7 tips for student budgeting: it’s not all Super Noodles and Netflix
So, your A-level results are in, you’ve picked your course and you’re all set to start college or university – but do you have a plan for affording everything whilst you’re there?
From covering the cost of accommodation to class resources and nights out, starting college and university comes with a price tag attached.
Sure, it all seems fine when your student loan comes in, but without a good budget you could end up eating beans on toast for the rest of the year.
There’s a lot to think about in those first few weeks, and it’s often a miss mash of new people, jaeger bombs and hangovers. But once your sore head fades and you’ve survived the whirlwind that is freshers, it’s time to learn how to survive.
Living for less doesn’t have to mean microwave meals or missing out – so here’s seven money saving lessons to help you survive the student life.
Budget like a boss
It’s easy to feel on top of the world when your loan payment hits your bank, and budgeting often goes to the back of our minds. But you might not like the balance so much a week later if you don’t budget it right.
The money you get needs to last you the whole term, and you’ll find that a good chunk of it will need to pay for your rent. As such, it’s best to set aside this amount first before anything else – you’re not going to be able to have much fun if you’ve got nowhere to have an afterparty.
Once you’ve done that, you can work out how much you need for everything else, such as your food, books and notebooks, allowing you to have a fun time without leaving yourself short.
Credit cards don’t make you cool
When you turn 18, you’re also introduced to the world of credit cards, which essentially allow you to borrow money from the bank with the agreement that you pay it back at the end of the month.
However, if you don’t pay the full balance and instead choose to only make the minimum payments, you’ll be charged interest on the amount you borrowed. It’s for this reason that our next tip is to just avoid them all together.
Minimum payments are marketed as something to give you time to pay back what you owe, but in reality, they’re designed to only clear a small portion of your balance each time. If you’re not working during your uni years, this can mean the balances can become out of control quicker than you can down a vodka shot.
Be a discount diva
If there’s one benefit of being at college/university, it’s the discounts you can get. Hundreds of shops and restaurants offer discounts to students both in store and online.
You can unlock these by applying for a NUS Extra card. Starting at £12 for one year, this can save you up to £500 a year and doubles as an International Student Identity Card – which means you can use it abroad.
It’s not always possible to live either on or close to campus, and unless you have your own car the train will become a staple in your travelling. This is where rail cards come in.
Buying a 16-25 railcard saves you a third off any off-peak train/tube ticket you need to buy each week – and they only cost £30 for the year. So, if you spend over £90 a year on trains, then you’ll definitely get your money’s worth.
Frugal food shopping
You’ve got to eat to live, and no one wants to be that person that goes through uni on a diet of Super Noodles and spaghetti hoops. It is possible to eat well for less, you just need to unlock your eye for a bargain.
Do your food shopping in the evening as this is when a lot of supermarkets will start marking prices down (usually about 6pm). Buying items from the reduced section can give you plenty to fill your freezer with to use at a later date – just try not to shop on an empty stomach.
You can also save yourself some much needed pennies by switching from branded items to own-label ones. A lot of them are just the same, if not better, than the named ones and after often much cheaper.
Now you’ve shopped smart, it’s time to cook smart.
It’s very easy to accidently let food go to waste, and you end up feeling like you’ve wasted money for no reason. So, to counteract that, why not cook in bulk and freeze it all.
For example, make a whole pot load of chilli – enough to feed about four to five people – and freeze it in portions. That way you’ll have four to five dinners sitting there for when you need/want them.
You can do this with many meals, which means you can buy larger packs of meat, veg and tinned goods without them going to waste. If you live with other people – cook enough to feed everyone and just keep the leftovers.
The more you save, the more you’ll have for those rainy days when you’re bored out of your head or for those lads/ girls’ holidays you’ll no doubt go on during breaks.
Why not try setting yourself one ‘no spend’ day a week and set the money you would have used aside. We know this will be hard, but it can also help you to get into the habit of controlled spending.
If this isn’t your cup of tea, you could try one of the many savings challenges that are out there – such as the ‘1p challenge’ or, since it’s that time, the ‘no spendember’ challenge. These will allow you to save little and often, which in turn will give you a nice little pot of money by the time you finish it.
Cheap and cheerful
As a student you don’t want to be forking out all of your money of expensive bills such as your phone, broadband and utilities.
Shop around for the best deals and tariffs that will give you the most for your money instead of leaving you stuck with high bills every month and little money to cover them all. It’s also worth checking if they offer any discounts to students to help knock something of the price.
Plus, there’s also usually Wi-Fi across most campus’ that you can use for free.
If you have money worries or are struggling with debts, contact us today on 0808 2234 102. Our friendly advisors are on hand to give you free and confidential advice, no matter what your circumstances are.