a no-brainer if you intend to take the train more than 3 or 4 times in a year.
You could also save on train fares by splitting the journey into numerous tickets for the its constituent parts, even though you will stay on the same train the whole time! Bizarrely, this is often cheaper than buying a ticket from A to B, so is worth looking into before making your final decision. The only rule is that the train must call in at every station you’ve purchased a ticket for.
Alternatively, if travel by train is too expensive, even with a railcard or by splitting tickets, there are always car-sharing websites like blablacar.co.uk which not only save you loads of money, but often result in interesting conversations with like-minded strangers and help combat CO2 emissions. On the flipside, this helps drivers cut costs on petrol too.
And of course getting around your home city could not be easier or cheaper if you had a trusty bike to ride. It’s worthwhile investing in a good bike, which you could pick up second-hand on sites like preloved.co.uk, the cost of which will be inevitably surpassed by the savings made on train/bus fares.
If you are more likely to get about using your own vehicle, then consider student-focused car insurance deals which can save you money in the long run.
Save Money when Going Out
Student nights out are made infinitely cheaper by staying at home and engaging in a ‘healthy’ dose of pre-drinking before moving on to a busy bar or club. Needless to say, it’s also a lot quieter, probably more comfortable and perfect for getting the night started with a hilarious drinking game (‘Ring of Fire’, anyone?)
You can further add to your savings by pretending your important and bagging a spot on a club’s guest list. Usually, all that’s required to achieve this is a Facebook page ‘like’ or ‘share’ a few days in advance; then you’re in for free. You might run the risk of spamming – and subsequently losing – a few Facebook friends but who cares; you’re a student and public face must inevitably be compromised by selfish acts from time to time.
What’s more, if you’ve missed out on tickets for a gig you’d happily sell your kidney to go to, before you resort to such drastic measures you might want to regularly check out sites like Twickets or Scarlet Mist, which offer tickets for upcoming gigs and concerts at face value or, at the very least, prices that don’t make you shake your head in disgust and despair.
Most importantly, be disciplined and leave your debit card at home. There is nothing quite as horrifying a waking up to find a wad of costly and drunkenly- procured card receipts in your wallet the next morning.
How to Save on Shopping Bills
Milk your NUS card for every penny. Often, you won’t realise what student discounts you are entitled to, so it’s worth whipping it out at the cash checkout in every shop, café or restaurant you go to. You will make massive savings by doing this.
At the supermarket, the mission to save money where possible can become an obsession, but also actually quite fun if you put your mind to it. The reduced shelves should be your first port of call, and subsequently inspected fully. Don’t walk away after 30 seconds because you think you’ve lingered for too long. In other words, don’t let ‘shame’ get in the way of a good bargain; this is a senseless ideology for snobs.
Try buying non-branded goods and see how it goes. It might be less glamourous but you’ll probably find that the difference in taste between branded and non-branded is often minimal, or not noticeable at all. That’s not to say you shouldn’t treat yourself to a packet of premium Chocolate Hobnobs once in a while though; there are certain products that we, as a human race, ought never to deprive ourselves of.
And most importantly, NEVER do a big shop on an empty stomach. The financial impact could be devastating.
How to Make Money as a Student
It’s all very well saying that you should go and get a part-time job to supplement your student loan, but sometimes this is basically impossible with the workload you get from your studies. In such cases, it might be easier for students to make money regularly by taking part in short, online surveys (with sites like swagbucks.com) that can pay up to hundreds in cash or online vouchers if done often enough. It’s time-consuming but a reasonable alternative to working part-time.
You can also make money back by selling possessions that are no longer needed. For example, any course books that you are required to purchase can always be resold to fellow students in the following academic year or trimester. Forget sentimentality; your finances matter more. Sports equipment, musical instruments and electronic devices will also help balance the bank.
These are just a few tips on how to budget as a student; but plenty to get you thinking about different ways you can save money on a regular basis.
For more tips, tricks and shortcuts to make student life easier and cheaper, head over to our ‘Best Life Hacks for Students’ post. Or check out our current range of courses which offer a cheaper alternative to traditional higher education courses.