As I have mentioned previously I am a University student. A (Im)mature one but still a student. Being without a regular income suddenly can be difficult to get your head around. Budgeting and planning is your best friend if you want to leave without massive debts. Here are a few things that I have found helpful during my time at University.
As a student you get access to a multitude of discounts on pretty much everything from clothing to food to new technology. Just remember if you wouldn’t buy it anyway don’t get it just because you’re getting a discount.
- You can download Unidays and Student Beans apps for your phone. which gives you access to in store and online discount codes. Some stores allow you to receive discount just from showing them your student card for example, New Look and Schuh.
- Boots also provide student discount. Go to any boots store, ask for an advantage card if you don’t already have one and show them your student card. The staff member should add student discount on to your advantage card. This can be used online and in store.
- Supermarkets – some have discount schemes. Tesco have their clubcard scheme. A Tesco Clubcard is free to get, for every £1 you spend you get 1 point. 100 points then turns in to £1 of clubcard vouchers. You are sent these quarterly and can use them towards your regular grocery shopping or you can exchange them on the clubcard website for triple the value and use them for theme park tickets, meals out and other goodies. Lidl also have their plus app. For every £100 you spend you receive £2 in vouchers but if you spend £200 in the month then you receive £10 in vouchers. For a student who lives alone this might not be so beneficial but you could get together as a flat and share the cost of the groceries hence you can share the savings.
- Mobile phone – Contact your mobile phone provider. Most providers such as o2, EE and Vodafone offer student discount on a monthly contract. Give them a call and see what they can do.
- Travel – Bus tickets are much cheaper if you buy them over long term. Check with the local bus provider. I know here we can get a student ticket for £10 for 7 days of unlimited travel. This is a saving of £16.60 a week in my city.
- Amazon Prime – If you purchase a lot of items online or you are somebody who enjoys a good television series then you can get a student prime membership. You get the first 6 months free and then its 50% of the cost of a normal membership each month after this.
- Spotify – A standard spotify subscription is £9.99 a month. A student sub is only £4.99. However, if you live in a shared flat with 5 others then for £14.99 a month you can get a family subscription which can be shared between 6 people making it £2.50 per student. Bargain!
- If you don’t mind what you receive then the Too Good To Go app has some excellent offers. The app is a way for supermarkets, restaurants and cafes to cut their waste down and they offer it at a very low price. I have received bags with 4 cakes and 4 paninis from Costa for £3 a bag. Morrisons supermarket offers a box of items from their market street for £3.09. You don’t know what you are getting so this isn’t for the fussy eaters but is an excellent way to save money.
- Bulk buy – If you share a flat and you all get along then shop together. Shopping for one person is always more expensive. Big bags of rice, pasta, boxes of cereal, larger packs of meat are all better value than 2 chicken breasts and a microwave rice pouch. If you live alone but have access to a freezer then you can still purchase larger packs.
- Meal plan – Plan for the week. Know what you’re buying when you go to the supermarket. Don’t go off to Tesco with no list because you’ll always spend more than you want and you’ll end up having to go back 3 days later when you realise you’ve no butter left.
- Invest in a cheap slow cooker. Ever finish a 5pm lecture, cannot be bothered to cook and end up calling the local takeaway? Yep, that was me. You can pick up a slow cooker for less than £20 in the supermarket. Throw all you vegetables, meat, seasoning and stock or water in first thing, switch it on and leave it until dinner time. You can have curry, stew, roast dinners, chilli etc all ready by the time your lecture is over and no cooking left to do.
- Textbooks – Do not buy every single textbook on your reading list because the chances are you’ll only need 2 or 3 which will last the 4 years of your degree and the others will be looked at once. Speak to previous year groups and ask what books they used most and then borrow the rest from the university library or share between you and a few classmates.
- Funding – If you are eligible for a student loan then take it. Compared to a student overdraft you are paying much less back, wont get yourself in to trouble and its a regular amount coming in to your bank account. Ask you student advice centre if you are entitled to any bursaries, grants or scholarships. You will be surprised what you may be entitled to.
- Budget – When you receive your funds split it up in to the weeks it has to last for and treat it like an income. This is easier with two bank accounts if you don’t think you will be able to budget. Get paid in to one account and then set up a weekly standing order in to the second account to spend. This way you don’t get to the last week and panic because you’ve 4p left, a bag of frozen sweetcorn, 2 cups worth of pasta and 3 cheap bottles of wine (clearly speaking from experience!).
- Cleaning – Do not buy 20 different bottles of cleaning spray, 2 different types of polish and 12 air fresheners. It is not needed. I will do a bigger post on my favourite cleaning products later but for the time being all you need is a cheap bottle of bleach for your toilet and down your sink pipes, a disinfectant/anti bacterial spray for your kitchen and bathroom, a polish for your furniture and if you’ve hard floors you will need a floor cleaner and a mop.
Hopefully this helps. Going to University was scary for me as a fully fledged adult who had lived alone for many years so I cannot imagine how it feels at 17 or 18. If you want to reach out for anything then my inbox is always open. I won’t judge! You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Good Luck in your studies!!