If you are about to start university then this might be your first time handling your own budget, as well as taking care of your own cooking and cleaning. It can be both an exciting and daunting time, and here are my top 15 tips to help you save money at university.
Make a budget
By now you should know what income you will be getting from student loans, your parents (if they are helping you out financially) and any part time income you will have whilst studying. As for your living expenses, these might be harder to judge, especially if it is your first time away from home and paying your own bills. Your budget will need to list your income and your outgoings, including rent, bills, food, entertainment and studying costs such as books. It it better to round your outgoings up to ensure that they are fully covered.
Make extra money
Once you have completed your budget, if you find that you don't like the results – either there isn't enough income to cover your outgoings or you would like more money for your entertainment budget, etc then the next step is to look at ways to make some extra money. Getting a part time student job is the obvious solution, and you can enquire at your university about such work and check out local job listings. Alternatively you can earn some extra cash online with my top ten ways to make extra money.
Have the right student account
Most banks will entice you into having their student account with fantastic benefits. Natwest offer a 1/3 off coach travel, Santander offer a 4 year railcard saving you 1/3 off most train journeys and Halifax offer a 0% overdraft facility up to £3,000. When opening a student account, make sure that you haven't signed up for any additional chargeable extras, such as opening a pension (which has happened to a student who didn't understand where her money was going every month). You can compare student bank accounts at MSE.
Don't buy every book for your course
Before starting your studies, you will have been provided with a list of recommended reading, often marked as essential. Your university library should have copies of every book on your course, but of course these might get booked out early by other students. You can either wait to see if the material is essential (then Amazon Prime it – see below for more info) or join together with other students on your course to buy one book between a few of your.
Buy used textbooks
Another option to save money when it comes to course material is to buy your textbooks second hand. There might be an on campus book store selling used books, you can ask last year's students if they are selling theirs or alternatively try Amazon or eBay.
Learn to cook
A massive expense whilst you are at university is food. If you can't cook then you will be relying on more expensive ready meals, take aways and meals out. Learning to cook a few simple meals will make a hit with your friends and house mates whilst saving you money. The Stu Festival have some great videos on YouTube – most of them are under 10 minutes and will teach you to cook some great basics like spaghetti carbonara, roast vegetable cous cous and chicken stir fry.
Meal planning isn't just for married housewives, it can really help you to save massively on your food budget. Here's how I do my meal planning. It saves you money by stopping you from buying ingredients you already have, or impulse buying, and it saves on waste by only buying what you need and encouraging you to use what you already have.
Rope in others
Roping in your house mates or friends into sharing the cooking and/or the food shopping will save you a ton of money. Sharing the cooking means that everyone isn't buying their individual ingredients and the oven/hob/kettle/toaster aren't going on 5-10 separate times to account for each person. Shopping together allows your to save money from buying in bulk, saving on delivery charges for online shopping and helps you to make use of great offers such as buy one get one free or multi-offers that would normally provide one person with too much food and therefore waste.
This well known tip will save you some serious cash whilst at university. Drinks in bars, clubs and pubs have a considerable mark up, so if your aim is to get drunk then start the party before you leave for town. For example, a 70cl bottle of vokda from the supermarket can set you back between £13-£20 (depending on the brand) and a vodka and coke in a pub/car/club can set you back anything from £4-£6 (depending on the establishment). Drinking before going out also gets the party mood started.
Once you start looking, you will be amazed at the number of places that offer student discount. In the high street you will often see student discount signs in the windows, but you also ask as you're checking out. Some retailers will insist that you sign up for their own discount scheme or show your NUS card, others will be happy with just valid student id.
Look for vouchers & deals
Gone are the days of being embarrassed about using discount vouchers – most retailers and restaurants are now dishing these out weekly. Either register for newsletters from your favourite places or be sure to check a deals website like Hotukdeals regularly. Remember that you don't always need to print the vouchers – many will provide a unique code to use.
Young Person's Railcard
Travelling home and to see your friends dotted around the country is expensive – it was one of my biggest costs whilst at university. The 16-25 railcard is a great way to save 1/3rd on your train journeys. It does cost £30 per year but the savings will soon go over this.
Leave your car at home
Driving is great, especially if you have your own car. You might think that driving home will be cheaper, but the problem with having a car at university is that you become the designated driver. This isn't just for nights out, but also for trips to the supermarket, days out and the odd lift here and there. The costs soon mount up and you'll be better leaving your car at home. Don't forget that you can get your first Uber ride free, up to £20 from this link.
Amazon for Students
Students love Amazon, and Amazon love students – so much so that they have created Amazon Student, a program that gives you some fantastic benefits. By joining you will get 6 months of Amazon Prime absolutely free – and then if you want to upgrade after that you will get it for 50% off. You will also get access to great student offers to help you look after your cash whilst at university.
Let me know your best student money saving tips in the comments.