University: Saving Money in London

London is expensive. You hear this a lot, but I don’t think you truly appreciate just how true it is until you actually live there – I know I didn’t! “Sure” I thought. “Everywhere’s expensive for a graduate” I scoffed. Despite being on a (very) good graduate salary living in London can sometimes be tough.

 photo Student Budget_zpss6by45ja.pngRent is ridiculously pricey (I’m desperately hoping my landlord doesn’t up the rent in the summer!). I have a list far longer than my arm of places I want to eat. There’s shops on every corner. Delicious coffees to be drank and cronuts to be eaten. Travel within London isn’t too bad, but to get out anywhere? It can be ridiculously pricey! We’ve been lucky so far in that we’ve managed to travel out of the Capital for decent amounts, but that’s through being savvy – and used to hunting down cheap fares from our LDR days!


Ticketclever
have produced a (pretty good!) infographic helping students in London. I definitely have to go and give @SkintLondon a follow, sounds like a great place to get ideas. Oh, and even if you only travel a couple of times a year, I’d highly recommend a 16-25 railcard. It pays for itself in just two visits home to me – and the saving on travel to places like Edinburgh means it pays for itself almost immediately!

*Sponsored post, as always all opinions are my own.

What recommendations do you have to save a bit of money?

University: Suriving on a Student Budget

Over the last month or so I’ve been talking to a few younger people, a few people who are just off to university. First off, I genuinely can’t believe it is over four years since I moved away for the first time; it still feels like yesterday. University definitely flew by in no time at all! Secondly, it was so, so clear that the fears I had are still the biggest worries today; how will they cope on a student budget.

 photo Student Budget_zpss6by45ja.pngNow, I definitely have my own tips – cook fresh, choose shorter washing cycles, use low-energy bulbs, shop around for deals on bills – but retailer B&M are offering students their best tips on how to survive on a student budget with an infographic.

I thought it gave some excellent advice. Having a clear-out to raise extra cash is something that I did between my first and second year and I raised a lot of money, just from clothes and ‘junk’ I had lying around. I even got £80 for a old phone with a completely smashed screen! However my biggest tip is to utilise a piggy bank – throw any loose change into a jar at the end of the week and leave it there. It’s an easy way to save the pennies you would otherwise spend without thinking!

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*Post sponsored by B&M, all opinions are my own.

What are your top tips for living on a budget?

University: Stretching the Student Budget

It’s coming to the end of the first term of university and my bank account (and probably most other students’) is looking a little empty I know that my own budget is normally really stretched at this time of year, espeically over the Christmas period, so I was really interested in this infographic produced by TransPennine Express aimed at helping students save money during term time. There’s some great money saving tips here!

 photo Stretching Budget_zpszl2yruee.jpg9 tips to keep your student overdraft far from red

I definitely agree with the railcard bit – being in a long distance relationship means a LOT of train journeys, so I’m pretty sure my railcard has saved me hundreds of pounds since starting university in 2012. I also never buy anything without checking for student discount (or another cheeky voucher code!), I eat out using a Taste Card (I get mine free with my student bank account), and I’ve found an excellent local cinema with £2.80 (!) tickets. Little things like this mean I am still treat myself without breaking the bank – like going to see Mockingjay Part 2 (so good, though the ending felt a little weak). I definitely miss Orange Wednesdays though!

What little tips do you have to save money? How’s your Christmas budgeting going? 

University: Reducing Bills

Bills are becoming such a bugbear of mine. I’ve previously lived in rented accommodation inclusive of bills so never really had to worry about accidentally leaving a light on, or the costs of having weekly baths (with several top ups of course!).

 photo Reducing Bills_zpscfoitbiy.jpgThis year we’re paying our bills separately so I’m more conscious of the energy I’m using. It’s only been a few weeks but I’ve already started picking up a few times that might just help save a few pennies.

