Leaving home and living independently sounded like a dream when you were younger, but the reality of balancing expenses once you’re on your own can feel daunting — unless you’ve read this guide!
As a student, cash resources are inevitably scarce. You’ve moved out from the comfort of the parental financial safety net and are faced with a bleak reality of trying to juggle finances whilst also having to successfully complete your undergraduate degree. What’s worse is that the government is not exactly sympathetic towards your age group in terms of the horrendous student loan issue and minimal wages for your extra job on the side. Life is sure tough when you’re strapped for cash, but by making a few crafty savings you may actually end up ahead of the financial game.
1. Grocery Advice. First off, as a student, you’d probably be best avoiding high price stores such as Waitrose and Marks & Spencer where groceries are ridiculously overpriced. Sure, Waitrose essentials may be reasonably priced but their essentials’ variety is scarce and is still slightly more expensive than say Tesco or Asda essentials. For grocery items such as fruit and vegetables try local mini fruit and veg stands where prices are much cheaper, or if you don’t have any nearby, Tesco’s and Sainsbury’s fruit and veg are quite reasonable. For example, at Sainsbury’s you can buy a pack of five Braeburn apples for £1.50, whereas at Waitrose a pack of four Braeburn apples comes in at £2.25. For buying bulk foods such as cereals and other grains, Tesco is good but also try Lidl and Aldi where you can pick up items such as bread for less than 50p — a loaf of everyday essentials wholemeal bread at Aldi is just 36p!
2. Try money-saving apps and websites for groceries and other goods. Websites such as mysupermarket.com will compare prices for certain goods so you know which store has the best deal on the item you need. Apps for your smartphone which are real handy for saving extra cash include Shopitize, Savoo and TopCashBack. Alternatively, you could try becoming a savvy voucher user by using vouchers offered on sites such as vouchercodes.co.uk which could definitely save you money on many different things from sofas to sneakers. Studentmoneysavings.co.uk is also a fantastic website specifically tailored to offer advantageous financial deals for students alone.
3. Become a creature of habit and try to frequent the same store for the bulk of your groceries. Big stores like Tesco, Asda and Aldi all have loyalty cards which will reward you for shopping with them. In the long run, this will be great as you will receive money off the goods you frequently buy once the clever stores get to know what you prefer to purchase and will send you vouchers off those particular products!
4. Thinking about buying a new laptop for uni? Wait until the end of August! All the big name brands cut prices quite a fair deal on their electronic goods in the knowledge that there are students such as you hungry for technology. You may be able to save as much as £300 on a new laptop, so scour the market online before heading off to purchase your new technological best friend.
5. Resist the urge to buy new clothes each month. Sales at your favourite stores like Topshop and New Look may tempt you to open your purse strings for that cute new top or snazzy pair of shoes, but consider the money you’ll save by letting that urge to splurge go. Try to set aside a certain stash of cash for some new clothing items and make a list of items you need as opposed to items you want before you hit the shops. This will prevent you from wasting money on an item you already have twenty versions of and actually help you get something you really need.
6. Try to eat meals at home as often as possible to save money. Meals out can take a bite out of your wallet if it becomes a frequent activity. Sure, it’s a great way to socialise but why not suggest more nights in where you and your friends have fun cooking whilst also saving yourselves a great deal of cash! A nice meal with a drink on the side is great but to retain financial savviness, it should really be a twice monthly activity.
7. Travel via public transport to save money. Driving a car is expensive: firstly, you have to spend money to purchase the vehicle, send it through MOT checkups yearly, then, add to that, vehicle registration fees as well as the price of gas and you’re left without much at all (unless you are quite well-off and mummy and daddy are paying for all of this — but let’s be honest, you are definitely not reading this article if that’s the case!).
Make use of your 16-25 railcard which will give you about one-third off of rail fares and only costs £30 to obtain. Alternatively, if you live in London, be sure to get your 18+ Oyster card which will save you 30 per cent on all types of transport within the London area. Also, walking to places will save you even more money and get you exercising, or invest in a bike to get around (both activities have the added benefit of being environmentally friendly!).
8. Make use of student discounts. Countless stores and retailers offer student discounts on a variety of products from clothing to hairdressing. To be able to seize this saving, you need to apply for a NUS extra card which costs just £12 but offers discounts in over 150 stores and retailers from Odeon to Apple. To be sure you need the card, check which stores are included in the card’s discounts to make sure they are the ones where you actually shop.
9. Pre-drinks? Try having them at home instead of out on the town. You may find that enjoying a few drinks at home instead of at the bars may save you a pretty penny. A pint could cost you about £4.50 at a bar, when you could instead buy a six pack for roughly the same price! Better yet, become the ‘sober friend’ who doesn’t drink and see your savings multiply!
10. Need furnishings but don’t have much or any cash? Try checking out your local freecycle.org to see whether people are offering goods you need at no expense or even browse gumtree.com for deals on both new and used goods such as beds or even bikes! If you’re sceptical though and would rather get your own new furnishings, IKEA, Dunelm Mills or even Tesco Direct offer furniture at reasonable prices so you can decorate your room or flat the way you want at a minimal cost!
A good idea if you’re heading off to uni a year from now is to set yourself a weekly budget to work with to prepare yourself for independent living next year. Moving out from home will be a shock but if you have a little practice with financial independence you may find the transition a bit less overwhelming. Pace yourself with your budgeting by making notes of how much you’ve spent and also saved in order to know where you may be overspending on certain items. Good luck, and happy saving!