It’s halfway through the semester and, if you’re like me, money may be starting to get a little bit tight. Between having to budget for food, textbooks, rent, bills and socialising… there’s a lot to try and squeeze out of that student loan. Handling your finances can be stressful, so trying to stay on top of them is really important. A little bit of organisation and some insider hints and tips will hopefully set you on the right track to becoming a pro at student budgeting.
Know what your money is being spent on
This may sound like an obvious one, but knowing where your money is going each week will make it a lot easier to budget effectively. I find that having a visual outline of how much I’m spending helps me understand what some of my major expenses are, and where I can be making cut-backs. Why not make a spreadsheet, or keep everything written down in a notebook? Not only can you keep your spending in line, but it may also help you create a more realistic weekly budget.
Keep an eye out for student deals
One major perk of student living is those all-important discounts. You would actually be surprised at how many shops and food chains offer special deals… it’s just a matter of looking for them. An NUS Card is a great way to access discounts online or in store. You can purchase a one year (£12), two year (£22) or three year card (£32) to get a whole range of deals that your student card alone often won't grant you. These include:
25% off Odeon student tickets
Up to 40% off Pizza Express
10% off Misguided
Discounted Megabus tickets
UniDays have similar discounts to NUS, but with the added bonus of being completely free to sign up to! All you have to do is register online, receive your discount codes, and start making those savings. If you don’t want to pay for an NUS card, UniDays is a fantastic alternative.
Whilst some stores won’t accept your university student I.D. card for discounts, it is always worth checking. Yes, this will require you to actually ask a member of staff whether you can receive a discount without another, more official card (like an NUS). But if you don’t ask, you don’t get! There is absolutely nothing wrong with querying this, so don’t be afraid to do it.
Other services such as Apple Music and Amazon Prime also offer student options. Streaming service Apple Music offer a three-month free trial for students, and a follow up price of £4.99 a month. That’s a 50% discount on the usual individual package! Amazon Prime have created a six-month free trial of their prime services for students, with 50% off membership after the trial ends. This membership grants you access to free one-day delivery, Prime Video, Prime Music, and other exclusive discounts on student essentials such as electronics, kitchenware and textbooks.
If you’re still finding textbooks to be a little pricey, why not look at second-hand options? Amazon sell used (but still decent) books at significantly reduced prices. Equally, you may find that other students are trying to sell on unwanted books via Facebook groups at a discounted price. If you only need a book for a short period of time, don’t splash out. Always visit the library, or seek out cheaper versions first.
Make savvy savings on your weekly shop
I am definitely guilty of overspending on my weekly shop from time to time. To try and avoid this, why not:
Make a shopping list (and stick to it). It’s a simple but effective way to make sure you’re only buying what you set out to, and not getting caught up in those sneaky supermarket offers.
Visit a cheaper shop. Superstore alternatives Lidl and Aldi are becoming increasingly popular. Their un-branded options are great value for money, and still good quality.
Don’t overbuy. A little bit of planning before heading off to do your weekly shop is a great way to make sure you don’t overbuy and overspend. I also like to bulk make and freeze meals such as bolognese, chilli and curry to avoid wasting food and throwing it away.
Carefully manage your bills
University is probably your first experience of having to keep track of how much you are spending on utility bills. There are, however, some things you can do to keep costs down and ensure you don’t end up with any nasty surprises at the end of the year:
Remember to turn the lights off. This should be obvious, but keeping a room unnecessarily lit is a major waste of money. Make sure all lights are off when you leave the house to avoid running up that electricity bill.
Unplug electrical appliances. If you’re not using them, unplug them! TV’s, PlayStations, Xboxes and other entertainment systems can all be turned off (not just put on standby) overnight, and whenever else they’re not in use.
Take shorter showers. You’ll save on water, electric and help the environment along the way.
Put the heating on a timer. Heating in student houses has long been a major cause of arguments between housemates. To try and diffuse this tension (and save money), put the heating on for a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the evening. These are probably the times where it will be most effective.
Take regular meter readings. You probably did this when you moved into your house, but taking regular readings (maybe once a month) will allow you to see how much gas and electric you are using, as well as giving your providers accurate information as to how much you are actually spending. From here, you may be able to find cheaper tariffs, or alter your direct debit amounts.
These are just a few ways you can try to keep on top of your student finances and make some savvy savings. Knowing what your money is actually being spent on is a really big part of this, so stay organised!
Ellie is in her third year at Cardiff University, studying English Language. She also writes a blog ‘Forget the World’ about lifestyle and university experiences.
Note: 'Student Blog' pieces highlight the student perspective on issues relating to ProtectED. Consequently, this article reflects the views of the author and not ProtectED.