Saving money is an unavoidable part of pretty much every student’s life. It’s the first time you’ll have to budget for yourself, which isn’t made any easier by the twenty-seven grand debt you’ll probably be lumped with after three years.
Without the bank of mum and dad, keeping track of the pennies becomes your responsibility! We’ve put together our top 10 ways to save money as a student – including some you probably haven’t even thought about – to give you a helping hand.
1. Learn to budget
Being the boss of your own budget is a big step – it’s not as easy as it sounds! When it comes to saving money as a student, your first should be pinpointing how much money you have and what you’re already spending.
Back in the day, setting a budget would mean sitting down with a nice, sharp HB pencil and getting your calculator out. Nowadays, helpful apps such as Mint take the hassle out of setting a budget and sticking to it.
Mint works by keeping track of the money you spend, so that you can quickly see how much a week’s worth of lattes from the Student Union are setting you back, or how much on average your night in the pub costs. The app will notify you when you’re going over budget, so no more getting carried away on shopping sprees! It keeps track of bills and gives handy alerts, so you’ll never have to worry about missing them.
Whilst learning to budget isn’t necessarily the cool hobby that’ll make you loads of friends at Uni, it will mean you can avoid the panic while everyone is desperately waiting for their next student loan.
2. Buy in bulk
A friend at Uni bought five kilograms of pasta in his first week – he mentioned, midway through our second year, that it had been worth every penne.
Buying in bulk is a savvy way to save money if you can do it right. Essentials like pasta, rice and toiletries are guaranteed to get used up eventually, so it’s worth sacrificing a bit of cupboard space – you can easily expect to save up to 25%.
A word of warning though – it can be easy to get carried away! Buying enough washing up liquid to last a few years is a great deal unless you end up throwing away half of it at the end of term. If your housemates are prepared to go splits with you, buying essentials for communal use is a smart strategy.
Wholesale websites such as Suma, Costco and Booker are good places to buy in bulk – but bear in mind that they usually cater for businesses who buy in vast quantities. Start small by chipping in for a 24-pack of toilet roll for your house on Amazon – you’ll avoid the constant “we’ve run out” on your group chat whilst you save!
3. Be smart with textbooks
Shelling out on pricey textbooks is probably one thing you didn’t plan to blow money on in your first week. Science and Engineering students are particularly unfortunate – they can sometimes expect to spend at least a few hundred quid per book, especially for new textbooks.
As you might have guessed, heading over to Amazon should be your first port of call. If you can get hold of a list from your course in advance you might be able to beat the crowds, however it’s worth emailing a lecturer to make sure that you’re getting the right edition.
If that doesn’t work, there are other options. Checking whether a textbook is available as a downloadable pdf, asking other students for old copies or heading to the library are worth it for the money you’ll save. These days, University libraries have eBooks (including some textbooks) which you won’t need to worry about renewing – or even leave your bed to borrow.
Check out this SaveTheStudent blog for some more detailed tips on saving money with textbooks.
4. Drink at home
Whilst it’s unlikely that you’ll be eating out all the time, it’s important for most students to cement their position as regulars at their local pub – which can be just as expensive!
If you’ve noticed that drinking out is regularly takes up a chunk of your budget, it might be time to consider pre-drinking at home a bit more often. You could even use the money you save to pick up a new speaker or some cheap garden furniture from Gumtree – there’s nothing like your own beer garden on a sunny day.
Of course, we’re not saying that you should stop going out altogether. If you’re on a shoestring budget, learning where the best happy hours are or taking advantage of the cheap drinks at the Student Union bar are a great way of saving money as a student without missing out.
5. Pick up some discount cards
At most universities, you can get hold of an NUS card, which is essential for any student. You can bag a yearly subscription for £12 or pay for all three years for £32. Chances are, you’ll easily be able to save that after a bit of online clothes shopping. And that 10% off at the Co-op will also be a massive bonus to your bank account, as there’s usually one right around the corner from your halls of residence. Download the NUS Extra app for a handy list of places you can save.
Other money saving tips for students include taking advantage of the 16-25 rail-card, which is £30 per year or £70 for all three years – saving up to 30% on train travel means that it will easily pay for itself, which should make those long journeys home a bit more bearable.
