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.
Now, 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!
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!
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?
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!).
This 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!
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!
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!
Following 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…
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Think 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.
I 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.
Lunch 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.
Toiletries 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.
Alongside 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?
In all honestly, one of the worst bits about being a student for me is the lack of money (I’ve so enjoyed my placement year for this reason!). I also found applying for student finance one of THE most stressful things in the whole process. They simplified and improved the website now and it is a lot easier, but yep. It wasn’t fun. When Ryan offered to send over these tips for dealing with SFE I couldn’t help but share;
As the end of A-Level exams approaches along with the start of a long summer break, many of you will be thinking towards higher education come September.Whether you’re going to college or university, you’ll likely have been going through the student finance process with your parents in order to get your affairs in order for when you fly the nest.But before you start panicking about how you’re going to afford to live on your own, and before you nag your parents to get on the phone to their financial advisor, it’s worth understanding what you’re entitled to for both your studies and your living costs.
When you get accepted onto a university or college course you will be entitled to a tuition fee loan to cover the costs of the course. You won’t see this money, as it will be transferred directly to your institution from the student loan company. The currents rates are as follows:
Up to £9,000 for full-time students
Up to £6,000 for full-time students at a private university or college
Up to £6,750 for part-time students
Up to £4,500 for part-time students at a private university or college
When it comes to repaying your student loan, the first thing to remember is that you won’t start paying anything back until the April following the end of your course, and only once you start earning over £21,000 per year. Repayments are then made at 9% of your earnings. You loan will also accrue interest at the rate of inflation plus 3%.
Many people wonder whether it is worth paying off a student loan early, but as it’s one of the best loan rates you’re ever likely to receive it is often not worth doing so; after 30 years of payments, if there is an outstanding balance it will be wiped.
Your parents’ income will have absolutely no impact on your tuition fees, unlike…
If you are moving away from home for University then obviously you are going to need money to live. A maintenance loan will allow you to pay for your rent, bills, food, travel and books (as well as ‘socialising’, of course…), though how much your parents earn will have an impact on the amount you can receive. The current maintenance loan values are:
Up to £4,565 if living at home
Up to £5,740 if living away from home, outside of London
Up to £8,009 if living away from home, in London
Up to £6,820 if you spend a year of a UK course studying abroad
Households with an income of over £62,000 per year are expected to help with living costs through a ‘subsidised contribution’ of £2,009, which means maintenance loans (outside London) are then capped at £3,731 per year.
Yes, that’s right: University students can actually receive free money! Don’t be fooled into thinking your maintenance loan is free money, you will end up paying it back alongside your tuition fees. There are, however a number of bursaries (set by each individual University, and not always eligible to all) as well as maintenance grants that don’t need to be repaid. Whether you’re eligible for a maintenance grant, and exactly how much you receive will again depend on your parents’ household income:
£3,387 per year if from a household with an income of £25,000 or less
£2,441 per year if from a household with an income of £30,000
£1,494 per year if from a household with an income of £35,000
£547 per year if from a household with an income of £40,000
£50 per year if from a household with an income of £42,620
No grant if from a household with an income of over £42,620
The government’s official student loan calculator will allow you to work out just how much maintenance loan and grant you should receive.
It sounds boring, but to ensure you don’t blow through your maintenance loan in Freshers Week and are living on a diet of plain rice right through until Christmas, you’re going to have to set yourself a budget. Take a day this Summer to work out exactly how much you’ll be getting, how much your rent will be (student halls are usually inclusive of all bills and paid up-front each term), and how much you’ll have left over for books, food and fun.
Most students have to live on a budget of less than £500 per month, and that includes your rent and bills, so budgeting and finding out all of the special student discounts you can receive is essential in order to stop the calls to Mum and Dad to get an extra tenner every couple of weeks.
*Sponsored Post. Ryan Smith is part of the content development team at Local Financial Advice, connecting people with independent financial advisors in their local area to help them achieve their financial goals.
I hope this has helped new students understand a bit more about the student finance allocation – it’s definitely made it a lot clearer in my eyes!
Is it just me, or does everyone have a relative that insists on getting you a voucher from some obscure shop? Up until a few years ago I could GUARANTEE I would receive a Next voucher every birthday/Christmas which as a teenager I really wasn’t impressed with. Now, however, I’d love one! Imagine all the homewear splurges…
But now there’s a solution to this in the form of Zeek. Zeek is an app (and quite a well designed one too, considering it’s entirely app-based!) which allows you to sell unwanted vouchers. Obviously you’re rather unlikely to get their face value back, but it’s better than the voucher sitting unused in your purse until expiry.
