So you've finally made it to university.
But with maintenace grants gone and tuition fees on the rise, it's getting harder and harder for students to make ends meet while at university. This is where we can try and help.
We'll keep fighting for tuiton fees to to be scrapped - but until then, here are some tips to help you save some money.
1. Get a TOTUM student discount card.
An easy one to start with. Get your card now and start saving from tonnes of big brands.
2. Choose your bank account wisely
Beware of the gimmicks and freebies banks use to entice you to open a student account with them. Instead, look out for the money-saving features a bank has to offer, such as interest-free borrowing. See Which student bank account should I choose? for more tips.
3. Check your statements regularly
This will help you track your spending and prevent you going overdrawn if you have an overdraft on your account. It will also help you to detect errors or possible fraudulent activity on your account. Some banks can send you alerts if your funds reach a certain point and can help you identify when cash is running low.
4. Make a budget
Careful budgeting may sound like a chore, but it will help you make sure your finances don’t get into a mess and add to the pressures of study. Draw up a spreadsheet of all your outgoings and any income you have, then set yourself a spending limit. Take out only what you need from the cash machine – all those tenners you draw out soon add up – and try leaving your cash card at home when you go to lectures, classes or seminars.
5. Pay rent and bills on time every month
Getting into the habit of making regular payments helps you remember them, and lets you keep track of how much money you’ve got left to spend for the rest of the month. Also, you won’t be liable for any late payment charges. If you set up direct debits for bills you don’t have to worry about forgetting them, and you often get a discount for paying that way too.
6. Keep an eye out for money-saving incentives
Not only banks, but other retailers offer student incentives and discounts on essentials such as books, music and computer equipment. Take advantage of these every time you think about buying something, to make your money last longer. Invest in an TOTUM card to get loads of discounts – look out for the student discount sign in every shop you go to. If you can’t see it, ask. You could be missing out.
7. Supermarket sweep
All supermarkets have 'value' ranges, which might not be as bad as you think. Cleaning products and toiletries in particular are usually significantly cheaper than named brands and will noticeably reduce your shopping bill. Also, it’s usually cheaper to buy multi-packs (e.g a four-can pack of baked beans or 12 toilet rolls).
Another tip is to go to the supermarket at the end of the day. Often they reduce the price on products that are due to go out of date, including bread (one of the most expensive food items), which you can take home and freeze.
8. Cook together
Why not club together for food, and plan meals to last you all week? Not only will you save money, you’ll improve your cooking skills and spend quality time with your friends. You can download free recipes from a number of websites, including BBC Food, which means you don’t even have to spend money on a cook book. You can also pack your own lunch – try it for a week and you’ll probably save enough for a night out.
9. Think carefully about books
It's tempting to buy all the books on your reading list but you might want to wait and see which are essential, and which you'll only dip into now and again and can get in the library. Of course, used textbooks are much cheaper and you’ll probably be able to sell them on again once you’ve used them. If you share books with your course mates you could split the cost between you, but remember to buy the most up to date versions. Alternatively, check whether the library has electronic copies of the books you need.
10. Get stuff for free from other people
There's lots of people who want to give away useful things on sites like Freecycle, which has everything from desks to books on it. Sign up to your local Freecyle or equivalent and save yourself a packet – all you have to do is collect the goods.
This information was last updated in June 2019. NUS provides this information in good faith and has taken care to make sure it’s accurate. However, student finance issues can be complicated, and rules change frequently. You should contact the advice centre in your students' union, college or university for support if you’re uncertain or need more help.