Thursday, September 17, 2015

Top tips for being a money-savvy student

Hi, I’m Amie, one of the editorial interns here at TARGETjobs. If you’re about to embark on your first year of university, you’d be forgiven for being worried about money. We’ve all heard the stories about students living off baked beans, and with tuition fees hitting £9000 a year it can often feel like a pretty expensive time to be student. 

I’ve just graduated, so I’ve been through this myself – but my advice is to not let financial worries ruin your time at uni. In no particular order, here are my top tips for being a money-savvy student!

1. Get a 16–25 Railcard.

You might think that you can’t wait to get away from your family now, but six weeks down the line you might want nothing more than a home cooked meal and to see your dog. If you haven’t already, start saving money on expensive train fares by getting a 16-25 railcard – it costs £30 a year and it’ll make those spontaneous trips home a bit easier on the pocket.

2. Buy pre-loved.

If you’ve just received your first reading list for uni you might be considering taking out another loan just to cover the cost of the books. Don’t panic! Charity shops are often a goldmine for unwanted textbooks, offloaded by students when they graduate. With a bit of hunting, you might just be able to pick up the books at a fraction of what you’d pay for them new.

3. Learn to cook.

As tempting as it might be, getting a takeaway every night is an expensive habit. If you’ve headed off to uni without ever having made yourself a meal before, it’s time to start learning some culinary skills. There are plenty of easy, cheap-to-make recipes available online – BBC Good Food have a great free selection, many of which are really simple – so there’s no excuse for not trying some new dishes. Don’t be afraid to embrace ‘value’ ranges either – for basic items they’re often just as good as name-brand and will save you enough money for the occasional treat (or takeaway, if you must).

4. Never going food shopping on an empty stomach…

…and stick to your shopping list. You definitely don’t need to indulge in every end-of-aisle buy-one-get-one-free offer, but that empty stomach will tell you otherwise. 

5. Embrace catch-up TV.

If you watch live TV at university – on your phone, laptop, tablet or a TV itself – you will need to pay £145.50 a year for a TV licence. However, using catch-up channels or streaming TV shows after they have aired is currently free of charge. Although there has been talk about introducing charges, this remains a great way to save money and enjoy your favourite shows for now. However, be warned – it might be advisable to stay off Facebook and Twitter to avoid spoilers…

6. Use student discount whenever you can.

Probably the best-known perk of student life is student discount. Plenty of establishments will accept your university ID, but you can also buy an NUS Extra card for £12 a year; which will enable you to get discounts on clothes, travel, eating out and plenty more. Websites such as Student Beans and Student Money Saver offer hundreds of discounts and deals and you can sign up to receive these offers over email. Unidays offers a range of online and in-store discounts if you sign into their website with your uni credentials. If you’re not sure if somewhere offers student discount, it doesn’t hurt to ask –you’d be surprised how many places do.

7. Shop around for your student bank account.

Most high-street banks offer perks alongside their student accounts. Some of the perks offered (depending on which bank you choose) include: free NUS Extra and 16-25 Railcards, Amazon giftcards and personalised debit cards. However, don’t be fooled into signing up for a bank account just for the freebies. A planned, interest-free overdraft is a common feature of student bank accounts, so do your research to find out which bank will offer you the best deal for your needs – and be aware of any hidden charges.

There are hundreds more tips and tricks for saving money as a student – many of which you will learn along the way! One of the best pieces of advice, however, is to stick to a budget. This might sound boring, but remember that your student loan has got to last and if you spend it all in the first month, it’ll feel like a long wait until the next instalment. Most importantly though, have a brilliant first year of uni – don’t let money woes get you down!

Article written by Amie Marshall, TARGETjobs Editorial Intern. Connect with Amie on LinkedIn