Keep The Heating On

Might sounds strange, but I really do advise against turning the heating off completely! It takes more energy to turn the entire system on that it does just to up the thermostat if it gets chilly. Plus it prevents pipes freezing in the holidays. I always keep the heating on and have never received an overly expensive bill!
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Wrap Up

Rather than turning the heating up, I’d always put a few extra layers on first. Do this before you get too cold and you’ll find that you’ll notice the benefit more than heating up the whole house. I personally have to constantly make sure my feet are warm – with our kitchen tiles slippers are a must or I’ll never get warm!

Find Alternative Heating Sources

Our house this year has a lovely conservatory, perfect for studying in. Only problem is it gets bloody cold! Rather than upping the heating up to try and warm it up, we’ve gotten hold of a little electric radiator. While electricity is more expensive per unit than gas at the moment, it certainly is cheaper than (over)heating the whole house! Turning it on for five minutes every hour or so keeps it cosy enough – though I’m beginning to like studying with a blanket over my lap!
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Warm Lunches

I find that if I’m at home all day, eating a warm lunch keeps me a lot warmer – saving me upping the heating! Making a batch of soup to blast in the microwave is my favourite, with this lentil one being super-cheap anyway. And I’m loving a good egg and soldiers too (and turning the hob on warms the kitchen up nicely)!

Use A Slow Cooker

Some of my favourite winter-y meals are stews and casseroles, but it can get expensive to have the oven on for four hours at a time. A slow cooker makes it possible to cook up these meals whilst using less electricity, and it also means I can leave things cooking whilst I head off to lectures. There’s nothing better than coming in to the smell of dinner already ready to be eaten!

 photo Report Done_zpsftdrj8vk.jpgFollowing these tips has already begun to save a few pennies – fingers crossed it continues as the lure of Christmas party dresses is starting to take it’s toll…

Do you have any tips for saving money on bills?

University: Making Extra Money as a Student

As a cash-strapped student, I know just how tough it can me to scrape up enough pennies to join your housemates when they’re heading out. There are few worse feelings than being skint and unable to join in with the fun, so it’s worth considering ways to make some money on the side to help pay bills and fund your social life. Newcastle-based letting agent Letslivehere have put together some great tips on making extra money as a student.
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Blogging

Starting with the most obvious method to readers of the site, blogging can be a good way to build a future portfolio for those who want to work in marketing, communications, journalism or anything writing-related. It can also be lucrative if you start attracting good viewership, as you can monetise your blog with advertising and PR requests. I will say however that it takes a lot of time and dedication – it’s not an easy option, and ‘making money’ is not a good reason to start a blog!

eBay Selling

Anything you have that you don’t use can be sold on eBay. Whether it’s for a few pounds or gadgetry that fetches more, it’s all profit from items you no longer touch – so get them listed and pocket a few extra pennies a month.
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Editing

If you’re a strong writer with a severe case of grammar-fever, you can land a role as an editor for self-published writers. Besides setting up your own blog, you can advertise your services on freelancing websites like PeoplePerHour and Fiverr.

Freelancing

Whether you’ve got some skill with graphic design, writing or photography you can turn your talent into a money-making venture while you’re at uni. Getting started can be tough, but once you have your name out there you’ll see more offers coming in.
To begin with, register a website and try to get some examples of your work on it – if this means working for free it’s a small sacrifice at first. However, you should never agree to work for free once you have a portfolio – it undervalues the creative sector.
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Tutoring

Depending on your subject of choice, there are plenty of tutoring opportunities that are available to students. You can either independently get CRB-checked and then head out advertising your services by knocking on doors or posting leaflets, or you can use a website such as First Tutors, which is an open marketplace that you can advertise your services on.

Promoting

We’ve all seen people stood on the high street getting drenched by rain as they hand out leaflets that you don’t really want to take. You can be one of those, if you can stomach the experience. It’s a paid job and doesn’t take much effort. Done in pairs, it can even be fun. Ring up your local nightclubs and ask if they have any promotional jobs.

Alternatively, you can promote a brand by becoming a brand ambassador. Brands like Red Bull and Smirnoff have representatives who help promote and sell their product in bars and clubs and accept students for roles. If you’ve got charisma, you’ve got a good chance.

