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I want this post to be different from the normal money saving tips for students. I’m going to discuss the money saving tips that I have personally used and tell you my experience with them.These are also tips I found to actually make a decent impact on money saving. Saving whilst being a student is really important. It’s too easy to get stuck in a mindset that you have a safety net of university, and that you don’t need to focus on the boring reality of looking after your money. It is true that there is a safety net beneath you while you are a student. However, as soon as you graduate that net is taken away. It is vital to get into a good money saving mindset before it is too late. University is also not an easy time for everyone. A lot of students are in circumstances where they are needing to balance employment and studying just to get by. Hopefully my tips will help you out.
Money Saving at the Shops
When I started university, my weekly shop consisted of me browsing each aisle and picking up what looked good (or easy!). This left me with three issues:
- It was expensive
- I would run out of some food meaning I couldn’t get a balanced meal, leaving me with a plate of beige in the evening and a boring ham sandwich at lunch.
- Food would go off. When I was in the shop, I imagined I was going to eat 4 pork pies easily. But it’s easy to forget, only to return a few days later to find that they’ve gone off. This isn’t just a bad financial decision, it’s such a waste of food, something that didn’t sit well with me, morally.
After a few weeks of this, I decided to make a change. So I implemented the following changes:
- Meal planning: I created a 7 day schedule of what I was going to cook for dinner. I then created a shopping list based off of that and only bought that stuff. It can be as rigid or as flexible as you’d like. If you don’t fancy what you planned one night, swap tonight’s meal with another nights. Make sure you have the willpower to stick to your shopping list when you go shopping.
- Preparing my own lunches and dinners: Cooking and making my own meals and lunches is great for money saving. For the cost of a meal deal you can make a weeks worth of tasty sandwiches!
- Bulk Cooking: Buying multi-packs can work out cheaper in the long run. If you have a big frying pan , or even better – a slow cooker*, then you can make up to 8 meals worth of food and freeze it! I did this in the run up to exam season as I could quickly defrost a delicious, nutritious and filling meal quickly whilst studying. Slow cookers are quite cheap, you could split one between a few friends. I use the Laptronix slow cooker which you can find on Amazon here*. It has three modes, high, low and keep warm. I’ve never had a problem with it and it’s lasted me for years!
- Shop Smart: Going to a cheaper supermarket can save you a lot of money. Consumer rights group Which recently compared the cost of supermarkets for 85 common items. The difference between the least and most expensive was £44! I would walk an extra 15 minutes to go to Aldi instead of Sainsbury’s to save about £10 a week. It seems like it’s not much, but over the year it roughly equaled how much I was spending on my summer holiday.
- Cut Down on Expensive Foods: One thing that I found had a big impact was cutting down on meats. Finding alternative nutritional sources can help you achieve a balanced diet too. This also applies to other foods. On a student budget, there’s no need to be buying fancy pasta shapes for £5 when the basics penne pasta for £1 tastes exactly the same.
Overall, finding a good balance between living by a boring, rigid schedule and enjoying yourself and your cooking can be hard to find. Don’t be afraid to have some meals where you treat yourself to something fancy. After all that studying, you have deserved it!
No post about money saving would be complete without discussing this. Instead of creating a weekly budget, I start by creating a yearly budget using estimates for my incomes and outgoings. Take your student loan and any extra income you may get either from your parents or a job and takeaway the essential outgoings. This includes rent, bills, insurance, food, memberships, and social spending. Have a play around with the numbers to see if you will end up positive or negative. Then, divide the number by 52 to find out how much extra cash you have at your disposal each week. Keep this number in your mind throughout the year. If you have £ 20 a week left over for yourself, going out every night won’t be feasible past the first month! Having an idea about your finances will also allow you to prepare yourself for later in life. If you find yourself with extra cash, it is a good idea to start a rainy-day fund.
During my final years of university, I worked as a “buddy” for first year students. The first question they always asked was about textbooks. My answer was always “don’t buy them”. There are two reasons for not buying textbooks. The first one is that the lectures, and the accompanying lectures slides will contain everything you need to know for the module. One of my lecturers tried to sell his textbook which was basically just the lecture slides he gave us for free. If you want to know anything further, talk to your lecturer, they will probably be quite happy to discuss it. The second reason is that the university probably already has access to it. The library will likely contain a few copies and may even have access to it as an eBook which you can download and keep forever.
