Students are notoriously crap with money. I wasn’t too bad, but I still managed to spend more than I probably should have. It’s just so easy to pick up food at the student bar or order a takeaway when a) you have to cook for one and that’s SO much harder than cooking for two, b) you’ve probably not got any clean pans thanks to light-fingered housemates and c) er, have you heard of student discount?!
And that’s not even mentioning retail therapy and booze. Got a hard exam coming up? Go to the shops/bar to take your mind off it. Got a First in your latest essay? Go to the shops/bar to celebrate.
So yeah. That student loan can go preeeetty quickly.
Don’t Buy Books
When my book list first came through, I spent around £300 on course books. Eight years later and I’m now selling them (mostly unread). They just weren’t needed. Wait and see what your University library is like before dropping hundreds of pounds of textbooks you might not need. If you decide that you do want to buy them, check eBay for any bargains before splurging on new ones.
Pay your rent in one lump sum
If you live in halls this might already be a requirement, but if you rent privately ask your landlord if you can pay you rent in one lump sum at the beginning of term (make sure you get a receipt, though!) If this isn’t an option or if you’re not comfortable with the idea of paying your landlord with one lump sum — perhaps if your housemates are a bit unreliable with payment — transfer the amount you’ll need to pay into a separate bank account and (this is the important part) do not touch it.
Cash is your BFF
… especially on nights out. It’s far too easy to go to a cash point or start using your debit/credit card at the bar. One guy I went to Uni with bought the whole class drinks on a night out — and regretted it the next day when he realised he’d spent £120 on shots. Take cash instead and stick to spending that, and the only hangover you have the next day will be alcohol-induced.
Meal planning will help you save money, as you won’t end up eating out because you haven’t got any food in the house. However, cooking for one isn’t easy; you usually end up with food waste of some sort. Batch cook things like bolognese and chilli, which you can then freeze and add to pasta and potatoes to make full meals later. Microwave packets of rice make a nice filling portion of egg fried rice (simply stir fry with veg and an egg or two), and you can buy frozen veg to reduce waste. As you’ll probably be short on freezer space, use freezer-safe bags to make the most of the space you do have available.
Get a Job
You might not feel like you have time for a job, but it’s a pretty obvious way of boosting your income. Working just eight hours a week could earn you £45 (at minimum wage) — which should be more than enough to cover your food bills. If you don’t fancy retail, waitressing or bar work, you could try self-employment, online surveys or mystery shopping to pull in the cash instead. Plus, if you earn under £11k a year you don’t have to pay tax. Win!
I’m a huge advocate of cashback websites. You can get cashback on loads of online retailers (including Asos) and it’s completely free to join. You simply need to create an account and then head to the cashback website before making your purchase, so that it can track your activity. The money might take a while to land in your account, but hey — it’s free money.
Use an Envelope Budget
A cash-in-envelope budget is the best way not to overspend. Handing over hard-earned cash makes you actually consider every purchase you make. If it feels a bit daunting, just use envelopes for food and socialising; have an envelope for each week, and only make purchases in cash. When it’s gone, it’s gone. You’ll probably find yourself trying not to spend money.