It wasn’t too long ago that I was starting university. I packed up a car with all my worldly goods and moved myself to the other side of the country to start a new life 5 hours away from home. I remember those first few weeks when all I worried about was whether I could squeeze in drinks in the students’ union with my flatmates and a ‘skool disco’ party with my coursemates on the same night. And yes, I did manage it, in case you were wondering!One thing I didn’t manage all that well was my finances. I juggled my student loan with my part-time wages to make ends meet, and often ended up limping through to the end of term. The first year was a bit of a struggle as I came to terms with paying my own bills and budgeting to make my money last all year – but don’t worry Freshers – it all worked out fine in the end! So today I’m sharing my top tips for saving money as a student so that you can learn from my experiences. Hopefully this will leave you with more cash for nights out and important purchases (shoes or textbooks? What a dilemma!) and help your time at university go smoothly.Budget before your student loan arrives. Honestly, if you don’t work out how much you have available to spend per week to make your student loan last until the end of term, you will end up hungry in December! It might seem like a huge amount of money in your bank account at the start of term but it soon disappears if you’re not careful! I know it’s dull, but you just need to add up your bills (accommodation, mobile phone, TV license, broadband etc), subtract this from your loan payment and divide the rest between the number of weeks in the semester. This is the amount you can spend on food, clothing, course materials and nights out so try to stick to it. If it doesn’t look like it’s going to be enough then…
Get a part-time job. Even the most intense university course will leave time free between lectures so work out what hours you have spare and try to find a job to work around your course and earn a little extra cash. Try to choose something that compliments your course and will look good on your CV, such as weekend work at a wedding venue for event management students, a few hours in the university copy shop for graphics students or evening bar work for hospitality students. Three years working part-time in a relevant role will help you get the experience needed to make your application stand out for a career after uni, so make it count while earning cash! BUT never prioritise work when you should be in lecture; you’ve already paid for every lecture when you pay your fees so you should actually be there to get your moneys-worth – remember why you’re at university in the first place!
Take advantage of student deals. There are SO many special offers for students available in university towns, so always always ask if a shop and restaurant offers discounts for students. Take your NUS card with you every time you go shopping to prove your student status, and you can even use it to get money-off when shopping online, so always check – a couple of pounds here and there soon add up! Banks too offer student deals so shop around before setting up a student bank account; I actually got cash when I signed up for my student account at the start of university!
Get bargain course materials. If you need a particular textbook for your course, chances are that last year’s students did too and might be trying to make a little extra cash by selling their textbook to new students. Check student noticeboards, browse Ebay and try the library in case they are selling off old textbooks. If you need to buy a brand new textbook, try the campus book shop to see whether they have a buy-back option at the end of term where you could trade it in for next year’s books, and don’t forget to ask about student discount offers! If you need a laptop or software, there are always student deals around at this time of year; check the university website or students’ union for tech offers as they might be able to provide you with a student software package for considerably less than a high-street retailer.
I hope these tips have helped you and that you’ll get through your first year of uni without any problems. Just remember to always shop around, ask for discounts wherever you go and never spend more than your budget allows. If you manage to get a part-time job, you can use the wages to enjoy little luxuries – such as new shoes, nights out and road trips with your friends – which will make your work feel worthwhile and make your time at university even more enjoyable! Let me know if you’ve got any tips of your own for managing student budgets by leaving me a comment below or tweeting me @Cassiefairy.
If you’re interested, I’ve written a blog post full of healthy eating tips for students which will also save you money so maybe have a read of that article too!
This post is in collaboration with TSB