Money Saving on Transport
It’s generally not worth bringing a car to university and university’s aren’t keen on you doing it with lack of, or expensive, parking being the main deterrent. As a young driver, chances are that your car insurance alone will cost more than a bus pass or a train fares. Using public trasnport is good for money saving as a young person. There’s loads of ways to get around with a car.
- Bus Pass: Whether to get one of these depends on your university. If you need to use the bus to get to campus, it makes sense to get one. When you buy a bus pass they are unlimited. Remember to take into account that you may only be in your university town for ~35 weeks, so it may be cheaper to just pay as you go if you don’t use it everyday.
- Railcards: In the UK, we have railcards for people under the age of 30, you can see the full list of the different types of railcards here. The 16-25 railcard gives you a 33% discount on rail fares. It costs £70 for a 3 year rail card. A few train journeys can easily make this worth it.
- Cycling: From my experience, universities encourage cycling. It’s healthy for you and the planet. I recently picked up a second hand mountain bike for £75, a helmet for £10 and a bike lock* for ~£20. Always buy a good quality bike lock. It’s cheaper than having to buy a new bike. Overall, a bike is cheaper than a bus pass! Make sure you research the quality of the bike lanes in your area and that you’re happy to cycle when it’s cold and wet.
- Walk: Just like cycling, it’s great for your mental health to walk around and get to know your area. I found walking to university encouraged me to stay on campus and study as I didn’t want to do the 20 minute walk home just to come back for a later lecture.
- Share Taxis: This may be most appropriate for nights out, but often I found that a group of people splitting a taxi worked out cheaper than everyone getting the bus.
Money Saving on Nights Out
Nights out can end up being expensive (after you have a few too many). I don’t like the advice somtimes given not taking your card on nights out. You never know when you may need emergency money. Instead, for a money saving night out, withdraw some cash beforehand and stick to that budget. Only take your card for emergencies. If you have no financial self-control whilst drunk, set up a separate bank account and get a night-out emergency card that has ~£20 (or however much it would cost for you to get home safely) on it.
Money Saving Room Decor
When you have your new room at university the first thing you will want to do is make it your own. That’s normal, being able to feel at home in your room is great, you don’t want to come back to a boring room. However, to be money saving, be cautious you don’t overfill your room with clutter that you’ll have to throw out at the end of the year. If you filled up a car when moving in to university, remember that you will probably only have a little bit of space for extra stuff to bring back.
Money Saving Subscriptions
In your first few weeks, every society and company who can find you will want to sign you up for something. So many people sign up for year-long subscriptions for things they never use. It can be a great money saving exercise to take a week or two before you commit to a subscription. Before you head off to university, check out your student union’s societies page so you know what you want to sign up for. Typically, you will find you only have time for 2 or 3 societies. I signed up for Amazon Prime* in my first year. You can get a 6 month free trial by clicking here*. I like using this because you get fast delivery on products, some free eBooks, access to Prime Music and Prime Video. After your free 6 month trial, students get prime half price. In the UK it costs me £39 for a year.
Splitting the Bill
When you move in, you’ll find 6 bottle of washing up liquid, or 7 identical bottles of cooking oil. It’s a good idea to have a rota, taking it in turns to buy an item that everyone uses. This is money-saving as it means you can buy the bigger, cheaper bottles that last longer. It also keeps your kitchen clean and tidy.
Money Saving Student Discounts
There are lots of student discount apps out there, Student Beans and Unidays are the most popular. I’ve found that a lot of small independent businesses in student areas will compete for the student market by offering their own student discounts. It’s not rude to inquire as to whether a shop has a money-saving student discount (it is rude to demand one!). The worst that can happen is they say no. Nothing gained, nothing lost.
Do you have any money saving tips that have made a big impact on your student finances? Share them below in the comments!
*Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you purchase anything through a link, I may earn a small commission. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying sales. This is at no extra cost to you.