As I write this newly initiated undergrads will be recovering from the onslaught of Fresher’s Week or just about to embark on the week long madness. Either way, beyond partying, drinking and getting friendly with a bunch of strangers soon to become you’re nearest and dearest- there is a common purpose for why you are at University (in case you had forgotten amongst all the excitement)… it’s to get educated and get a degree- yeay!
University is expensive, and it seems to be becoming increasingly out of the reach of ordinary folk- however there are ways you can save money; this might be particularly useful for those on a low incomes and living away from home. Here are some thrifty tips I learnt throughout my time at University- hope they are useful to someone!
Don’t buy into the panic that you must buy all your books brand new– I studied English Literature and Philosophy so needed to buy a ridiculous amount of books for my course- however I barely used half of them! Unless you are studying a subject like Law for example, where the law is always changing, buy second-hand books. Especially for subjects like English where you are most likely reading the ‘classics’ these never normally go out of date so why not look online, on department noticeboards , second-hand book shops or get to know second years on the same course who might be looking to pass on old goods! I spent such a ridiculous amount of money in a panic- don’t buy into the hype.
Better together– if you are going out with your friends why not take cabs together. If you are in a shared flat or in a second year and living with friends why not buy your food shopping together? For example basic household goods such as pasta, rice, and toilet roll might be better and cheaper to buy in bulk- unless dietary requirements prevent this or one of your housemates is a greedy pig and has no discretion. Further still, if you get on particularly well with your housemates and you are in self-catered accommodation why not consider cooking together? This is cost effective and can also be fun.
Get a part time job if your timetable will allow– this is not only good for extra income but can help you develop skills which will make you more employable once you leave university. Especially as you progress through university, try and get part time work experience in the area which you would like to work in the future. For example, make the most of summer internships especially paid ones in your area of interest to boost future job prospects. Get into the habit of earning an income- no matter how small so you can learn the value of hard earned cash.
Save on travel – If you are living away from home in another city and plan on making regular visits why not buy a student railcard or national express coach discount card? I didn’t for the first 6 months because I hated the idea of paying £25 upfront but I wasted money by not doing so because of the number of visits I made- I would have saved much more than the initial fee. Similarly, for the best deals try and book in advance especially for rail fare. Whilst at university If you live in a relatively small city, why not try cycling around or walking or share a car with mates to get out and about. This is not only good for the environment, for your waistline (the first two at least) but it’s also good for the pocket.
Check out if you are entitled to any additional financial support i.e. grants- most universities have funds available such as hardship funds and others for those might be in need but they don’t publicise them. Find out from your student guild and other sources what might be available to you if you are eligible. If you don’t apply to the fund the money literally goes to waste and the funding for the next year becomes smaller meaning less becomes available. This happened to me whilst I was at university when a friend alerted me of funding that was available but was not being accessed. Although I wasn’t in dire need of the extra support it did make a difference and allowed me to work less in my part time job so I could spend time more time studying and maximising student life!
Don’t reject the culinary hand-outs or other freebies from the ‘rents– If on a trip home your parents, grandparents or any other family member wants to load you up with goodies- home cooked food or other useful household products just take it! There will come a time when that home cooked soul food is just what you need on those days when you feeling a little homesick or just in need of some ‘hard’ food. Don’t be all proud and independent- take the ting!
Budget– This sounds so basic but you would be surprised how many people don’t. Especially if you have just received a student loan for the first time, getting that much money into your account can be a little daunting. Don’t get overwhelmed and lose your senses though- plan how you are going to spend it! Pay your rent upfront or put it in a separate account along with other basic living costs so you are not caught short. I’ve heard horror stories of students buying a wardrobe of new clothes, Brazilian weaves and the latest techy gadgets only to have no money left for the rest of the semester! This is ridiculous; remember even though it’s technically ‘your money’ it’s not free money- you will have to pay it back- with INTEREST- so do what’s in your best interest and spend wisely!