As a student, living independently and making your cash last can be difficult, stressful, and can require some resourcefulness. It’s tempting to cut back on all your favourite things to save money, so you don’t enjoy the student experience as much as you should. But, there’s absolutely no need to stay at home, huddling alone over a tin of beans – follow these handy tips to save cash on everyday shopping and bills, and have all of the fun for less money.
Draw up a budget
Sometimes, your student loan feels like sand – it slips out through your fingers quicker than it goes in. Your spending can get quickly out of hand – particularly in first year when you might not be used to paying for everything yourself. The easiest way to claw back some control is to draw up a basic budget, so you can track what you’re spending. Identify your sources of income – loan, gifts, part-time job, money from parents – and then set yourself a weekly or monthly limit. Allocate portions of this to food, eating out, transport, phone bill, etc., and try to stick to these as much as you can. Popping it all on a spreadsheet and watching your spending will help you decide where you need to save most – the Brightside student calculator is a great resource for this.
Eat better, save money
Your food bill doesn’t need to take up too much of your budget, if you shop savvy and learn new habits. Check the reduced sections of supermarkets – especially at night when most things are freshly stickered – for items with upcoming sell-by dates and bashed packaging. Don’t be fooled by BOGOF or 3 for 2 offers on things you probably wouldn’t buy otherwise, and remember that sometimes it isn’t actually a great deal. Learning to cook will slash your spends on food, as it’s much cheaper to concoct a couple of big meals and freeze them for the week than to buy ready meals or resort to takeaways all the time. There are lots of cheap recipes out there – buy a good student cookbook, or try these. Plan your meals ahead and write a shopping list, so you don’t end up buying a random selection of less-than-useful things. And finally – don’t shop on an empty stomach! You’ll buy much more than you actually need if you’re hungry.
Update your wardrobe
No, you don’t need to completely sacrifice new clothes! Many clothes shops on the high street offer at least 10% discount on their wares for students, so take your student card with you. If you don’t see a sign promoting a discount, ask at the counter – you never know. Every so often some retailers up their discount to 20%, so keep your eyes peeled. Think about signing up for an NUS extra card, as it gets you tons of extra discounts including money off Amazon and Spotify, and costs only £12 for a year. Although, don’t let the excitement of discounts make you forget that student budget that you’ve made – you are still spending money when things are discounted.
Travel for less
You don’t need to miss out on trips home or to see your friends while on a budget. Train ticket prices are climbing vertiginously with no sign of stopping, but there are ways of cutting the cost. The best solution is the 16-25 Railcard, which costs £30 per year and makes all train journeys a third cheaper. If you can plan your trip early, book in advance, as it’s often much less expensive. Try splitting your ticket – sites such as SplitTicket and FareSaver can tell you if buying your tickets separately for each leg of your trip could save you cash. If you have an NUS extra card, you can save on National Express trips across the country – it takes longer but can be very cheap, and for a limited time only your card can get you 50% off!
Save on eating out
Students can still have meals out without breaking the bank, so get your friends together and head out into town. Most high street restaurant chains offer student deals, such as 40% off your food bill at Zizzi’s and Pizza Express on Mondays and Tuesdays with an NUS extra card, 25% off Sunday-Thursday at Las Iguanas with the funkily named Llama Card, and 25% off at Chiquito all day, every day with their student card. Look out for discounts, always be cheeky and ask your server, and take your student card everywhere with you in case you have a chance to save.
Cheaper cinema tickets
A night out at the movies is just the ticket when assignments have been getting on top of you, or when you fancy a treat off campus. Yes, trips to the cinema can cost an absolute bomb, especially if you grab popcorn and a drink, and it’s enough to put you off and give up – but as a student, you can save loads on tickets. Most of the major chains offer discounts for students, and as you’re probably more flexible than most punters, you can plan to go to a daytime showing on an unpopular day of the week and get even cheaper entry. Odeon are particularly good at offering deals for students, and you can bag 2 for 1 tickets with Meerkat Movies by buying insurance from Compare the Market (no matter how cheap).