*Disclaimer: post in collaboration with, all opinions are my own!

I never knew just how many options there were for making a few extra pennies – I wish I’d had this information sooner!

What are your top tips for making a bit of extra cash?

Lifestyle: What £30 Can Buy & What To Donate to a Food Bank

These days, £30 can’t even buy you a dress from Topshop. It might buy you a pair of jeans. It won’t get you two MAC lipsticks. It CAN, however, virtually buy a whole shop for three families.

 photo 34ea6b8f-bd27-4073-8817-18f499057c93_zpsonfa49vj.jpgThink Money have been working alongside local food banks up and down the country to look at the reasons underlying the rising food poverty in the UK. They invited me to take part in the Food Bank Challenge and I jumped at the chance. On a student budget it is often difficult to find anything spare to support charities, even being on a paid internship money wasn’t exactly going spare in my pocket. This gave me the opportunity to support a cause I feel strongly about, beyond the odd donation of a can here or there. It also gave me a challenge – how much can I buy for £30. I was actually quite shocked at the results…

I pretty much immediately decided I wanted to try and get things in ‘threes’ – in other words buy three families worth of shopping. I did check with my local foodbank and they kindly said they were inundated with pasta and rice, but short on things to serve with them, along with toiletries. I also didn’t pick up any fresh produce as most food banks just ask for non-perishable goods.

In the end I had an overloaded trolley of bits and pieces, so full and heavy I was struggling to push it! I’d been roughly adding it up as I went round, but was doubting myself – no way could this amount of food come in at around £30. However I was proved wrong with the entire trolley-full coming in at £35.45.

 photo What to Donate to a Food Bank 1_zpsmtly5hgf.jpgI tried to pick things up in ‘meals’ as this made most sense to me. First up was breakfast, and I grabbed 3 lots of cereal, 3 cartons of UHT milk, 3 cartons of fruit juice and 3 packs of teabags. The Foodbank says a lot of donations tend to overlook breakfast and, whilst they are grateful for anything received, it can be hard knowing families are going without anything to eat before work or school.

 photo What to Donate to a Food Bank 3_zpshjblpoho.jpgLunch bits were where I became a bit stuck, but eventually went for crisps, crackers and biscuits, along with bottles of squash. Again, three of everything – I was lucky as both the crisps and the squash ending up being on a multi-buy offer the weekend I shopped!

Dinners were easier, and again I got three of everything. I think I’ve remembered just about everything but I picked up chopped tomatoes, cooking sauces (a range from curry to cheesy sauce – I was shocked at how much more expensive non-tomato products are!), stock cubes, gravy, soup, peas, carrots, potatoes, sweetcorn, kidney beans and even some fruit.

 photo What to Donate to a Food Bank 2_zpsuyecy2s4.jpgToiletries wise, budget was starting to stretch. I ended up getting only one lot of toilet roll, mainly as my local Sainsbury’s was out of their cheaper packs. I picked up shower gel, shampoo, conditioner and even some sanitary towels – something I totally take for granted as I can’t imagine not being able to afford these!

I took everything to the Putney branch of the Wandsworth Food Bank Network. The workers there were so grateful, a lovely woman who made me a cup of tea (I then felt gulity for drinking their tea!), and whilst we were there a father was signing up to receive some food. They were so touched we’d thought to go and check what they were short of beforehand, and it was clear our donations would make a real difference.

 photo What to Donate to a Food Bank 4_zpswpok7rbx.jpgAlongside this shop, I also took along a few bags worth of stationery and cleaning products. I find that I get sent a lot of stationery samples at this time of year and, whilst I am extremely grateful, I often find my drawers overflowing with pens and notepads. Likewise with cleaning products this year – I’ve been sent some lovely bits, but our flat comes equipped with bits like that (plus a cleaner). With limited space to transport things back I took the decision to donate some of it to the Food Bank – again they were so grateful. This particular branch run career sessions weekly, where they help with CVs and applications, so the stationery will come in so useful. It also made me think how integral food banks are to society – not just for the food element, but for the support they provide. My local one offers parenting sessions, toddler play-times, career help, and just a place to chat.

