University is often the first taste of freedom for many young adults. It's a time of self-discovery, making choices about the future and finding others with similar passions. And, for many, it's the first time adult responsibilities set in. Amidst all the partying, sleepless study nights, and building friendships, there is rent to pay, food to buy, and laundry to do. All these things needs cold hard cash, so here is a list of ways to save money as a student.
Make a Budget
The maximum maintenance loan the average student will receive is £10, 702, with payments typically appearing at the start of each term (September, January, and April). When your bank account suddenly starts looking really healthy, it's easy to forget that this money needs to last but, unfortunately, your rent isn't suddenly going to disappear just because you've frittered away all your finances.
First of all: figure out what you need for your rent. Then lock it away.
Having two bank accounts – one as your easily accessed “active” account, where everything goes in or out, and another for saving – can be a great way to protect yourself from the temptation of a splurge. After all, out of sight is out of mind, and putting funds that aren't needed immediately away gives them a chance to earn a little interest. Banks have a a wide variety of accounts available to choose from, including high interest saving accounts to student accounts that are a bit more forgiving when it comes to the dreaded overdraft, meaning that you should be able to find a set up that suits your needs.
Next: Make a budget for food. Depending on your taste and where you're willing to shop, a weekly shop could cost anywhere from £20-£50. While it can be tempting to wing it and not plan ahead, there is nothing worse than living off of nothing but instant noodles and water. You deserve better than that.
While restaurants can have some great student deals, you can't eat out all the time. Websites like mysupermarket.co.uk will help compare prices to make sure you're getting the best deal but sometimes you may need to physically shop around. Supermarkets often reduce soon-to-be out-of-date produce towards the end of the day – which you're unlikely to see on comparison sites – and these can be a great way to boost your regular shop. Just be sure that you have room in your freezer before you splurge!
Though it is also dependant on freezer space, batch cooking can be a great way to make food last for less. A big load of chilli, curry, or spag bol (preferably using some of your finds from the reduced section and padding them out with nutritious veggies!) portioned off and frozen will mean you have multiple meals ready for those days where you can't be bothered and they won't cost you as much as a take away or ready meal. They can also be a great and healthy alternative to the after-club kebabs – just make sure you don't fall asleep before it's ready!
Another great way to save money, with the added perk of socialising, is to cook meals with friends or flatmates. Some university's discourage students from shopping together in their accommodation – to save arguments over money – but having a big meal together once in a while can add variety AND save money. Special events like Christmas or birthdays can be a good time to split the cost and effort of a big meal between cooks. And, if you're not a big cook yourself, it's a great way to learn.
Students can also save when it comes to their spending habits. Many stores and restaurants have specialised discounts or offers for students so it can be worthwhile checking around to find which places should be on your new favourite list. You can purchase an NUS card for £12 a year, which has a huge range of student discounts associated with it, but there are many places that will knock money off just with a valid student id. From New Look, who offers 10% off in-store, to McDonalds and their freebies, it's always worth asking if there are any student deals.
Plan Your Parties
One of the best parts of university life is going out and having fun. Unfortunately nights out are just one more strain on the student budget. Luckily many clubs and pubs in student-y areas will run weekly events at a cheaper price, meaning it's just a case of working out where you like and when to go. Going to an expensive club will drain your money fast. If you are going to go, consider taking cash rather than your card. Everyone has a story of going out to a club and spending more than they should, buying everyone drinks and generally 'balling' as the kids say.
Not that British Savings Week wants to encourage excessive drinking BUT if you're going to drink, you may as well get as much as you can for as little as possible. That's just good economics.
Supermarkets will always have special offers or multi-buy deals. In the long run it's better to stock up now rather than go out and get two drinks for the same price as an entire crate or beer or bottle of wine.
Pre-drinking gatherings are not only cheaper than drinking while out but they also offer great opportunities to bond with those you're heading out with. Sometimes it can be even more fun than going out, and you'll all be glad you did the next morning.
Being smart with how you travel can save you money and time. Many students choose to live in student accommodation or with friends, and may have to travel great distances to visit home. Depending on how far you need to travel, different methods of transport will help to get you home in a cost effective way. For those going between big cities, Mega Bus can be a good option as prices start from £1, while a 16-25 railcard can save up to a third on train travel across the country. If you decide to drive home, car sharing with friends going the same way can cut costs markedly.
The most important tip for any money-conscious student is, however, to be aware of your finances and budget accordingly. There is unlikely to be a time where more opportunities are available to you and, with smart savings and a bit of determination, you can take advantage of them all.