This piece was written by freelancer Sarah Roker
So you’ve secured a place at university and moved in to your uni halls, but the next thing is, how are you going to afford it all? The first few weeks of uni can be a blur with many new faces and nights out but once you’ve survived that, you’ve still got the rest of the semester to come, so a few student saving tips might be helpful, right?
Being away from home for the first time can be tough, and even more so on your bank account. You may or may not have had to budget before so when it comes to Fresher’s Week, food (and alcohol), uni supplies and finally finishing it off with Christmas, you may not be ready for the shock once you check your bank account.
With a bit of careful planning and innovative thinking though, hopefully these student saving tips will get you through Uni…
1. Change your bank!
Banks actually target students more than any other age group, so shop around for the best rates and offers! Things that you might want to consider are the banks which offer a 0% overdraft, or the ones with some good freebies. Natwest, for example, offers 1/3 off coach travel with National Express, Halifax offers cashback rewards and Santander offers a free railcard as long as you have £500 going into your bank account each academic term. Some banks such as Barclays and the Bank of Scotland will also offer tiered amounts which means your overdraft limit will increase each year, so always do your research and find a bank that works for your lifestyle at Uni.
2. Shop Smart
Food (along with alcohol, probs!), will be your number one expense at uni but there are plenty of student saving tips when it comes to shopping smart. Try buying your stuff in the evening as it’s usually the time supermarkets will reduce items; you can buy food reduced with as much as 90% off! Supermarkets such as Asda and Morrisons also sell “wonky veg” boxed which contain strangely-shaped – but perfectly tasty – vegetables in over 128 stores as a way of tackling food waste, and these cost as little as £3.50. Be sure to also freeze leftovers (did you know milk, bread, wine and pasta can all be extended past their use-by-date when done so?) and buy meals and booze with your housemates in bulk wherever possible, to cut costs!
When it comes to purchasing other student necessities, going vintage is your most wallet-friendly option. Your course may have a Facebook group where graduates can sell or give away their old books, otherwise always try charity, vintage shops or other websites like Gumtree or Ebay. When it comes to clothes and furniture, try Depop, Etsy and Chairish for used goods.
No-one wants to scrimp on their social life at Uni but, clubs and gigs/festivals can be incredibly expensive. The main method of avoiding this as a student is…promoting. Whether you’re handing out flyers or selling tickets, you’re usually given free entry into events as a bonus or as part of your pay, which can be the real pleasure if that’s what you’re in it for. The events ticket seller Dice offers a number of free events in London and O2 Academies around the UK will also allow you to attend gigs if you promote for them.
4. Discount cards
As a student one of the biggest benefits is having an NUS card. They apply to various shops and even if a place doesn’t advertise discounts, it’s always a good idea to ask and don’t forget to use it online as well. Some places will even take your Uni ID as opposed to an NUS card, so it’s *always* worth a try! Likewise, collecting as many loyalty cards as possible is always handy, Waitrose offer a free hot drink anytime you buy from them and with places like Boots and Superdrug you can knock money off by collecting points. However, if you are thinking of getting a part-time job, try at your favourite shop and you’ll probably receive a staff discount which will be more than the average student one. If you like to eat out, it’s worth applying for a tastecard which offers 50% off on thousands of restaurants. Check the NUS site for all the latest discounts.
5. Get free workouts
Cut back on fancy gym memberships and opt for running freely around your campus or working out with a DVD in the comfort of your own home. If that doesn’t tickle your pickle, take advantage of taster exercise sessions by searching online, or find discounts on sites like Groupon or Woucher. PayasUgym also allows you to pay-as-you-go with gyms and and shops like Lululemon, Nike, Reebok and Sweaty Betty offer free in-store classes and running clubs. Remember though, a student gym or campus fitness centre is likely to offer the best deal so check there first!
Whether you’re visiting home, getting the bus into town or taxi-ing back after a night out, travel is expensive. It’s definitely worth checking out whether your Uni offers free or discounted bus cards as well. Consider getting a bike which benefits both your pocket and the environment. Alternatively, National Express also have their Young Persons card but there are also other coach companies such as Mega Bus that offer tickets as cheap as £1.50. If you drive, check out Blah Blah Car which is a carpooling website that allows you to connect with drivers who have empty seats and can offer them to people travelling the same way for a reasonable price.
7. Consider getting a student job
If all else fails, it’s time to get a part-time job – one of the best student saving tips, we reckon! You can work flexibly in retail, bars and tutoring. Your university may even offer roles and flexible hours so it’s worth checking out their careers page as well. If you aren’t up for retail or waitressing, medical clinical trials are a popular option for students, although you should always be fully aware of the health risks before you sign up.
Alternatively, flexible non-contracted roles such mystery shopping, promotional work or Serve Legal, which is a service that pays people to see if retailers are checking young people for ID on restricted products, are great for students. However if you are up for the odd shift, try downloading apps such as Task Rabbit or Rotawhich provides staff with links to restaurants, hotels and careers for work.
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