I’m so grateful to Think Money for giving me this opportunity to see how far £30 goes, I’ll definitely be thinking more about how I spend my money in the future! I love that I have been able to support a cause I feel strongly, and I know my donations will be enjoyed. I only wish I could do it more often!

Have you ever donated to a food bank? What items would you donate? Is there something I’ve donated that you wouldn’t have thought of?

 

University: Traveling Abroad on a Budget

Having just come back from our Italy adventures (which are still being chronicled on the blog!), I’ve added up all our spending and I’m pretty pleased with how it went – we did treat ourselves, we did spend €80 on a gondola trip, but we had a damn good time and didn’t splurge too much. It felt only fitting that I share the following article with you – the best ways to travel on a budget!

 photo Castel SantAngelo 9_zpsmlmdjydf.jpgIf there is one thing that many students love to do, it’s travel abroad. Whether you are travelling during the holidays or whether you decide to take time out of university in order to explore the world, heading to pastures new can really help to broaden your horizons. It’s also a fabulous way to learn more about different destinations and cultures as well as to take in some world famous sights and attractions.

Of course, one thing that can get in the way of travelling abroad for many students is their finances. Most students tend to struggle financially during their university years, which can make it difficult to visit destinations abroad. The cost of travelling, accommodation and spending money can really mount up. Fortunately, there are ways in which you can cut the cost of travelling and enjoy travelling on the cheap while still enjoying the opportunity to explore new places. From cutting the cost of flights to benefitting from discount deals on sites such as VoucherBin, there are various options that can help when it comes to reducing the cost of travelling.

 photo Wandering in Venice 19_zpsvpyzgtb3.jpgThere are a number of different ways in which you can enjoy travelling abroad on the cheap as a student. Some of the key steps to take in order to help you cut costs include:

  • Travel light: These days, you can get some excellent deals on flights from low cost airlines. However, if you are taking a lot of luggage with you, the cost can quickly rise because you get charged for each suitcase you check-in. However, many of these airlines offer a pretty generous allowance for carry-on luggage, and this doesn’t cost you any extra. So, if you are able to travel light you could make big savings on flights.
  • Save money with vouchers: When you go on sites such as VoucherBin.co.uk, you can get some excellent deals and vouchers to help you cut costs. This includes discounts on attraction passes in destinations such as Berlin or Paris as well as airport parking discounts, transport discounts, and money off deals for holidays. VoucherBin offers a wide range of travel discounts and vouchers, so this is a really smart way to cut your travel costs.
  • Stay in a hostel: When you are on a budget, the last thing you want to do is spend all of your money on a hotel room. Given that you will spend a lot of time out and about exploring the area it is pointless to spend more than you need to on accommodation. With this in mind, it is well worth looking for a local hotel where you can stay. This can really slash the amount that you have to pay for accommodation, and you will probably get to meet many other students from different places around the world.

These are just a few of the ways in which you can help to keep travel costs down when you are jetting off abroad as a student.

 photo Roman Forum amp Palatine Hill 3_zpsboiqxrmf.jpgMy main tips are to shop around (but on inPrivate browsing – I’m convinced they put the prices up after you’ve looked a few times!), research accommodation and public transport costs, and buy lunches from supermarkets.

Are you off travelling anywhere this year? What are your tips for holidays on a budget?

Personal: What Could You Save?

Who doesn’t like the idea of getting cashback on their everyday spending? Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, wrong! Santander allow this to come true with their 123 credit card which offers cashback on supermarket shops, department stores, petrol stations and TfL- who could resist that!?

 photo a99dc03f-c9fd-43f0-abe9-1dce0111e743_zpsggkmutb1.jpgTaking on a credit card is a big decision, but if you do decide to go for one I’d definitely consider getting something with bonuses like this! Santander have also greater a pretty nifty calculator – just pop in your monthly income and it will calculate your expected annual cashback.

