If you’re about to start your first year at university or college, particularly if you’re going to be living away from home, this may be the first time you’ve really had to take charge of your finances. You might be getting a grant or help from family with your living expenses, but the likelihood is that you’re going to be on a pretty tight budget, so it’s worth planning ahead.
New undergraduates generally live in purpose-built student ‘halls’, which are usually offered with all bills included, so at least you shouldn’t have to think about setting money aside for utilities. That all-inclusive rent payment is your biggest and most important monthly outgoing, however, there’s also your mobile phone, groceries, laundry and other regular monthly costs that will eat up what’s in your bank account if you’re not careful. On top of this there are one offs – things to buy for your course, presents for friends and family, clothes, and money to go out with.
The first thing to do is make a list of all your likely expenditure, with an estimate of costs for each item, so you know what’s going out each month and when. Some banks, such as Monzo, have great apps that make it really easy to split bills with your friends and set money aside in ‘pots’, and there are also independent apps that can help you budget, such as Emma and Snoop. Knowing exactly how much money still has to go out and how much you have left to spend at any point in the month is key to saying on top of your finances.
Here are our top 8 suggestions for ways you can make savings, right from fresher’s week through to the end of the academic year:
Some supermarkets and other stores have special prices for loyalty card holders, while others will give you discount vouchers, so worth checking out which stores you will regularly use that offer these schemes.
There are a few different browser extensions you can add that will automatically search for discounts online, such as Honey and Coupert, and some browsers like Microsoft Edge now have this facility built in. If you’re worried about privacy and sharing your data, you can always just use Google to check for individual retailer voucher codes. Even if there aren’t any discounts available, you may be able to earn cash back on certain purchases, which can build up to a nice amount over time.
Although it means parting with more money up front, if you need to regularly travel some distance between your home and university, buying a bus pass in advance can work out a lot cheaper than paying for individual journeys, which will save you money each term.
Lots of items have multi-buy discounts, and larger packets of everything from rice to laundry detergent are cheaper than smaller ones. So it’s well worth making shopping lists as a group – you might be surprised at how much you can save.
While you can save money on ‘store cupboard’ items by buying them in larger quantities, when it comes to fresh food, you can make big savings by choosing items that are at or near their sell-by date. Although this means shopping more often, there’s almost certainly going to be a small supermarket near your campus or accommodation that you can pop into every couple of days to check what’s in the bargain aisle – particularly near the end of the day.
It’s usually cheaper to cook for more people than trying to make just one or two portions at a time, so why not take it in turns to make the evening meal among your flatmates or friends. As well as keeping food costs down over time, you could also save on gas and electricity, which could make a significant difference if bills aren’t included in your rent.
There can be a huge difference in price between the latest handsets and ones that came out two or three years ago, particularly if you go for something that’s not 5G enabled, so check whether you could switch to a cheaper handset. And when it comes to airtime and usage packages, make sure you’re not paying for more than you need.
There are all sorts of free trials for entertainment packages – just make sure you take a note of when to cancel subscriptions, so you don’t get charged at the end of the free period! Some mobile phone networks offer things like free coffees and cinema tickets, so take advantage of those, and always check your receipt when you’ve made purchases at shops, restaurants and fast-food outlets. They often run surveys that enter you in a draw for things like free meals and vouchers. And if you need a haircut, you can often get one for free by agreeing to be a model for trainees.
Where to get help and advice
Take a good look around the freshers’ fair at the start of the year, as there are bound to be student-run groups and other people that you can talk to about managing your finances. It’s also probably the best place to find out about what things you’re entitled to either for free or at a discounted price as a student.
The charity turn2us has links and advice on its website to help anyone aged 16+ in higher or further education, and there is also a student finance calculator on the Government website that you can use to check what student loans or extra funding you might be entitled to.
If you do find yourself struggling financially in your first term, don’t suffer in silence. Speak to your student welfare or student liaison office and they can advise you on what options might be available to you, such as hardship funding or emergency help payments.
It’s also well worth considering taking out comprehensive tenant insurance, which can help protect you financially in case of damage to your accommodation or your own possessions. For instance, the product offered by our partners, Bode Insurance Solutions can cover you for:
For more information and to get a quote, visit the Bode website.
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