Some Realistic Ways To Save Money In Your First Term Of Uni
The Debrief: Because that student loan doesn’t *have* to be spent entirely on Freshers Week booze
Getting your student loan will probably be both the most exciting and terrifying experience of your university career. On the one hand, you’ve suddenly got a shit load more money in your bank account than you’re probably used to seeing all in one go, but also (lol) that money has actually got to last you more than a day or two.
WATCH: Your Student Loan Explained
Regardless of which university you go to, which city you’re based in or how much help you’re lucky enough to get from your parents, we could all use a helping hand when it comes to learning how not to spend all our money in a hurry. So, here are some actually straightforward, realistically attainable ways to save money in your first term at uni, aka, student loan black hole.
Don’t buy all the books
I know. ‘But the list my lecturer sent me specifically said that these 102923 books must be read and memorised in order to pass one singular module’, right? Well, in the nicest possible way, no. Buy the ‘core’ texts and anything that you think you’ll use for more than a month or two. Otherwise, the library is your friend. Or, if you’re a returning student and already know some of the chums on your course, a few of you should definitely go in on a few of the pricier books together and share/rotate/photocopy as and when.
Sharing is caring
Speaking of going in on purchases together, don’t be shy about initiating this rule in your halls/shared flat from the off because everyone will definitely thank you for it in the long term. Things like toilet roll, washing up liquid, bin bags, light bulbs, washing powder and so on, you can probably get away with leaving off of your pre-arrival list of things to buy. Wait until you get there and ask your flatmates if everyone’s up for buying a bulk packet of 50 loo rolls together rather than buying 10 at a time and someone forgetting to replenish the supply.
Exploit your newfound discounts
If you haven’t done it already this is the first thing you need to do – sign up for EVERYTHING. Some discount cards might require you to use an academic email address at sign up, but otherwise sign up to the newsletters of all of your favourite stores, restaurants and cafes making sure that you fill in the DOB field so they can send you birthday treats. Also actually take a minute to look through all of the places that offer NUS and Unidays discounts because there’s bound to be somewhere on there that you can use to save money on all of those sensible things like stationery, homeware, crockery, etc.
Saving those Freshers’ Fayre coupons isn’t lame
Okay, the number one rule of the Freshers’ Fayre is to grab as many freebies as possible. There is no shame to be had. Obviously don’t be a dick about it, people don’t take kindly to the newbie who swipes ALL of the free Dominos vouchers/cupcakes/nightclub discounts. But don’t be shy about getting your fair share. More importantly, perhaps, don’t lose them either! Lots of the vouchers you’ll round up will be for the places local businesses know students like to use, so get involved.
Nail the student bank account game
Overdrafts are great, aren’t they? And when I say great I mean really a really useful safety blanket not to be relied on all the time but reassuring to know is there. The 0% interest ones though are a way less stressful safety net to equip yourself with if you can. It's not all that difficult to find them, websites like Money Supermarket let you compare student bank accounts by overdraft rate (which is probably more important to look for than free gifts in the long term, although any accounts that offer free 16-25 railcards as well are normally a good shout). The main thing is, of course, to keep an eye on the dates in the T&Cs so you know when your interest-free period ends, and make sure you don't go over the limit and incur yourself a whole lot of nasty charges and defeat the whole point of a well-managed interest-free overdraft.
Don't take your bank card out
No, seriously. Remember cash? Revisit it and draw out a specific amount of money per night out, and stick to that amount of cash. I'm serious. Because it's all too easy to splurge on one more round/cheesy chips for everyone on your way home when, in reality, you neither want nor need it. It's a bit more difficult now that you can pay for everything on your phone, but disable the app for a night if you have to. You'll thank yourself later.
CHECK YOUR BANK STATEMENT
Please. Just check it. Regularly. As frightening as it might be, please check your damn statement and know where you're at with cash.
Students don't pay council tax, btw
In many university halls this sort of thing will already be taken into account, but if you're living in privately rented accommodation and are a full-time student, you don't need to pay council tax. Horrah! That applies whether you're living alone or with other students too. It's a little bit different if you live with someone who isn't in full-time higher education though, but you as the student should be disregarded from the council tax amount. Money Saving Expert has a great breakdown of how this all works out, and your university administration office should be able to help with giving you written confirmation of your student status to give to the council.
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