Based on my (excessive) use of rail transport it worked out I’d gain a massive £127 cashback a year. That’s a pretty immense amount of month, which could see me nearly doubling my food budget over the year, or even just treating myself a bit more. Makes the thought of spending so much on train fares a bit nicer too!

 photo 2015-06-15 19.43.22_zpsaizzicad.jpgSantander offered to send me on an experience with the money I would save, but due to my holiday (currently in the sun as you read!) and then moving it was causing timings to be a little bit difficult. Instead they decided to treat me to some items off my ‘I really, really want but can’t justify the cost’ list. These are things I’ve never, ever buy for myself as they are just too expensive. I literally squealed with excitement when the package turned up. And as it was delivered to my desk at work that was a teeny, tiny bit embarrassing. Ah well.

 photo 2015-06-15 19.40.49_zpsgz4semrd.jpgThe first thing on my list is Tom Ford’s Velvet Orchid. I got a whiff of this back in January and fell in love. The scent is perfect, and it lasts so well on the skin. I sprayed in on my wrist mid-morning, travelled from Oxford to Surrey, slept and could still smell it at work the next day. At £72 this is eye-wateringly expensive, to the point I wouldn’t even put it on my Christmas list.

 photo 2015-06-15 19.38.24_zpszrvu7l8s.jpg photo 2015-06-15 19.41.23_zps6x5zztqp.jpgNext up was something Charlotte Tilbury shaped. I’ve lusted over Dolce Vita for months, but when I finally swatched it a few months ago I was less than impressed. Enter The Sophisticate. A palette of shades I don’t actually own, no glitter, only a little shimmer, and that beautiful, beautiful packaging. It’s something I wouldn’t ever treat myself too – I cried a little inside at spending £37 on 12 eyeshadows, let alone 4!

 photo 4158b62a-7cf8-4028-8164-8d07f7766f3e_zpsiy6wjsv4.jpgNow, a MAC lipstick. You may argue that I do buy MAC lipsticks, and you’d be right. However (I say a trifle defensively) I play it safe. I buy neutral colours, ones I know suit me. I’ve never picked up a bold from here, until now. Lady Danger is a damn scary colour, an orange-toned, bright, scary red. It’s gorgeous, I love it, and I’m hoping it isn’t restarting my MAC addiction. I’ll need more lipstick storage if so…

How much money could this cashback credit card save you? What would you do with the money you would save – an experience or some treats?

University: Getting your Deposit Back

When we left our second year house, we had a long list of what we ‘should’ do to ensure we got our deposit back. I say ‘should’ as sarcastically as possible – because who has the time or the inclination to wipe down skirting boards?!

 photo 72c042eb_original_zpstyxwkerj.jpgIn all seriousness, being generally clean and tidy throughout the year is probably enough to get your deposit back. But there are a few little extras that don’t take too long to do, will make the house seem extra-sparkly and probably improve a future tenant reference. This year I’ve rented a room in a private house and this is what I’ll be doing to make sure I get my deposit back – it’s probably a bit more than I’d do for a student house, but I have lived in a room 10 steps away from my landlady’s since last July.

As a side-note, I’ve realised I’ve lived in this room longer than anywhere since I started university in 2012 – it’s been an odd experience, but I’m going to be rather sad to leave!

Take Photographs Before and After

In my university halls I was threatened with a fine when I moved out due to the state of the shared areas (see my post about nightmare housemates!) – it always pays to argue if you feel this is unfair. I did, and didn’t pay a penny. I’d advise taking detailed photos when you move in and out, just in case.
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Wash Provided Fabrics

I was provided with bed linen and lots of cushions this year, and all will be bunged in the washing machine (most machines have a gentle or hand-wash setting that’s perfect for cushion covers). A sprinkle of Vanish pre-wash on any suspicious looking marks and after a spin they’ll be like brand new.

