Managing your money as a student isn’t easy. What can seem like much more money than you’ve had in your account before can disappear surprisingly fast when you’re paying for things like rent, food, nights out and uni tuition.
Don’t worry though, we’re here to help. Here are the basics of budgeting, and some easy swaps you can make to save hundreds or even thousands of pounds over the course of the year.
It’s easy to go about your life buying a couple of things here and there, and before you know it you’ve blown two weeks budget. The best way to avoid this is to look at the total amount of money you’ve got until next term (after rent and bills). Then work out a weekly budget by dividing it by the number of weeks until you next get money, leaving plenty of room for unexpected costs.
After you’ve set a weekly budget, keep your eyes on the numbers too. Lots of people get nervous about how much dosh they have – or don’t have – left in their account, and can bury their heads in the sand until it’s too late. Stay in control of your finances by checking your balance at least every few days. Find out if your bank has a good app to let you check it quickly and easily on-the-go too.
Student life can be crazy busy. With studying, any extra-curricular projects or societies and your all-important social life, preparing food can end up low-down in your list of priorities. And when you get home starving hungry, it’s easy to nip to a cafe or order takeaway.
You can avoid the panic-ordering by setting aside some time each week to prepare meals for a few days. Something satisfying that keeps its flavour like a chilli or a rice-and-veggie dish will come to the rescue when you’re in urgent need of grub. If you want to be even more prepared, you can make a big dish, divide it into several portions and freeze them so they’ll keep for weeks.
While you’re feeling flush at the start of term, prepare for harder times by bulk-buying dry ingredients like rice, pasta, beans and sauces. That way, if you do spend too much too soon, you can rest assured knowing you won’t go hungry in the last couple of weeks.
Eating in can get a bit boring, especially if you want to have fun with friends. Instead of going for a meal together, a great way to socialise on a student budget is by doing a “Pot Luck” style dinner party. This is simply where one person in your group hosts, and everyone brings one dish each that they’ve cooked. It’s fun to see what everyone comes up with, and you can then rotate who hosts too. You can keep it fun by choosing a cuisine for everyone to follow (i.e. Italian, Indian, Middle Eastern) and assign starters, mains, sides and desserts so you have a full meal.
If you do eat out, find places with a good student discounts. Lots of places offer students anywhere from 10-50% off your meal when you show your student card.
Saving money can be as simple as swapping one ingredient for another very similar one, and holding on to hundreds of pounds over the term as a result. So over the course of the term, the total cost of your daily pesto and pasta could come to £100 if you buy fancy brands, or more like £15 if you still to value options. Here are some easy ways to save your bank balance:
If you’ve never cooked before, finding your three meals a day can be a big challenge. With home delivery apps serving all over the country, it can be all too easy to order in when you get hungry. If you want to watch your money though, this is one of the easiest ways to save hundreds of pounds over the term. Which would you rather – chicken madras every week, or a holiday to Australia at the end of the year?
There are some pasta brands out there with lovely packaging. It might be colourful, it might have a cool font, or an illustration of a lovely lady. Here’s a news flash – they all taste (more or less) the same! You could be spending £2.50 for your 500g of fusilli, or 89p for one just as delicious. Supermarkets’ own brands are the way to go.
As well as pasta, most branded cereals, jams, sauces, cooking oils and toilet paper can be bought much cheaper with little or no sacrifice on quality.
If you’ve resisted ordering in and are making your own meal, it’s still easy to get sucked in by convenience when you’re hungry. Microwave rice is a popular one with students, and an easy one to spend much more than you need to. Instead of waiting 15 whole minutes for it to cook, boil up enough rice for 10 or so portions, and, once its cooled to room temperature, spoon it out into sandwich bags or small tupperware and then freeze it as soon as it’s cool (rice is prone to gathering germs, but if you freeze it right away then it’s safe). Then, when you’re ready to eat, you can just grab it from the freezer, microwave it and you’ve got the same thing for a fraction of the cost.
If you’re buying wine, you can get much better value for money by buying it boxed. There’s a misconception that box wine tastes worse, but this is a myth. Bottled wine often arrives in the country in literally a large box, before it’s emptied into bottles to sell. Boxed wine is the exact same wine, but more cheaply packaged, and cheaper per glass.
Cafe culture is everywhere, and meeting a friend for coffee can be a lovely way to catch-up. To keep hold of your pounds though, save buying coffees out for special occasions like seeing friends, and pack a flask of hot coffee in your bag before you head to lectures or the library in the morning. A keep cup is good for sipping your drink on-the-go when you leave the house, whereas a thermos flask will keep your drink hot for hours (ready for your afternoon energy dip).
If you don’t have to travel too far to uni each day, you can save lots of money (and keep your fitness up) by walking or cycling to where you need to go. If you’re cycling, make sure you’ve got a safe route available to you first, and invest in a helmet and lights before setting out on the roads. You should never cycle drunk (dangerous and illegal), and if it’s dark you might want to get the bus home in the evening.
You can also take some of the pressure of budgeting off by getting a part-time job. Working a couple of days or evenings a week keeps the money flowing in, and it means you can be a bit more relaxed with your budgeting.
With MyTutor, you can earn up to £25/hour – much more than the minimum wage you’d get in regular bar jobs. This means you can earn well in just a few hours each week, still leaving plenty of time to commit to studying (and clubbing, if you’re into that).