Student living can be both exciting and daunting. One of the most challenging prospects you will face during your time as a student is making sure that you make the most of your money. Here are some tips to help you to maximise the money you do have to spend:
Purchasing books for the new term is always expensive and this is particularly true if your reading list is extensive. There are, however, many ways in which you can save on the cost of buying course books. While in theory you could borrow all required books from the university library, this isn’t always possible (often due to high demand for a particular book, or simply due to a less than adequate selection). Hunt around online for cheap, second-hand copies or see whether you can obtain a course book or two through the use of book-swapping websites. You could also talk to students who are studying the same subject as you, but are entering into their final year. Ask them if you could buy their books once they have finished using them. Alternatively, team up with a group of fellow students in your year and buy books and share them between you.
At the start of the new academic year, grab a copy of your year calendar and plan ahead when travelling home for the holidays. Many travel companies offer discounted fares when you book travel in advance of time. If you’re booking train tickets, refrain from using ticket booking websites and use the train company’s official website instead. This will prevent you from incurring the cost of expensive transaction fees. Remember that you may be eligible for student season tickets on public transport. And if you’re aged between 16 and 25, or are a full-time student, you can buy a 16-25 railcard, which will significantly reduce the cost of your train fares.
Takeaways and other fast foods may be convenient but are expensive and will invariably impact your bank balance over time. If you’re short on cash and you can’t cook, learning should be your main priority and you’ll find plenty of free recipes online to help you out. When buying ingredients, shop at large, budget supermarkets wherever possible. Larger supermarket chains tend to sell inexpensive yet invaluable basic ranges, which include tinned tomatoes, bread, pasta and baked beans. If you live with others, consider clubbing together to buy food, such as rice, potatoes and pasta, in bulk. When shopping for fruit and vegetables, buy those that are in season as they will cost you less. Always shop around for the cheapest prices and make the most of any vouchers and discount schemes on offer.
If you’re in need of new clothes for your next big night out, don’t be afraid to ask your favourite shops about their student discounts, and if you have an NUS card, remember to use it when taking goods to the till! You can even claim student discounts when shopping online. Simply enter your NUS card number and/or register your student e-mail address when creating an online account with your favourite store. Don’t forget to check out the latest discount codes before you take your purchases through the checkout. Such codes could entitle you to money off your purchases or discounted delivery charges.
When even the cheapest of shops are too expensive for your tastes, check out the local charity shops. Here, you’ll find everything from vintage t-shirts to cut-price designer dresses. Flea markets and car boot sales also provide the chance to find low cost clothing, and you can even try your hand at haggling if you’re feeling confident! Alternatively, invite friends around and agree to share the contents of your wardrobe (so that you can sport a brand new look without spending a penny!).
Never underestimate the value of old clutter. Once you’ve arrived at university, join local recycling groups and take advantage of items that others no longer need. If you have gathered your own collection of unwanted items, consider selling them through an online auction site or place a free ad in a local newspaper.
Student bank accounts are essential as the majority of them offer interest-free overdrafts. It’s wise to open a student bank account before you begin university, especially if you plan on applying for a student loan. Many banks offer incentives to entice you to take out an account with them. While you could bag a free railcard or book vouchers, it’s important to not get blindsided by these freebies and to consider the small print before you take out an account. This way, you’ll be clued up on any fees and fines you could incur.
As a student, you’ll inevitably be keen to enjoy countless nights on the town. It’s essential to budget for nights out and this involves being realistic about the amount of money you have to spend. Take advantage of free entertainment in your locality. Free gigs often take place in smaller venues that you may not have even heard of. If you’re intent on having fun every night, remember that you don’t necessarily have to go out to enjoy yourself! You can make the most of video streaming websites that offer free trials to new registrants and watch your favourite films for free. However, if you don’t have unlimited broadband usage, be careful not to exceed your download limit.