Hello lovely people!
It’s a running joke within my friendship group that I am the “Spreadsheet Queen”. Seriously, I have an Excel doc for everything, whether that be my annual finances or our house dream to buy a full Guitar Hero set up (definitely not procrastination during summative season or anything…). Armed with my spreadsheets, excessive budgeting and savvy spending I’m about to give you some awesome tips for how to save money as a student.
1. Budget as if your life depends on it
For most of us, university is the first time we have to budget just to live. Whenever I budgeted pre-university it was because I was saving up for things like my first car, but at uni all I’m saving for is the really fancy brand of toilet paper. I like to set aside a couple of hours at the start of the year to lay out all the money I have coming in and all the money that automatically goes out on things like rent, bills and food. That way you can work out what you have left each month for pints and pitchers. It’s important to log everything you spend so that you can keep on track, and review the budget every month and term.
2. Shop smart
If you go to the nearest supermarket to do your weekly shop chances are you’re going to be paying through the roof for it, especially if you’re in a city-centre (I’m looking at you Tesco Metro…). Take time to find the cheaper places. For me, that’s doing the bulk of my shopping in Aldi and heading to a local fruit & veg shop for the extras (shoutout to the one on North Road in Durham, would highly reccomend!). By doing this I rarely spend more than £20 a week on food, meaning more beer money.
3. Meal prep for days
A staple of every student house is the Tupperware cupboard. Your freezer should be rammed with boxes at all times, because what’s the point in cooking only one portion of a meal? It works out so much cheaper, not to mention quicker, if you bulk-cook in advance. This also means ordering a Chinese is much less appealing, at least most of the time.
4. Pre-drink hard
If you’re alcoholically inclined like most of us, predrinks is your friend. Unless your local is as cheap as mine (£2.30 a pint!! I stan The Swan) it’s almost always cheaper to pick up a bottle of spirit and make it last for the week’s nights out than drinking in bars or pubs. An added bonus is that you get to pick the playlist and can start the night in pyjamas; it’s a no brainer.
5. Packed lunches are for the cool kids
If you have a long day of lectures or heavy study day planned make sure you’ve brought your sandwiches with you. This avoids paying the often hefty prices charged in uni cafes, and is often the healthier approach too. During exam season this year me and my friends set off to the library with a coffee in hand too to avoid the lure of Starbucks on the way (then ruined it by going to the pub on the way home; we tried).
6. Don’t forget to save
Eventually, your phone is going to break, your car insurance will need to be renewed or your trainers will fall apart. Just because you’re at university it doesn’t mean that you don’t need emergency money, in fact you probably need it more than ever. Even if this means a little bit of your loan put aside each month or saving a portion of any Christmas/birthday money, it has to be done.
7. If you need it, get a part-time job
I’ve been working pretty much since it was legal for me to do so, meaning not having a term-time job in first year was a really odd feeling. I topped up my loan over holidays however, returning to 30-40 hours of full-time work each time I got a break from university. This approach works for some, others might prefer to work one day a week alongside studying. It’s important to decide early if you need to work, and how you’re going to fit it around university if you do need the money.
8. You do not need brand new stuff, however much capitalism is trying to make you think so
This goes for clothes, uni books, plates and so much more. University reading lists can be long, and if you pick them all up from a bookshop you could end up spending hundreds (which could be spent on more pints). My favourite formal dress was £3.50 from a charity shop, my favourite skirt was £2. You’re also living more ethically this way too, and saving the planet is the coolest thing you can do.
Follow these tips and you too can just about avoid being in your overdraft. People often ask me how I afford to go travelling and to gigs so much as a student, and this is part of the reason why. I’ve always been a saver, so uni is no exception.
-Megan, listening to the Daily Mix Spotify has somehow generated entirely in French for me (do I admit now or later that I adore trashy Europop)