Words by Jasmine Birtles

My top tips to help students save money

Over the next few weeks, thousands of young men and women across the country will be heading off to university. For most, they will be living away from home for the first time and will experience more independence than they’ve ever had before.

Balancing your budget

Passing their exams won’t be the only challenge facing them – they also need to somehow try to live and spend within their means. It’s hard work, as shown by a new survey from the Institute of Inertia – a partnership between the University of Sheffield and comparethemarket.com - which found that over one in ten students spend their maintenance loan within the first two weeks of receiving it (that’s around £2,700) and more than half spend all of their maintenance loan before the end of the first term.

It’s tough to balance the budget when you’re a student. That’s why I’ve prepared my top ten tips for saving money for Freshers - hopefully these will make all the difference!

1. Pace yourself

Before you receive your student loans, work out how many weeks in the year that money will have to cover. Divide the money you get by the number of weeks it has to stretch. That figure will be how much you can spend each week that you’re at uni. Try to keep as close as possible to that figure through the term – that way you will give yourself the best chance of avoiding having to borrow more at the end of term.

My top tips to help students save money

2. Get as much as you can for free

There’s loads out there! Online, try Toluna for all sorts of freebies that you just have to write a short review for. See what free events and items the university offers and sign up to freebies newsletters like LatestFreeStuff. Also, use sites like Freecycle and Freegle to get furniture, homeware, clothes and more for nothing.

3. Share where possible

See if you can share books, notes, gadgets, and more with students in your house or on your course. The more you share, the more you all save.

share in university books to save money

4. Buy secondhand

Never buy new unless you absolutely have to. This goes for everything from books to clothes to computers. Obviously sites like eBay, Gumtree and Amazon are good for this, but it’s likely that your uni has a place where students can advertise items for sale. Make the most of it.

5. Look for money-making opportunities

See what money-making opportunities your university offers, such as taking part in tests for the psychology department. Also try online surveys for bits of cash here and there; sign up to focus groups like those run by SarosResearch and offer your services as a dog-walker and babysitter in the area. See my website, MoneyMagpie.com for loads more money-making ideas for students.

university jobs and job opportunities

6. Ask about grants and bursaries

Depending where you are, it’s likely that your university or college has special bursaries, grants and scholarships. They don’t always actively promote them so you may need to do some digging. You could find, for example, that there’s a special payment for people who read in Chapel regularly, or there’s a bursary for students who want to study in Germany. Find out what’s going and go for as many as possible.

7. Switch bills at least once a year

On average students take £3,500-worth of stuff to uni and it needs to be insured. But don’t just go with the insurers your parents use. Use a comparison site like Comparethemarket.com to find the cheapest and best policy for you and switch each year. Same with bills if you’re living in digs. Check the prices of gas and electricity at least once a year - even twice a year to get the lowest cost.

student tip - change energy providers

8. Develop your own style

Keeping in fashion all the time is too expensive. Pick your own style – ideally one that involves charity shop clothes – and make that your thing at uni. You can buy designer stuff once you’re working!

9. Learn to cook – quickly!

This is how you save big money and eat healthily. Make as many of your own meals as possible. Shop at Aldi, Lidl, Morrisons and the local street markets. Ideally get together with other students in your house to make communal meals and save even more.

student tip - learn to cook quickly

10. Do paid holidays

Not only will you have fun and see new places for free, you’ll actually make a bit of cash if you work at holiday camps in the long summer break. Club Med is a really good one if your French is up to it, and Camp America gets you to all sorts of cool places in the States.

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