Chances are, moving to university is going to be the first time you’ve lived by yourself and had to fend for yourself, and this brings with it a whole host of challenges. One of which is living on a budget. If like me, you don’t have access to a money tree, then budgeting is something you’re going to have to get used to. This is a list to help you in learning the ropes of budgeting as a student, helping you to get the most bang for your buck, whilst making sure you’re never caught short.
Don't think 'little and often'
Little and often is a great mindset for many things - getting fit, sticking to a diet; but not for food shopping. When possible, buy in a large food shop, meaning you don’t need to shop as often. Popping to the local shop to buy food on a day-by-day, or even a meal-by-meal basis is a fast-track ticket to Skintville. This is a very uneconomical way of buying food, causing each meal to cost more than if you were to buy more food in bulk.
Now it doesn’t need me to tell you that some supermarkets are more expensive than others. In Leeds, we’re lucky to have 2 Aldi stores (Cardigan Fields and Meanwood) and 1 Lidl store (Meanwood). These supermarkets are your saviours. They can save you up to half the cost of your food shop compared to the likes of Sainsburys. There might not be an Aldi within walking distance of your halls but let me explain this in my next point...
Ubers & taxis
If you don’t have a budget supermarket within walking distance of your digs, then grab 2/3 housemates and get an Uber/taxi both ways. From my experience, I can’t remember paying any more than £2 each (each way). So yes, you have the extra cost of transport but this far outweighs the cost of going to a more expensive supermarket for your food.
Just because it's on offer, it doesn't mean its saving you money
This one might go against the grain but bear with me. Just because there’s a big red banner saying 50% off, it doesn’t mean it’s going to save you money. If this isn’t a product you would normally get in your food shop then you’re actually spending more than you normally would instead of making a saving. If you do however normally get the item that’s on offer then you’ll save money... obviously. On another quick side note, don’t always just look at the total price of an item, always look at the cost per 100g, per 100ml etc. The total price may be less, but you may be paying more for the amount of food that you’re getting. This trick ensures you’re getting the best value for money.
Being a fresher means you get a ton of one thing... freebies. There’s various freshers fairs, freshers events, careers fairs etc which are goldmines for freebies so go along and fill your boots.
Student bank accounts
Before coming to university, it’s well worth opening up a student bank account. There’s many out there, all offering different benefits and perks but the clear stand-out one for me, and thousands of other students, is the Santander student account. One massive bonus of a student bank account is the interest-free overdraft facility. I’m not saying this is something you should definitely have/use but it’s always good to have it there should you need it. The Santander student account offers you an interest-free overdraft of £1500, and you also get a free 3 year railcard which is a lovely little bonus.
If you haven’t done already through your college or sixth form, then be sure to sign up to both UNiDAYS and get an NUS card. Having access to these 2 student-exclusive platforms have saved me hundreds of pounds through my time at university. You get discount in thousands of retailers nationwide. The most useful one for me has been the half price Apple Music. It’s normally £9.99 per month, but with student discount, is only £4.99. This is the same for Spotify if that’s more your cup of tea. Having your music half price makes it sound that little bit sweeter. It’s probably worth pointing out that Amazon also run a student initiative with their Prime service, making it £49 a year, instead of £79 if you’re a student which is a lovely little saving.
Work, work, work
I’m not meaning work in the initial sense. Not exams, assignments and presentations, but any part time jobs you might have. What worked for me was having September through to May as my uni time, but as soon as I moved back home for summer, I worked to try and save up some money to move back to uni with in the coming September. This allowed me to have some money whilst allowing me to make the most of doing things at uni by not being tied down to work. However, everybody works differently so you might prefer to have a part-time job in Leeds to earn a little extra cash.
There are numerous sites out there that offer you cashback on your online purchases. The best one I’ve found and use regularly is topcashback.co.uk. They give cashback for numerous mainstream retailers and although the cashback may only be as little as 3% for some purchases, every little helps.
Meercat Movies and Meals
Compare The Market run an initiative called Meercat Movies and Meercat Meals, this proved you with 2 for 1 cinema tickets and 2 for 1 meals in thousands of restaurants in the UK. All you need to do is make a purchase through their site. But how do you do this without spending too much? Purchase travel insurance for a 1 day trip to London, costing no more than £2. Job done.
This is by no means an exhaustive list on how to make your cash go that little bit further as a student but hopefully it’ll help point you in the right direction with your student finances.