The idea of heading to university with your maintenance loan in your bank account can feel like an exhilarating experience. You may not have been responsible for this sum of money before and it can feel very tempting to spend without a second thought. However, it is also very easy for this to get out of hand and before you know it, you are left with barely enough for a night out! Read a few handy ways to save money, to ensure you don’t fall into the trap of being worried about money 24/7.
1. Invest in a reusable coffee cup and water bottle
Not only will you be massively helping the environment, you will also help your bank account out too. A quick coffee on your way to lectures, or a bottle of water while you wait for your seminar to begin are easy ways to kill time and quite often become a routine. However, that £2.20 coffee everyday will soon start to add up! Lots of coffee shops now offer a discount for customers bringing their own reusable cup. Better yet, if you want to take it a step further, you can make your coffee at home and enjoy it on your journey to class. Double savings!
2. Buy second-hand books where possible
Lots of courses require students to buy a huge amount of books and textbooks! Often, students will read half of these, barely open them or may not even need them! Before you start buying all of your course books, check any university facebook pages. Often students from the year before will want to sell their old / unused books and often offer these at a discounted price. Ebay and Amazon also have sellers selling these books second hand at a discounted price.
3. Buddy up on food shops
Doing a weekly food shop can start to add up, depending on where you are shopping. If you have a flatmate who is happy to split the shop with you, this can be a great way to not only bond with your flatmates, but also save some money on food costs. As you will only be cooking for 1, buying 1kg of onions just doesn’t make sense. However, splitting costs of bulk items can be more cost effective. Depending on your location, it might be easier to get your food shop delivered too. Often supermarkets can do free or discounted delivery for orders over £40, so not only can you save money, you can also save yourself the struggle of lugging home tins, bottles and whatever else you find!
4. Learn to boil rice!
A common student staple is boil-in-the-bag rice. While this may be fine for those occasional days where you just need a quick meal, in the long run it is basically a waste of money. Often the cost of one or two pouches of rice (4 servings) is the same price as 1kg of rice, which can last you about a month or two. If you find yourself always buying the same convenience/ready made items, consider if you can make it yourself and how much money you could save.
5. TREAT yourself to a take-away
We get it, you’re away from home, you’re in charge of your spending, you make the decisions. No one can roll their eyes when you suggest getting a take-away for the 3rd night in a row. But if you want to save any of your maintenance loan, you should consider restricting your take-away days. Plus, if you make it a weekly or monthly flat occasion, you will save on delivery costs … Bonus! If you are not the best cook or the most confident in the kitchen, try to practise a few basic meals at home. Perfecting a classic spaghetti bolognese or a curry will ease your worries and can be a nice way to begin your culinary journey!
6. Student nights are the way to go
If you are from a big city, and your university is in a slightly smaller city the nightlife might take some adjusting to. However, what it might lack in high-end clubs, famous DJ’s and parties, it will probably make up for in cheap drinks and entry. Once you get to university, you will probably soon learn what the best student clubs are, and when their main student night is. Usually on these nights, the club will offer discounted entry, or even free entry before a certain time. It’s also highly likely that there will be a drinks offer on, e.g. 3 VK’s for £5 or £2.50 doubles. With low prices, you should try to orient your clubbing activities around these nights. As a fresher, they are a great way to meet other freshers (who will all also be going to the student nights) and it’s also a good measure of a club’s popularity. After a few months, you will probably get used to club promoters messaging facebook groups or even messaging you directly to ask if you want to get on the guest list for their event. This can usually give you discounted or even free entry, so it is worth making the most of these opportunities while you are there.
7. Try to set a budget
The word budget might fill you with dread, but it is a very effective way to keep track of your spending. While you may think that a budget will limit what you can spend, it can actually allow you to be more confident in spending money. If you are the type of person who always thinks they have no money to spend on anything, having a budget can show you exactly what you can and can’t afford. UCAS’s Budget Calculator is a great starting point to see how much you should expect to spend a month. There are lots of good budgeting tools out there, so it is worth looking into apps, websites, spreadsheets - whatever form you prefer and whichever will allow you to keep track of your spending. Debit cards like Revolut and Monzo also allow you to easily keep track of your expenses, and allow you to set budgets or set up savings pots via the app.
Hopefully after reading this, you find a few practical ways to save a bit of money while at university. This is a great time to get used to handling your own money and being responsible for your own finances. No one expects you to get it 100% correct in your first year, so if you have a shopping splurge, or just fancy a week of take out, don't beat yourself up about it! You are a student and you are still learning the best budgeting style for you. The most important thing is that you enjoy university and don't spend most of your time worrying about money.