Trust me, this stuff works. I’ve had a worrying stain on a cushion from a pair of boots – the boots were clean, but brand new and the rubber sole left black marks. I’ve since treated it with Vanish and yep, stain has vanished.
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Have an Extra Long Hoover

This is going to be a tough one for me to stomach – I live with three dogs and despite hoovering a couple of times a week I feel my carpet is always hairy. And that’s with the dogs not entering the room. Before I leave I plan on sprinkling the carpet with Bicarbonate of Soda, then hoovering for a good three times longer than I would normally. The bicarb freshens everything up and absorbs odours – I love it as a natural way to clean.
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Empty Kitchen Areas

Make sure you take or throw away any unwanted spices, plates, etc. Once the cupboards and fridge are empty, clean them. Wiping down a fridge always makes it smell and look so much better – and it doesn’t need to take long. I always use a half a fresh lemon first to cut through any grease and add a nice odour, then just some warm water.

Make sure you clean the oven too – and don’t skimp on the product. Buy proper oven cleaner (Oven Pride is by far the best I’ve used), and follow the instructions. You’ll need far less elbow grease!

Dust Everywhere

It’s amazing how much dust gathers on areas you don’t see. I’m not tall enough to see my top shelf, yet when I wear heeled boots I can – and I always realise that it needs dusting. When you move out stand on a chair and dust everywhere. I’d suggest wafting a duster around ceilings too to remove.
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Clean Carpets

This doesn’t need to involve one of those expensive hired machines, just a bit of Vanish spray and a cloth. I always have a cup of tea in bed each morning and quite often drip a little onto the carpet (clearly not awake enough!). A spray of Vanish, a quick wipe and it looks like new.

Check Tenants Responsibilities

It could be that you are responsible for bits that you would otherwise forget. My friends are preparing to move out of their current student house and realised they had full responsibility to get the garden in a suitable state – without having been supplied with even a lawn mower. It costs around £20 to have a simple garden tidied up – and if that gets you back a deposit worth several hundred each that’s money well spent.
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Be a Good Tenant

Being a good tenant throughout your agreement is a surefire way of getting your deposit back. Be polite, agreeable and easy to deal with. Offer to make small improvements yourself – our second year hob was cleaner when we moved out than when we got there thanks to some elbow grease. By keeping things clean and tidy for mid-tennancy inspections you will definitely improve chances of getting your deposit back.

Do you have any tips for getting a rental deposit back? Have you ever NOT got your deposit back?

University: Making Bill Sharing Easier with Payfriendz

Settling up bills payments, even if just a meal out, can be painful. I’ve been there before, a friend forgetting to pay me back and me feeling awkward and more than a little mean chasing it up.

 photo fee35fc4-5e96-4a30-965a-ad928785e071_zpsgrazna2c.jpgPayfriendz is a new app that (slightly annoying name aside) takes out some of the pain of sharing bills. It allows you to both send and request transfers as long as you have your ‘friendz’ mobile number, and they need to be registered on the app too.

The transferring is more social than a standard bank app, and slightly easier to use (my own bank limits saved people on the app to five, which makes it remarkably difficult with rent, housemates, boyfriends etc). You use it a little like Whatsapp, asking for specific money and specifying why you’re sending money. It even lets you use smilies if that’s your thing.

 photo 588add16-3769-4ae7-b77b-2c2ea8f208d6_zps1dxqbfsm.jpgI’ve always been slightly wary of paying using phone numbers, but this is more secure – you load up your account with ‘credit’ and then pay using that. There’s limitation to the damage should it go wrong!

I’ve been trialing it out whilst sorting out holiday bits and pieces with W (just over a month to go!) and we’ve found it really useful. What’s even more ‘exciting’ is that it can also deal with cross-currency transfers, a feature that attracts a small fee (using the app is free in just one currency). You can tell I work in a remotely ‘financial’ job, yes?

I think this is a fab app, and a great idea. I admit the idea of paying via mobile number doesn’t sit fully right with me, though I like that it’s not just opening up your entire bank account. And being password protected makes me feel a whole lot better about this version.
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*Sponsored post with Payfriendz

What do you think about mobile payment apps? Do you think this would make your life easier?