For a lot of us going to university is the first time we have big financial responsibilities, like paying rent and bills. But, it isn’t just the big things like rent that can create struggles with money – food shopping, books, transport and new clothes all add up, often without us even noticing. A big part of becoming an adult is realising how expensive cereal truly is, no wonder my mum never bought us branded chocolate pillows.
As someone who struggled with money all through university I figured I would share some of my retrospective advice on ways to save a few pennies.
Use library resources
Spending money on clothes
Spending money on uni books
The books required for university can be expensive, and although there are benefits to owning your own copy of the book you need, there are alternatives to spending so much. I wasn’t able to purchase lots of books throughout my university experience, because I couldn’t afford to. Instead, I checked the library every time I had an assignment and 9 times out of 10 I could find the book I was looking for. Even if you aren’t currently on campus due to COVID restrictions, there are resources such as e-books and e-journals which you can access through your digital library.
Set up a savings account
Me: I’m not gonna withdraw any money from my savings account again
5 mins later:
Although you may feel you don’t even have any money to save, there are benefits to opening a savings account and many banks will have options to open accounts with as little as 1p, gaining interest on anything you save every month. Simple things such as rounding up every time you buy something and putting that into savings can add up and be helpful for a rainy day (if it can get any rainier).
The 1p Challenge is a savings challenge where each day you save 1p more than the day before. You start on day one with 1p in your savings account, the 2nd day you add 2p, the 3rd 3p and so on. After a year you could have saved £667.95.
Food shopping can often be one of the biggest monthly outgoings aside from rent, as, well…we need it. But, there are a few things you can do in regards to food shopping to keep spending to a minimum.
Shopping while hungry
Me when I shop on an empty stomach:
This is still a mistake I make pretty often and it always ends badly. It’s hard enough to resist buying unnecessary treats when I am not hungry, but add hunger into the mix and I’ll be helpless against the conveniently placed overpriced snacks.
Make a list
It may seem exceptionally obvious but a shopping list can save you from overbuying things you don’t need. Especially if you pair this with setting a plan for what meals you will eat throughout the week, or at least having a vague idea. Then you will only buy the things you know you need and not feel tempted to add anything with a half price label into your basket.
The Student Green Office have a guide to meal planning to lower your carbon footprint.
Freeze your food
“In the time it took you to read this your avocados have already gone bad.”
I personally found that for most vegetables I bought, I would throw away at least half of them after they went off in the back of the fridge. However, you can buy bags of frozen vegetables, including chopped onions, peppers and even garlic, and keep it in the freezer for as long as you like without it ever going off.
Now obviously in a lot of student houses freezer space isn’t exactly abundant. But I found another great way to save money by not needing to throw out mouldy food is to freeze my bread. It is easy enough to defrost it in the microwave or toaster, and lasts way longer.
Shop in the evenings
When you can’t go to a nightclub but you hear a banger in the supermarket…
Shopping after 6pm can increase your chance of finding a greater array of marked down prices and yellow labels. Recently I got a 4 pack of alpro yoghurts normally priced around £2 for only 10p. Often this is the case because they are sold on the best before date, but in general most food is good to eat for long after the best before date.
Financial support and advice is available to you
As well as my own personal tips and advice shared in this blog, I want to share the help that is available to all students.