And there’s an even better side to this – you can buy other people’s unwanted vouchers at a discount! If you were planning on buying a few bits from a specific store it makes sense to check the app as these vouchers are independent of any other discount you have. The majority seem to be web-based vouchers too so can be used directly from your phone immediately after purchase.
I was gifted a little Zeek credit to buy myself a voucher and head out and treat myself. I put some money in, and ended up with £65 to spend in New Look for just £55. I’ve not spent much of it yet (just picking up the jeans I cried over) but I find New Look clothes always fit well – I’m just waiting for my weight to stabilize and then I’ll be hitting the shops!
To make buying vouchers even better, if you use code 2vcbyd you’ll get £5 off your first voucher – making even more savings. I’ll gain a little bit too, however this isn’t a perk just for me – the share code comes with every account so you’ll have a chance to refer friends too.
Disclaimer: I was gifted an amount of credit to try out the app, but all opinions are my own – I’ll definitely be using Zeek to pick up John Lewis vouchers when I’m setting up home next year!
Have you used Zeek before? Do you often get gift vouchers you really don’t want?
You may or may not have been an article featuring me in the news last week. I must say, it took me a little by surprise as I gave the interview to a PR agent months ago! Of course, the papers don’t exactly print the whole truth (and the headline is ridiculous!) so I thought I’d post a little something about my budget, how I try and stick to it, and why I try and cut spending.
My budget is a lot lower than people assume.
I receive the minimum maintenance loan and my university town is one of the most expensive outside of London. Case in point: my room this year (commutable distance to London, and extremely nice) is costing me the same amount in rent as my student house was last year. Which was roughly the same as halls. I get a small amount of regular money from my grandparents (£10 a week – and the reason I get this is long, complicated and emotional, and not down to financial reasons), and my parents do as much as they can – lending me money for unexpected expenses and doing a big food shop at the start of term. I travel to see my boyfriend around once a month which costs between £30 and £60 on trains depending on where we are based. This all equates to my food budget being a strict £25 a fortnight, and my going out budget to be zero.
I do shop using vouchers.
My main point in my interview was that I don’t believe anyone should buy something without a quick google to see if there’s a discount..
Finances were a huge worry for me pre-university.
I very much have a tuition and maintenance loan. I wouldn’t be able to afford to go to university without this, and an academic scholarship that I worked damn hard to get. My criteria for choosing a university (after the course) was that accommodation was affordable (I was in the cheapest available) and the level of scholarship given.
I am currently on a (well) paid placement for a year.
Hence the more ‘extravagant’ lifestyle posts that have featured over the last few months. I’m saving hard each month too, but have given myself a small budget to enjoy myself and see more of the country whilst I can. It’s also only in the last few months I’ve been able to really bump up my savings account again.
Even though I am earning a very good wage this year I’m still budgeting hard – I’ve upped by weekly food shop budget to between £15 and £20, mainly in a bid to gain more spices etc, and eat a wider variety. I’m generally spending close to £10 a week most weeks, with this upping to £20 when W comes to stay (he doesn’t appreciate more veggie-based meals!).
I’m also allowing myself a few more treats – buying Yorkshire tea instead of Aldi’s own, treating myself to a lipstick a month.
Sticking to a budget is hard.
A few times recently I’ve had cravings for things that my budget just doesn’t allow for. Steak. I’ve love a good steak, but I just can’t justify the price – so this Asian Steak Salad using cheaper frying steaks is ideal. I’ve been craving Ben & Jerry’s lately, but I’ve discovered Sainsbury’s own brand of ice cream is pretty darn good – the salted caramel peanutty one is particularly divine.
And the shop for 6p thing is a huge exaggeration – and not what I stated. Nor what the press release stated either (because I approved it).
As a huge amount of people guessed, it was through clubcard points that had been saved up, and then used during the bonus exchange period. I highly recommend saving up points for big spends, rather than just little things like a chocolate bar. I find that stores actually send you better vouchers when you build things up – I quite often get 100 points for £5 spend from Boots for example. I do look for yellow-stickered items, but this is completely unrelated to the supposed “shop for 6p”.
So, my top tips for sticking to a budget?
Know what your budget is, and be clear about it.
Don’t deprive yourself too much – if you are craving something, look for cheaper versions. I appreciate this may be impossible for some if your budget is really tight, but for students it’s generally fine.
Learn to cook – it’s far cheaper than ready meals in the long run. It might be more expensive first as you stock up ingredients, but the cost will level out.
Keep track of spending – I’ll be doing a post soon on how I do this.
