Tips to save money at university

Make the most of your finances at university with these money saving hacks.
Student at university
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Going to university is an exciting time in anyone's life but flying the nest can also be scary. It’s often the first time in your life you have to organise yourself to get up and attend your lectures on time, do your own grocery shopping and manage your own money.

If you splash the cash too much, you could be eating beans on toast for the rest of the year. So, to help you take away some of the stress of leaving home, here are some handy tips for taking control of your finances.

Draw up a budget

Managing money when you’re at university is no easy task – especially when you consider the rising costs we're all facing. 2021 research from Save the Student shows that 76% of students2 worry about making ends meet, while a new study from 2022 has discovered that due to the rising cost of energy, 54% of students are now planning to cut back on socialising to save money, while 43% are hoping to reduce their grocery bills and 42% want to cut costs by travelling less.

If you want to enjoy your university experience without feeling stressed about whether you can afford to pay your rent and bills, you could take control of your finances early by creating a budget. But how might you go about this?

First, add up all your income, including maintenance loans, bursaries, money from your parents and any money from a summer job. Then, list your monthly outgoings, such as rent and bills and your social fund, and estimate how much you spend on average for food groceries and miscellaneous purchases and add them to your list. This will give you a clear picture of your financial situation and can help you see where you could cut down.

Live with other people

Renting in the UK doesn’t come cheap. Research reveals that the average monthly rent in the UK is £1,1703 for a 1-bed property. However, choosing to live in a 5-bed property could be cheaper. Since the average monthly asking price to rent a 5-bed is £3,8003 you could be paying around £760 a month if you were living with 4 other people, meaning you would save approximately £219.16 a month.

Sharing accommodation can also help you cut back on bills coming with a flat fee, like broadband internet. So, unless you enjoy being alone, living with other people could be a good way to combine cheaper living costs with greater fun, provided you get along with them and have similar standards of cleanliness.

Keep your course expenses to a minimum

UK students spend on average £174 on course materials (such as books they're required to read) – this adds up to £204 over the course of the year! So, with that in mind, if you want to cut down your course expenses, then you could try to avoid buying new shiny books and instead have a look at what's available in the campus’ library. Chances are that most of the books on your reading list could be found there and as long as you return them on time, you may be also to easily save some cash.

If some books aren’t in your library, check your uni noticeboards as they’re often full of books being sold or buy them second-hand online or in charity shops. You could also join your university Facebook page and see if previous students are selling theirs – don’t forget to haggle to get them at a cheaper price.

Walk or cycle to class

If you happen to live near your campus, you could choose to walk to your classes. Not only is it good for the environment and your health, it’ll also help you save some cash. If you study in one of Central London universities, you could expect to save on average £1405 a month by walking or cycling rather than using public transport (such as buses, trams, trains and London Underground services).

However, if you’re living too far from university or you can’t face the rain, use public transport. As a student, you should be able to benefit from reduced price tickets across all forms of transport. For example, if you’re taking the underground or train, you can buy an 18+ student oyster card or a 16-25 railcard giving you 1/3 off fares.

Make your own food

After rent, food weigh a lot on students’ finances. UK students spend on average £1014 on groceries each month, equating to an astonishing £1,212 for the year. Don’t let sandwiches from your university cafeteria tempt you as this could cost you even more in fact, the average student spends an additional £41a month on takeaways and eating out.

Buying ready-made meals might make your life easier, but it’s typically more expensive than making your own food. So, why not consider creating a menu for each week, listing the foods you need and sticking to it when you next go to do your grocery shopping?

It might also be worth buying supermarkets’ own brands as they tend to be cheaper and taste doesn’t differ that much from other products. Also, if you live with other people, make one big meal and share – that way you’re not cooking every night and you can all share the washing up too.

Do your research

When it comes to utility bills (water, gas, and energy), it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with all the offers knocking at your door. But you might want to consider not just choosing the first you hear about and doing some research into what options are available. If you want to do this, you could spend some time online looking for energy providers and checking comparison websites, like uSwitch and Money Supermarket, which will give you a handy list with the cheapest companies to go with. But before making any move, you might also want to check with your landlord that they’re happy with you switching.

Take advantage of student discounts

Being a student comes with its perks. With your TOTUM card, you can benefit from many discounts in supermarkets, clothing shops, restaurants, cinemas, and apps - so, don’t forget to pick up your card and make sure you replace it if you ever lose it.

Have fun for less

Going out is part and parcel of university life, but it can burn a hole in your pocket very quickly if you’re not careful enough. A typical night for British students costs around £474, and with things like club entries, drinks and transport all costs you could face during a night on the town, this might not come as much of a surprise.

But saving money isn’t rocket science. Get to know the days where your favourite clubs have free entries and student nights, check for happy hours, and take cash out and leave your card at home so you’re less tempted to spend. Also, you could also just not go clubbing, and instead stay home and invite some friends over to watch Netflix or play video games.

Start putting money aside

Saving is a valuable habit at any stage of your life, but it could really be worth developing when you’re at university and money is likely to be tight. It's a good idea to have money set aside for emergencies, but it could also be useful to have some cash spare to help you bring short-term projects and goals to life, such as going on a summer holiday with your uni friends. So, you might be tempted to put as you can in your savings account, but remember, it doesn’t have to be huge amounts that you put away at a time – you could always choose to save small sums regularly if that's all you're able to afford.

Also, if you want to save money and haven't ventured far for university, you may want to consider living at home where you can build your rainy-day fund, which could set you in good stead for when you graduate.

Please remember the value of your investments can go down as well as up, and you could get back less than invested.

Wealthify does not offer financial advice. Please seek financial advice if you're unsure about investing.

References:

  1. https://www.savethestudent.org/money/surveys/student-money-survey-2021-results.html
  2. https://www.savethestudent.org/accommodation/national-student-accommodation-survey-2022.html
  3. https://www.zoopla.co.uk/market/uk/ (prices correct as of May 2022)
  4. https://www.savethestudent.org/money/student-budgeting/what-do-students-spend-their-money-on.html
  5. https://www.timeshighereducation.com/student/advice/cost-studying-university-uk

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