Grabbing a loyalty card for your go-to supermarket is also a good way to save. The Tesco Clubcard or Sainsbury’s Nectar Card are handy ways to enjoy a few quid off every now and then – however don’t be lured into buying things you wouldn’t already! Often, offering discount on products is a way of luring you into trying new things, instead of helping you save money on what you were already going to buy.
6. Keep track of coupons, promo codes and sales
It’s important to be savvy when using discounts such as coupons and promo codes. The number one rule is to only use them on things you’d have bought anyway. For example, getting excited at the prospect of 30% off at Lonely Planet from your shiny new NUS card won’t save you any money if you use it to splash out on your second holiday!
However, there are loads of ways to save money once you know where to look. At Zeek, you can get rid of your unwanted gift cards, or buy other people’s discounted gift cards to save on your favourite clothes outlets, weekly food shops, Uber rides and cups of coffee.
We also love the idea of Google Chrome extensions such as Pouch, which automatically pop up when you’re placing an order online to notify you of any promo codes which could save you money. No more last-minute searching for discount code when you need a Friday night Domino’s!
Finally, signing up for newsletters from your favourite shops and restaurants is a good way of hearing about sales and offers before anyone else. Whether it’s a birthday meal at TGI Fridays or the arrival of River Island‘s summer sale, we all deserve a treat now and then!
For a more detailed introduction to the world of promo codes, coupons and more, check out our recent blog post on finding the best deals online.
7. Get the app for that
We mentioned that Mint is a great app for helping you keep track of your budget, but it’s not the only one out there. Here’s a few more that are sure to help you out:
PayFriendz is a smart way to move money when you’re splitting a tab at the pub or chipping in for the house Wi-Fi bill every month. You can use it to quickly ping cash to your housemates or (even better) politely request that they send money to you. It even has a handy messaging function, so you can keep the who-owes-who conversation out of your house WhatsApp.
Are you an impulse buyer? Then you need Idealo. It’s the app which allows you to scan a products bar-code and find out if you could buy it cheaper somewhere else. A two-minute walk down the road could be worth it to save you an extra bit of cash!
They say food-shopping is like revision – don’t do it when you’re hungry, and don’t do it when you’re drunk! MySupermarket is another cool app, which allows you to make a shopping list in advance and find out if what you want is on offer anywhere. It’s a nifty way to regularly save money on your weekly food shop.
8. Choosing where to live
Usually you’ll stay in halls of residence for your first year, which is good news as it’s pretty cheap and you can rely on the Wi-Fi. However, during second year and third year most students choose to rent their own home. Super-exciting – but it also means entering the world of bills, deposits and home insurance.
One important thing to sort out is your deposit. Landlords have a month to put this in a tenancy deposit protection scheme once you have paid – which is a third party who settle any disputes at the end of the year. It’s important to make sure your deposit is protected, as well as ensuring that you have a few photos of any wear and tear which is there when you arrive to cover your back!
It’s also worth leaving plenty of time to look for a house and ask your letting agent exactly what you will be paying for – don’t settle for extortionate agency fees if you could go elsewhere.
If you run into trouble, this page on the Citizens Advice Bureau is a good place to start.
9. Cut down on excess spending
One quick way to save money as a student is to cut down on what you don’t need. Sometimes, signing up for a subscription seems like a good idea at the time, but that money keeps coming out of your account – even once you’ve forgotten about it!
Sharing a Netflix account or Spotify subscription with your housemates will mean that you can cancel your personal one. Furthermore, subscriptions to Amazon prime or charitable causes tend to be forgotten about over time – ask yourself if it’s justified and if not, cancel it!
10. Be vigilant!
For those on a shoestring budget, there’s nothing worse than falling for a money-saving scam and spending even more than you would’ve!
They say that if it seems too good to be true then it usually is. This can be the case with cashback schemes, which offer to reimburse you a percentage of the cost of regular payments (such as mobile phone contracts). Often, you’ll hear of cash-back companies falling through, meaning that customers never receive the savings they expected.
As a rule of thumb, check out reviews online or forums like the one at Money Saving Expert before you embark on money-saving schemes – this way you can be sure that what you’re getting is the real deal.
What are your favourite ways to save money as a student? Let us know what we’ve missed in the comments!