Being frugal is a quintessential part of the student experience. Your student loan is supposed to last you the term, but you want to make the most out of being a student at the same time. Let’s not mention that you probably have hefty accommodation bills to pay as well.
So how do you get the most out of your money and have enough left over to have some fun? There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, but you can start by saving money on your everyday expenses.
Keep an eye out for discounts
Most markets are aware of the influx of students that hit the town every year. As such, local businesses will offer student discounts on their products to tempt the local university population into their store. These businesses will often include fast-food establishments and media outlets, but you don’t need to shop there on a daily basis. Pay attention to places that offer items like furniture, cleaning materials and, most importantly, food. Getting a good deal on these items early is a good way to set yourself up in a comfortable position. After all, you don’t want to be looking for a scouring pad for the kitchen at the end of term and find out that you can’t afford it!
Your student ID card from your uni should be accepted as proof of your student status by local businesses, but for discounts from national retailers and online outlets, you’ll likely need one or more of the following:
- TOTUM – the only student discount, proof of age ID and campus life card and platform recommended by the National Union of Students (NUS). In store and online, TOTUM puts over 350 UK student discounts and offers in your pocket. Some TOTUM memberships also come with a 12-month ISIC digital membership card as standard (see below), opening up access to even more money-saving discounts in countries around the world.
- Student Beans: a free student discount app, offering deals on clothing, tech, music, food and more. You just have to search for the brand you want on the Student Beans site or app to get your discount code, or simply log in to a brand’s student discount page on their own site. You can also show the app on your phone at the till to save in shops, restaurants, etc by using your Student Beans iD to prove your student status – no student card necessary.
- UNiDAYS: another popular free app offering a wide variety of discounts to sixth-form, college and university students aged 16+.
- International Student Identity Card (ISIC): the ISIC card gives you access to tens of thousands of discounts in over 130 countries. In the UK, it will set you back £12 for the virtual ISIC card and an additional £3 for a physical plastic one.
Get a good phone deal
Just because you have moved away from your home town doesn’t mean that you want to lose contact with everyone. A mobile is obviously an essential these days, so make sure you find a deal that’s affordable. It can be worth holding off renewing your contract until there are deals available during events like Black Friday and the post-Christmas sales, or consider going Sim-only if you’re happy with your current handset.
As well as considering the biggest contract, Sim-only and pay-as-you-go providers, such as EE, O2, Vodafone and Three, you might want to shop around and see at some of the lesser-known mobile providers have to offer. Accepted Mobile, for example, offers low-cost mobile phone contracts without you having to undergo a traditional credit check, which you would generally be required to do when signing up with most providers. So if you’ve had problems obtaining a mobile phone contract in the past, you might want to look into the Accepted Mobile contracts on offer.
The early bird catches the bookworm
Let’s not forget the reason that you have gone to university in the first place – you’re there to learn, and one of the resources you’ll need are the textbooks for your course.
New copies of these books are often sold at budget-busting prices by retailers, but there is another way to obtain the appropriate learning materials without breaking the bank. The students in the year above you will have purchased these books already and may well have no further use for them. What’s more, they are probably looking to make some money back on their initial outlay as quickly as possible, so look for any posts about second-hand textbooks when you arrive. These will be posted online or on noticeboards around campus. Of course, you won’t be the only one looking for cheap resources, but get on to it as soon as you have your reading list for the term and you could make some serious savings.
The first few days of your uni experience will see a hoard of businesses hovering around campus trying to promote themselves. There will be some tempting freebies on offer, especially ones that relate to the local nightlife, but you shouldn’t just be looking for those. Try to keep an eye out for any stands at the freshers’ fair offering useful things like stationery or tote bags, which are bound to come in handy as the term progresses.
These tips will hopefully put you in good stead for the year ahead. There’s no guarantee that you’ll always be financially stable, but at least you can get off to a good start!