There’s no getting away from it: being a student is bloody expensive! It may feel like your lucky day when your first student grant hits your bank account, but once you’ve taken into account your textbooks, travel, food, drink, and leisure activities, that £2,000 will quickly turn into -£200 if you’re not careful. Below, we’ve put together some ways to make it last longer.
The chances are that your student days are the first time you’ve had to think about money management. Before you head off to university, plan your spending and make sure there’s always something left aside for a rainy day. Work out how much your rent will cost, your weekly food shop budget, and give yourself a small allowance for nights out and takeaways.
If you’re strict with yourself, your student loan will stretch - and you’ll perhaps even be able to save some of it for when you graduate and get your first graduate job or internship. Open a high-interest savings account and put 10% of your grant into it every three or four months.
After accommodation, it’s likely that your biggest expense will be food and drink. Rather than heading to your students’ union for a burger and beer every evening, stock up on staples at home and cook for yourself. Not only is it much cheaper, but it’s much better for your health.
A good £20-30 shop at Lidl or Aldi should get you everything you need for a week, and if you pool your resources with your flatmates, you can splash out on luxury goods like steaks and wine. If five of you take it in turns to cook, it’ll be like you’re still at home with mum and dad!
One of the biggest challenges about making your student loan stretch is seeing exactly how much you have in your bank account. It’s so easy to flash your debit card and treat yourself to some new shoes or a Domino’s when you really shouldn’t. Open a current account with a challenger bank like Monzo or Starling - they have a better user interface, send a notification as soon as you spend, and allow you to put money aside in pots for big future purchases.
Open a “Big Night Out” budget and let Monzo round up your transactions to the nearest pound. At the end of the month, you’ll have saved £10-30; more than enough for a few pints.
We’ve already put together a guide to making the most of your student discount. Buy a £15 TOTUM card (previously NUS Extra) and you’ll gain access to thousands of discounts on everything from food to vitamins to candles to phone bills - as well as half-price Spotify and Amazon Prime. Whenever you go shopping, take your card with you and always ask your server; sometimes, stores and restaurants offer student discounts and don’t publicise them.
We know: your student days are supposed to be the time of your life. But if you’re bad with money or have expensive habits, you’ll need to fund your lifestyle somehow. Speak to your student body to ask about part-time jobs; ten hours a week could mean an extra £400/month to spend on food and fashion, which will go a long way in conjunction with our other tips.
Whether you’re commuting to university or you’re always off home to see friends and family, investing in a 16-25 railcard will give you 33% off your fares, whilst a National Express Coachcard offers you 30% off all trips. Over time, these cards could save you £100 per year, and the best news is some banks offer these as ‘perks’ when you open a student account.
Being a student is about much more than honing your skills and making new friends; it’s about managing your money and learning to live independently. If you’re on a budget, make sure you shop around for the best deals and never pay full price. If your phone contract is due for renewal, tell them you’re going to cancel and get a better deal. If you need a book for your course, look for second-hand ones on eBay or share with a pal to spread the cost. And don’t overlook second-hand clothes; Depop, Gumtree and Facebook have some real gems.
It’s hard to save money if your friends are always splashing the cash, so do it together and you will find it much easier to stretch your student loan. Host nights in with a Netflix movie and a supermarket pizza, make your own cocktails rather than paying £7 a drink at the local bar, and share clothes, gadgets, and beauty products to cut costs and have a good time.
Do you have any other tips for counting the pennies and holding onto your student loan for longer?
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