As a first-year student starting in September 2016, my main fear was surviving on pasta for two weeks, unable to afford pasta sauce. I had the slight concern that I’d blow my whole student finance payment by the end of Freshers’ Week.
I’m sure this feels inevitable for most students, but it doesn’t have to be this way. There are ways of avoiding the ‘Broke Student’ cliché and I’m going to share a few of the methods I followed, which helped me avoid dipping into my student overdraft, leaving me with a grand end-of-year total of… £51.64.
There were 6 main methods I followed which saved me a bunch, as follows…
Don’t buy when you can borrow
Initially, when moving in to University accommodation, you might not be sure what to bring and writing a checklist can be time consuming, so an incredibly useful list of things you might need can be found here. A good strategy would be to borrow as much as you can on this list from home! If your family can’t spare any supplies, shops like Wilkinson’s and Poundland will have most of the gear you need to get started for cheaper than a Starbucks coffee.
Smart Food Shopping
It might come as no surprise that shopping at Aldi, Lidl, and local stores, instead of more upmarket supermarkets like Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer’s is cheaper. But you might be surprised to learn I managed to cut my food bill in half when I shifted from Sainsbury’s to Lidl, which gave me more cash to either spend on booze, or to save for later.
Season travel pass
I paid £225 upfront for a two-semester travel pass on all Stagecoach buses in Manchester, and although this sounds like a lot, I think I would have spent over £500 on bus fares throughout the year if I had purchased single tickets. The saving is, of course, dependent on how many times you get into Uni for lectures, as opposed to binging on Netflix all day in your room!
The other benefit is that a season pass saves you time and hassle, on those days when you are in a rush to get to Uni. No need to queue up at the cash point or ticket machine to buy tickets!
Freshers’ and Refreshers’ Week
During Freshers’ and Refreshers’, I went out with my flatmates every other night, instead of every night. This didn’t make me a social recluse, as it also helped me when talking to people on my course, instead of sleeping off a hangover in lectures!
At Freshers’ Week and Fairs, obviously try to get as much free stuff as possible, but also try not to fall for buying expensive tickets for nights out. Some of the best nights out are actually in the most obscure, off the grid bars and clubs that are often cheaper.
As a student, you’ll gain access to an extensive list of discounts, offers, promos and deals. You might get a mini booklet from Freshers’ Fairs stalls, including deals and offers for local businesses such as hairdressers, fast food restaurants and anything in between, but I actually found some of the most useful ones were subscription discounts.
For instance, At the beginning of first semester last year, students received a 6-month free trial for Amazon Prime. Being an avid reader, (and watcher of Mr.Robot on Prime Video), I tried the service out. Although Prime Video may not be as robust as Netflix, I still found that Amazon’s customer care was exceptional. Next day delivery, Prime discounts (Black Friday and Cyber Monday) and the exclusivity of being a Prime member was a pretty good feeling for a student!
Word of warning! Near the end of your free trial, be wary of automatically being enrolled onto the paid for service. So if it isn’t for you after the free trial period, then make sure to cancel before you’re made to pay.
Another great deal is Spotify’s 50% off Premium deal, especially if you’re a frequent user of the streaming service. If you like Calzones then I would recommend the NUS Extra 3-year card, which gives you 40% off at Zizzi’s!
This list is by no means exhaustive, but just a snapshot of some of my favourite deals being offered to students. There will be plenty others out there. Whether they’re better than a nice Calzone… I’ll leave that down to you.
Avoiding student overdraft
The most practical tool to avoid your student overdraft is to avoid even applying for one! When I didn’t even apply, I knew I wasn’t giving myself that money as a fall-back option.
Overall, budgeting doesn’t have to mean tenuous planning of every penny spent, but it’s the small things that make a difference, like buying the cheaper pint when at the pub, prowling the reduced isles in supermarkets and understanding that your student finance payments need to last you a whole academic year. Getting a job can help subsidise your living if you have more expensive tastes, but as a low-budget, time-constrained student, these tips and tricks should help you navigate University with a little more breathing room!
Should you find yourself struggling to keep on top of your finances whilst studying, SmartBill can help you monitor and cut down on your expenditure to give you some peace of mind!
Thanks for reading and please share this with the one friend you know who’ll need this advice!