University MoneyHack #4

It’s all about budgeting!

4 in 10 freshers said they found keeping their finances under control harder than they thought and a worrying 20 percent said they were struggling financially.

So, get into the budgeting mindset from the start of the year with this top 10, which covers what to remember to factor into your budget. Also take a look at our advice on stretching your student loan and shopping online with Amazon’s Prime Student membership.

1. Textbooks and Stationery

Starting college comes with a number of upfront costs, including textbooks and stationery. 51% of the freshers said they have spent more than planned on books and course materials. How do you save on these essential items?

  • Check if your university runs used book sales, giving you the opportunity to buy books from second-year students (and to sell them next year!). Otherwise you can post on your uni portals or Facebook groups to reach out to your seniors.
  • Which textbooks do you actually need to buy? Wait until the first week of term to see if you really need every single book on the reading list. Then head to the library early to borrow the important ones before everyone else. Also check if the library has the electronic copy so you can just download them to your laptop.
  • Discounts — don’t forget your NUS Extra card will come in handy for textbook purchases.

2. Transportation

There are student travel cards out there to help you reduce the costs of getting around by as much as a third:

  • 16–25 Young Persons Railcard — £30 a year for a third off all rail fares. You can also buy a 3-year 16–25 Railcard, available only online. It’s great value at £70, saving you an extra £20 on the cost of renewing your 1-year Railcard for three consecutive years. You can buy this 3-year Railcard up until the day before your 24th birthday, so you get discounts on your rail fares until you are 27!
  • 18+ Student Oyster Photocard — just a £10 admin fee for 30% off London tube/bus/tram costs.
  • Young Persons Coachcard —only £10 a year for a third off coach fares.

For more savings, plan, plan and book your train well in advance if possible.

3. Groceries

It’s a myth that students live off plain pasta — however it is possible to eat healthily whatever your money limit. Here are a couple of tips to get you going strong:

  • Prevent impulse buys in Sainsburys by making a shopping list — and not go shopping when you are hungry.
  • Cook in bulk for several days. This way works out to be much cheaper than cooking individual meals and you always have a back-up plan when the fridge is empty!
  • Make packed lunches instead of ready meals or KFC on the go.
  • If you hate cooking (like me) and wants to be super healthy (like me) then alternative fluid meals such as Huel or Soylent will save you tons of time going shopping for groceries, cooking and washing up the dishes!

4. Entertainment

From freshers’ week to clubbing entrance fees, student nights, concerts, fancy dress, sports or a quick coffee catchup — the cost of socialising can gradually accumulate. Being sociable doesn’t have to be expensive — think cooking in with housemates, free events at your chocolate society or 2-for-1 cinema nights.

Discount websites such as NUS Extra and Student Beans offer great deals on days and nights out including theme park trips, cinema and theatre visits and local restaurants.

5. Utility Bills

If you’re living in your campus, gas, electricity and water are commonly included in your rent — but that is not the case if you’re choosing to rent a private flat. You’ll need to put aside a certain amount each month to cover utility bills (usually £50-£100). Setting up regular debit payments is a good way to automate this bill.

Also check if you could save by switching to a different supplier or price plan. You can compare energy suppliers using or Online deals are usually among the cheapest. And certainly, there are lots of ways to use less energy in the first place.

6. Internet

This is another cost if you’re in private housing.

Don’t forget that there are often extra fees involved in addition to the quoted price — the cost of installing a monthly line rental, for example. Check on to make sure you’re on a good value plan.

7. Insurance

Insuring your your laptop, smartphone, TV, clothes, camera, specialist equipment and so on can be daunting. The average student owns £1,980 worth of tech gadgets.

You might be covered by your parents’ home insurance policy — otherwise, student belongings insurance plans start at around £11 a month.

8. Personal Hygiene

You might not notice until you become a student how much things like shaving gel, deodorant and shampoo cost! Set enough aside for the basics, making the most of special offers during Boxing Day and Christmas Sales!

9. Clothing & Fashion

It’s tempting once you get your loan to head straight to the shops but you’ll regret blowing your clothes budget in the first week. Save money by:

  • MyUniDays is a good student discount website to check for deals in shops.
  • Use cashback websites to save more on recent purchases.
  • Consider recycling your clothes by swapping them with friends by hosting a clothes swapping party or try online on websites such as Swishing and SwapStyle!

10. Miscellaneous

Printing, photocopying, library charges (avoid these, please!). The little things can add up quickly— here’s how to keep them under control:

  • It might be worth buying a printer (you can get a decent inexpensive one for below £50) rather than using university libraries.
  • Print in black and white and avoid printing with colour.

What other tips do students themselves have on managing money?

Send us a message at for your money management stories and tips!

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