The eternal student finance struggle of the full-time student is trying to live well on a reduced income.
This guide shows you that there’s no need to drastically cut back on the good things in life (unless you have a chronic champagne habit…) – you just need to budget, shop smart and look out for all the freebies and deals that are on offer to you.
It can be a pain to constantly count the pennies but once you’ve learned the tricks, money saving should become a very useful habit, preparing you for life beyond the degree.
Learn to cook
If you haven’t yet progressed beyond boiling eggs, it’s time to start learning to cook properly. Stop paying a king’s ransom for takeaways and get your hands on a good cookbook of simple things to start with.
I buy a copy of Sam Stern’s student recipe book for every friend or relative before they go off to university, as it explains everything and has a fantastic variety of recipes for beginners and beyond; the Nosh for Students series is also excellent for new cooks on a budget, and friends recommend anything by Jamie Oliver.
Making decent quantities when you’ve got time, and freezing individual portions, will save you lots of money and ensure you will always have something in at dinnertime. Group up with your flatmates to save even more!
Use MoneyMagpie’s comparison services to sniff out the best deals on gas, electricity, broadband and current accounts.
Don’t be afraid to argue, either – if you don’t want to change your provider but have seen a better deal elsewhere, pick up the phone and negotiate, as many providers (especially phone networks) will match or beat competing prices.
These sites feature the best deals from across the web and the high street, and have great email newsletters that regularly drop offers straight into your inbox.
Many clothes shops on the high street offer at least 10% off for students, and restaurants often have student discounts on Monday-Thursday evenings or offer early-bird menus.
If it’s not clear whether a shop or restaurant will give you money off, be cheeky and always ask!
Buy in bulk
If you have enough space in your shared house, flat or halls, buy essentials like loo roll, kitchen paper and washing up liquid in bluk to save a fortune – just get everyone to pitch in and you’re sorted for the term or even the whole year!
If you’re an adventurous cook and love trying new ingredients, try stocking up at Asian supermarkets and drive to warehouses for cheap but high quality seafood, sauces, and even cooking equipment like stirrers, knives and woks.
If you do your regular food shop at Tesco, their Clubcard is fantastic, as points build up fairly quickly and you can quadruple them for money off meals out, experience days and plenty more.
The Boots Advantage Card is fab if you get most of your toiletries there, and the Nectar Card lets you collect points at Sainsbury’s, Vue, Argos, Pizza Express, eBay and EasyJet among others.
Don’t confuse these with store credit cards, which are dangerous when you’re on a low income and will encourage you to spend far more.
Make the most of your free time
BzzAgent is a fab word-of-mouth company that will send you exciting boxes of things to try – in return, you can write reviews, post photos, share on Twitter and Facebook and engage in unique activities like parties and cooking nights.
Offline, keep an eye out for focus groups, extras work, flyering jobs and part-time work in bars and restaurants.
You could tutor local children, or if you’re musical, teach an instrument and consider advertising your services for pub gigs, weddings and other events.
Don’t buy new books
Buy second-hand from Amazon, abebooks.co.uk and alibris.co.uk, look out for sales on campus and in university Facebook groups, and when you’re done with them, stick them back on Amazon or sell them on eBay.
Make the most of all the back to school sales for cheaper stationery, and nab all the free pens at Freshers Fair!
For a UK break, save money on National Express coach fares with an NUS extra card, and if you haven’t got a 16-25 Railcard yet, sign up for one sharpish! One of these will get you 1/3 off all train tickets – perfect for visiting home or friends.
The Extra card will get you money off your railcard, and if you fancy going further afield, it also offers discounts on TrekAmerica, STA Travel, Hostelworld and Gap 360.
Recycle your mobile for cash, using MoneyMagpie’s comparison tool to find where you’ll get the most. Flick lights off when you leave the room, turn the thermostat down a degree or two if you can bear it (wear cosy jumpers!), and cover up cracks in windows and doors to keep the heat in. You can even decamp to the library to take advantage of their heating and electricity!
What are your top student finance tips? Let us know in the comments section below.