Being a student who works part-time, the money I earn is highly valuable to me. I will shamelessly search for deals and discounts in every aspect of my life, to ensure that I have enough to get by on. This type of budgeting and financial planning is akin to a start-up bootstrapping until it generates revenue (first job) or gets more funding from it investors (parents perhaps J.) My personal burn rate happens to go through the roof way too easily after only one student night out, so I now incorporate these nights into my own financial projections.
One area of my life where I have been able to save, to compensate for those big nights, is on travel. Travel is an essential part of young peoples’ lives, and whether that be in a car, or by public transport, you need it for work, university and socialising – as well as everything else. Commuting by train, bus and coach is commonplace for students and millennial workers. So, I have created a handy list of money-saving tips for students and non-students alike.
Buses: Small savings that really add up
TfL buses have a flat fare of £1.50 per journey on Oyster card and contactless card payments which really does add up very quickly. To combat you could use the 18+ Student Oyster photocard, which entitles students at eligible London universities to 30% off Travelcards and bus and tram Journeys!
There are other discount opportunities offered by companies in other student cities. For example, Stagecoach’s Manchester Unirider Passes for students. Having personally taken over 500 single journeys after purchasing the annual pass for £230, I calculated that I saved well over £250 over two semesters!
Coaches: Sleep while you save
If you’re looking to travel across the UK for as cheap as possible (and aren’t worried about long journey times or comfort levels too much), the coach might be the best way to go. Using National Express and their Young Persons Coachcard, I could travel from Manchester to London and back for as little as £13 including booking fees, booking two weeks in advance. A 1-year coachcard will give you a third off travel and will only set you back £10. Although it has slightly more awkward journey times, Megabus offers even cheaper services starting at £1 for many such journeys.
When weighing up coach travel versus other options, it’s probably wise not to look at the ticket price alone. You might find that additional nights of accommodation or expensive snacks are required to compensate for the long journey times which really can eat into the discount versus faster options.
Trains: Pro-tactics to save really big!
Trains are generally more expensive than buses and coaches, but there are a considerable range of tactics you could employ to make this a viable option.
Firstly, I would use some price comparison tools to try and get the dates and times with the lowest base fare, such as mytrainticket and thetrainline. They allow you to compare the cheapest tickets over various dates, so are great if you are a little flexible regarding dates you wish to travel.
If your journey has a lot of different modes of transport then I would recommend looking at GoEuro which compares flights, coach fares & train fares simultaneously, and is a useful tool to get your head around your travel logistics.
The next step, is to save yourself even more money off the cheapest fare you find, by applying the discount from a good Student Railcard.
I bought the 3-year 16-25 railcard for £70 which entitles me to 33% off fares. Given the number of times I trek from London to Manchester, I made my money back within a month of buying it. Alternatively, the 1 year railcard only costs £30 and entitles you to the same benefits. In fact, if you purchase before 31st August then Money Saving Expert are offering a 10% discount on this card (alongside other cracking deals) here.
Finally, ‘split ticketing’ can also make booking separate legs of your journey individually cheaper than booking the whole journey on one ticket. For instance, for a London to Manchester journey that stops at Crewe, it can be cheaper to buy a London to Crewe journey and a Crewe to Manchester journey separately! The only downside is having to hold onto two tickets instead of one! Exploiting these loopholes yourself can be tricky but there are now some great dedicated websites that do the leg work for you like raileasy and trainsplitting.
Overall, it can be quite laborious to find cheaper tickets or methods of travelling throughout the UK, however, using the tools and sites mentioned above, you can become an expert discount hunter to allow yourself some leeway for those odd occasions in the Student Union where you burn rate also goes through the roof! J
Thanks for reading and happy travels!