Whether you’re staring university for the first time, or are already an old hand, it’s always great to find ways to save money and ease the costs of looking after yourself away from home!
We at Oval have all pooled our joint university experiences to come up with our top ten tips that we used to save money whilst we were students...
1. Ration your student loan
Maybe things have changed since my day, but I remember living like a king for 2 months and then living on pasta until my next instalment of my loan came through. I realise not everyone gets a loan, and that amounts can vary, but I’d really recommend sitting down and seeing how much loan you get, and how long until your next instalment and doing some calculations to see how much you can spend a month in order for it to be spent evenly across the semester.
2. Make a budget
Similarly, I recommend going even further than simply rationing your loan. Try to understand your spending habits and how much money you really need to live (just a side note; Oval is super helpful in this way – every spend you make is categorised for you and so after a few months you build up a history of where your money is going.).
List your income and then all your outgoings. It’s really as simple as that. If you break all this down into monthly categories of incoming and outgoing spends it an make the whole thing feel more manageable. Save the Student actually has a great student budget template you can use. It’s a really good base to begin with and then you can tailor it to suit your needs.
3. Use all the student discounts!
One of the joys of being a student is that everyone wants to give you a discount. And I mean EVERYONE. Just to name a few popular stores: New Look, Odeon Cinemas, Dominos, the Co-op, and ASOS.
A lot of the time purely showing your university ID card is enough to get a discount at these places. However, some of them do require a NUS card. You need to apply for this separately, but it’s completely free if your University is a participant in the scheme.
Check out QSTop Universities to find out how to apply for a NUS card, and to find great places to find student discounts in a whole host of different sectors; ranging from clothes, to food, to technology, to entertainment.
4. Get a part time job
Obviously your studies come first; and if you feel that having a job will detract from your grades then don’t do it. But it’s definitely something worth thinking about. Generating your own income is great for many reasons; firstly because earning money and seeing it fill up your bank account feels good. It takes the stress out of watching the numbers dwindle to nothing… and then even further down into the negative figures with you powerless to stop it.
Secondly, the social aspect can be great. The closest friends I made at University turned out to be the ones I worked at the bar with. You’re together for many hours a week, you share the same stresses, the same annoying patrons, and the same joy at payday.
Finally, going to work 2 or 3 nights a week means that you physically are not able to go out and spend money for those nights. It’s a way to save and control spending whilst also making money. Win-win!
5. Buy cheap and freeze
One of the great benefits of being a student is you operate at non-conventional hours. You are not tied to the 9-5 so you can get up late, go to bed in the wee hours, and go food shopping at 11am on a Tuesday morning.
Use this to your advantage, find out when your local supermarket pulls out the orange discount stickers of joy! If you can hit the supermarket when they are reducing products you can buy expensive things like meat and fish (or, let's be honest, those really posh ready meals that you can never afford) very cheaply, and then freeze it to eat later.
6. Cook in bulk or cook with friends.
A really good way to keep down food costs to make something in large amounts; like spaghetti bolognese, lasagne, stew, etc. Then keep it in the fridge and eat it throughout the week. Coking like this saves time, effort, money on utilities, and money on food.
I appreciate that some people hate the idea of this, or that they feel they’re not in a positon to be able to guarantee that they’re going to be home all week to eat the food they made! If you get on well with your housemates a really good fix for this can be doing a round robin. Once a week one of you cooks dinner for the whole house. This can be a great money and time saver, and it also means quality time with your mates!
7. Get smart with your appliances
Maybe I’m preaching to the choir, but using economy cycles on your washing machine and dishwasher savers money on water and electricity.
Time your heating. I know that student houses get cold (we used to get snow on the inside of our windows), and that heating is a necessity. However, putting it on a timer can keep costs down and make sure no one freezes. Put it on for two hours in the morning so the house is toasty when you all get up and get dressed, then again for two hours in the evening before bed. This means you aren’t paying to heat up the house when there’s no one inside. You can also get great apps on your phone now that means you can control your heating to go one whilst you are on your way home.
Check out Pocket-Lint for a run down on the best apps you can get. I’d recommend nominating your most responsible housemate to have this app on their phone if I was you. Giving the power to everyone could be dangerous!
Don’t leave stuff on standby. Again, sounds obvious, but everybody does it. TV’s, computers, xbox’s, anything you can think of. It’s not so bad if it’s only one person, but if there are six of you living in a house then that electricity bill starts to rack up.
8. Play the new customer/loyal customer game.
At the beginning of each academic year look into new deals for your internet/water/electric etc. Companies often post new great deals for students at this time of year as they know this is when the academic year starts.
Bear in mind that even if you can’t find a new or better deal (or if you can but you can’t be bothered to switch), a lot of companies will match deals offered by competitors or give you loyalty discounts; you just need to phone them up to discuss it and tell them you’re thinking of leaving.
9. Buy used textbooks
As a humanities graduate, this habit saved me hundreds of pounds, quite literally. With so many websites offering used textbooks for as little as £0.01 there’s no excuse for paying £40 for a brand new copy. I appreciate sometimes you need the latest version of a book, but lecturers are usually flexible about this as they are very aware of spiralling book costs. They’re human; just ask them.
10. Spend serious study time on campus
Food on campus tends to be cheaper. It’s discounted for students, and you usually get large portions. When possible, eat there! In addition, if you need to pull some long study stints; doing it on campus is the most cost effective option. You don’t pay for the electricity, or the heating! Find a quiet seat in the library or other dedicated study areas and set up camp.
University is often times talked about as a time where you have the most fun, with the least money, but if you can be savvy about a few small things you could ease the cost and maybe even find a few spare pounds a week to tuck away into your oval wallet to save for a rainy day!