You’re a student, so you’re poor: The two go hand-in-hand. And if you will keep spending all your money on booze and fags… You know what? We are worried about you. So worried that we’ve put together the 10 best money-saving tips for students.
Invest in travel cards
The 16-25 Railcard was designed for young people in full-time education (although full-time students who are over 25 may also be eligible). The card can be purchased for one year or three, and gives you a third off of rail journeys across the UK. The card also gives you access to partnership offers and competitions, including West-End theatre discounts and holiday offers.
As of 2012, a one-year card costs £28, and a three-year card costs £65. Buy it online at: 16-25railcard.co.uk. And if you can’t get hold of a discount card, or if you usually travel in a group, most rail companies have a group money-saving deal – for example, three or four adults can travel for the cost of two adults.
It’s also likely that there will be local bus operators offering travel cards, if not specifically for students, then for local residents. If you use the bus to travel into university every day, then figure out the cost of single journeys, return journeys, and a week-long travel card – it’s almost guaranteed the travel card will work out the cheapest.
Watch TV for free – legally!
The BBC licence fee terms stipulate that you must pay the licence fee if you watch or record the television as it is broadcast . This means you don’t need a TV licence for watching on-demand TV over the net. Buy a cable to connect your laptop to your TV, and that’s a lot of free, good-quality viewing with no spend. And if you do happen to have a licence, make sure you claim one quarter back for the three summer months you’re probably not in your house.
Cook from scratch and buy in bulk
Cooking from scratch is far cheaper – and more fun! – than simply buying ready-meals off the supermarket shelf. It’s a lot more effort and involves a little trial-and-error, but it’s much more rewarding, both for your wallet and for your health. Buying in bulk is a no-brainer; staple, non-perishable foods like pasta are great to buy, especially as a household or a flat, as it works out so much cheaper and lasts a long while.
Ask for discounts
Your trusty NUS extra card can stretch your money a long way when you take it out with you, but not every shop is on there. A lot of shops will do discounts but won’t actually publicise it. Take your university card out with you when you go shopping, and make sure you always ask if they do student discounts there – you’ll be surprised how many stores do give discounts on the quiet.
Work where you shop
If you love shopping at a particular chain, try and get a job there! Staff discounts are usually a brilliant perk to working in retail. Working at any Arcadia Group store, for example – so that’s Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridges, and more! – gets you 25% off all Arcadia Group merchandise, and 20% off at BHS. Lucky staff at Republic, New Look, and The Body Shop get up to 50% off purchases.
Buy a printer
An odd one, but you’ll be very glad you did it when everyone is panicking about printing their assignment at the last-minute and you rock up having printed it at home. Printing on-campus is usually ridiculously expensive, too – not to mention that printing at home means you don’t have to bus or walk in! Having a fully-stocked printer will also make you very popular indeed come third year, when dissertation-panic sets in (you could even be cheeky and charge your fellow students!)
Thankfully a decent-quality printer needn’t break the bank these days, and it’s an investment that will pay off considerably the earlier you get it.
Get free condoms
There’s no need to buy condoms as you can get them free from most GPs and family planning clinics. Convenient, and could save a lot of money! Some family planning clinics are also sexual health (GUM) clinics and can test you (free of charge) for sexually transmitted infections, or give you sexual health advice. To find your nearest family planning clinic, check out the map at the Family Planning Association.
Find things you want cheaper or free!
Car boot sales are a bit hit-and-miss due to the weather, but sometimes you can find some hidden gems. They tend to kick off early so make sure you get there in time to have some fun digging out some good deals. Find a local car boot sale here.
Usually something associated with old people, charity shops are slowly getting more trendy. Sometimes – and it might take a while rummaging through the rails – you can find some really great clothes at super-cheap prices. Or accessories. Or books, DVDs, and CDs. Whew. Most high streets have two or three charity shops, and it’s worth going to them every once in a while to see if there’s anything good in there – not only are you saving money, you’re also supporting a worthwhile cause.
Alternatively, you could join up to a Freecycle group – you can find free laptops, TVs, bicycles and more. Look to ‘Freecycle’ everywhere in your life: text books, mobiles – ask friends, ask strangers, post on noticeboards. You’ll be amazed what people will give you that they don’t want anymore.
Don’t buy contents insurance
…Or at least check with your parents before you do. The ‘contents away from home’ section of your parents’ household policy might already cover you, or you might be able to get it extended at a small cost. However, make sure the full value of any items you have is covered.
Drink before you leave the house
Even the local student-friendly bars and pubs in town can be quite expensive if you go out to them every night. It’s not particularly graceful, but playing drinking games with your housemates at home before a big night out is a surefire way to save money – just think of how much a shot and a mixer is in your local pub, and consider how much a whole bottle of the stuff costs at the off-licence on the corner…