I avoid carrying cash as I will spend it easier. If I happen to have cash (from unavoidable taxi journeys) I’ll immediately throw it in a jar or unused purse. The pennies mount up quicker than you’d think – in one term last year I saved nearly £50.
I hope this straightened up any questions arising from the article! Do you live on a tight budget? What are you top budgeting tips?
Another little item from the ‘Un-Urgent’ folder, another I found quite interesting. This discusses how students actually buy better quality food/items that their parents give them credit for, but as a result they are running out of money quicker.
I know this is half true – I definitely but better food than people would think students eat! Two types of cabbage (at least) reside in my fridge, and I have eaten two ready meals since September 2012. I also don’t drink nearly as much alcohol as the norm, definitely handy for saving money! Here’s the results of the survey;
Top supermarket items parents assume their kids prioritise:
But what students are actually buying:
Unfortunately, these groceries don’t always come cheap with students admitting that after their budget has blown, a whopping 65% have gone hungry at least once because of poor money management. A third of these students would consider skipping meals altogether just to make their money last.
To be honest, I virtually completely disagree with the last part – I’m not convinced that just eating healthily and avoiding alcohol blows the budget. But I guess this press release is only showing one side of the story!
It got me thinking though, about what do I prioritise? Definitely train fare, as not seeing W makes for a miserable me. After that (and rent obvs!) I’d probably go for decent vegetables, decent bread, pies, pasta, milk, cheese, eggs etc…I like decent quality (free range etc) food if I can help it. But I don’t ever consider going hungry because of budget, I might just eat a little less variety!
This has definitely got my mind going about how we prioritise spending. What are your priorities?
I was sent this press release absolutely agessss ago; it’s been sitting in my inbox filed under the heading of “Read At Some Point, Un-Urgent” since then. Tell me I’m not the only person who does this?!
A sick day a few weeks ago finally cleared this folder down. I was at the point of feeling well enough not to lie at the ceiling, but still bad enough to know what anything beyond sitting in bed would be a bad plan. My Kindle was out of battery, I’d caught up with Broadchurch, and I don’t have Netflix (bummer!). Emails it was, and this amused me greatly;
Living up to the student stereotype, many budding academics choose to drink away their loan in pubs and clubs. Booze hounds can be seen stacking up on the two for one six pack deals at supermarkets for pre-drinks or getting the pints in on a night out. As they are often inebriated, these students are surprisingly generous when it comes to sharing their cash to buy some booze – which they never remember in the morning.
The Foodie lover
On the other end of the spectrum, some students prefer to fry away their loan on expensive dinners and cooking ventures. The foodie lover relishes a hearty meal and on a Friday night is more likely to be found steaming at the stove rather than the pub. These student-chef wannabes will also be obsessed with any TV programme mildly related to cooking and want to replicate all the dishes, no matter how expensive the ingredients are.
Thrilled by the new four-figure balance in their account, some students choose to splash their cash on a whole new wardrobe. With many high-street stores pulling in students with tempting discounts, it is easy to see how quickly money can go on clothes and shoes. The shop-o-holic will always find an excuse to buy a new outfit, claiming they just have to have the latest handbag trend. Whilst they will look flawless in lectures, their diet may be reduced to beans on toast every night.
For those students who haven’t quite got the gap year out of their system, their money goes on travelling. The wanderluster will constantly tell you about their “amazing” ski season or “life-affirming” trip to Asia. They will spend most of their spare time working part-time in a restaurant to fund this expensive hobby and reminiscing over their holiday snaps on Instagram.
The Gym Bunny
With many students joining sports teams and societies, keeping fit is a top priority. For some, this means coughing up for an expensive gym membership that can cost up £250 per year. Protein shake in hand, gym bunnies consider exercise as a great “stress-buster” when actually it’s just another method of procrastination.
The Social Butterfly
University is a great time for making new friends, but at a price. The social butterfly never wants to miss out on an event and will say yes to anything. Gigs, cinema tickets and socials eat away slowly into their loan yet somehow they ALWAYS manage to make it.
Believe it or not, some students do actually spend their money on their studies. The bookworm will happily splash their cash on brand new volumes and novels, insisting that they are “investments”. Along with the library fines they tot up, the bookworm will also buy lots of stylish stationery along with numerous notepads that even they know they will never use.
As I was reading this I was constantly trying to fit myself into one of the categories. I’ve come to the conclusion I’m mainly a Foodie Lover, but there’s elements of Shopoholic and Bookworm in there! And I don’t think this is relevant to just students either, I reckon most people could identify to one or two of these types! So ‘fess up, what type of spender are you?