Money, Money, Money! Insert Meryl Streep as Donna strutting on a yacht. Let’s just hope that unlike Donna in Mamma Mia, you won’t be having to ‘work all night and work all day to pay the bills’.
University will probably be the first time you have financial independence and responsibility but please don’t panic, there are lots of ways to make it much easier.
My money-saving tips
Among my friends I am known as the extremely “frugal one”, which (as sad as it sounds) I take as a massive compliment, so here are a few of my favourite penny-pinching ideas to keep you in the green.
Go on a weekly shop with a rough meal plan
Going to the shop without a plan always leads to me buying junk food and forgetting all the staple ingredients I need so I end up going back again later in the week and the cycle sadly continues.
However, when I go with a meal plan in mind, I just buy the things I need and know I will use them, this helps me to save so much money. Try going to a budget supermarket too or a larger supermarket to take advantage of own-brand labels. There is a large Morrissons and Asda in the Heaton/Byker area which are both great for large shops as a group and then you can get a taxi back to your accommodation afterwards.
The reduced section in supermarkets
While you’re at the shops though, you can still change your plan up a bit. I always head to the reduced section first and see if there are any goodies which I then factor into my weekly plan and adjust my shopping list. Don’t forget that you can freeze lots of reduced section finds for another week.
Tesco generally puts out reduce items at 2pm or 3pm and then additionally at around 7:30pm for another reduction so good timing can often be key.
Use student discounts
Unidays, Student Beans and your University Smart Card are always great to use in many shops and restaurants for discounts of usually 10% or more (every little helps). You just need to remember to ask (that’s usually my downfall).
Shop in charity shops/secondhand websites eg Vinted and Depop
Everyone’s coming to realise how terrible the fast fashion industry is, so why not try to find gems in charity shops and on secondhand websites. It takes a bit of patience and a good eye but there are some real bargains out there and it’s always great fun to do with friends. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure at the end of the day.
Pretty self-explanatory and a student classic but I thought it was worth reiterating that a few cheeky pre-drinks to start the night is never a bad idea. If you have good planning with dates and times, lots of bars also have 2-4-1 or student drinks deals.
Buy secondhand textbooks…or use the library (it’s free to borrow books)
Please don’t buy brand new textbooks if you can avoid it. The library should be your first port of call, they have made loads of online copies of books as well as physical copies you can pick up. If there are no more physical copies available, then it’s always worth getting in touch with the library and putting a request in as one should become available or more may be brought in. There are also lots of secondhand book websites out there if you prefer to write notes in your textbooks. World of Books is a great website that I’ve used before but I’m sure there are lots of others, as well as the ‘new and used’ section on Amazon.
Get a student bank card that has a healthy overdraft and provides rewards
Every student is entitled to a student debit card that has a larger than normal overdraft allowance, even if you think you’ll never need to go into it, it’s worth having as a last resort. Many also come with incentives like a railcard or £100 on joining, so have a look around for the best option for you.
Only splash out on justified purchases
It can be very tempting to splash out on that new laptop or phone as soon as the student loan comes in but have a good think about it first. Will that item go on sale after Christmas? Is it really best value for money? How much will you really use it? Making well-justified purchases will lead to you feeling much better about the item and often taking better care of it as a result.
Get a part-time job
Part-time jobs are a great way of making a bit of money on the side at University and gaining that all-important experience that employers are looking for. If you’re not sure where to start then try looking at the MyCareers portal for job adverts or get in touch with a careers advisor. The University has lots of jobs on offer too which are very flexible and can easily fit around your schedule.
Second/third year housing bills
This was one of the scariest money learning curves for me whilst being at University (they really should teach us how to do this while at secondary school!). My housemates and I decided not to go for a ‘bills included’ package when sorting our house out, so I ended up doing it all. This was a massive pain at the time but I’m glad that I did it as I learnt so much. Usually, it’s cost-effective to do it yourself, especially if you are in a house of five or less and don’t mind being a bit more conscious of putting the heating on. Here are my top three tips:
- Get a separate bank account for your bills: Don’t make my mistake and use your personal account, this can get very confusing knowing what money is from whom and for what.
- Go on comparison websites: There are tons out there like Compare the Market so have a good look around to see the best options. Many companies offer incentives like vouchers or money, and many are now using renewable energy which is something I was keen to go for.
- Use ‘refer a friend’ discounts: When you choose a company, try looking up if they offer ‘refer a friend’ discounts, and if so, ask around to see if anyone you know either personally or online uses that company too. If they do then you can use their code and both of you will get £50, usually credited to your accounts so it’s a win-win situation.
I have no money left…What now?
Go to the University and please ask for help. There really is no shame in it and above all, it shows bravery and that you want to sort the situation out. They may be able to offer a short-term, interest-free emergency loan or an assessment to receive extra money. Every situation is different though so it’s best to have a look at the University’s website and see what the best option is for you.
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Lottie is an undergraduate student studying Economics at Newcastle University Business School.