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How to save money as a student

It’s likely that going to university will be your first time striking out on your own and one of the most important lessons you’ll learn is how to manage your money.

Whether you’ll be receiving student loans, getting help from your family or working to fund your own student life, it can be easy to lose track of your spending.

To help you get the most out of your time at university, we’ve put together some of the best ways to save money as a student.

Make a budget

The best place to start when it comes to managing your finances is making a budget. This will help you see where you’re spending too much and where you could give yourself more wiggle room.

Start by working out your monthly income - this could be your student loan, bursaries, grants, any money you might get from family members, or income from a part-time job or freelance work.

If you’re going to get a one-off loan payment for each term, it would be wise to divide this by the number of months in that term.

Once you know how much money you’ll have each month, write down your expenses.

These are the things you know you’ll have to pay each month, like your phone and internet bills, rent and any regular transport. Don’t forget to also budget for food, essential goods and other things you might need, such as course books.

Anything that’s left after you’ve worked out your expenses is money that you’re free to spend - or save!

Get a finance app

Planning a budget can be a lot easier than sticking to it, but luckily there are apps you can call on to help you.

Finance and budgeting apps come in all shapes and sizes, so it’s likely you’ll be able to find the right one for you and your needs.

As well as helping you to plan your budget, they can also help with things like setting spending limits for different categories and automatically putting spare change away in your savings.

Use your overdraft carefully

Banks know that once you’ve got an account with them, you’re likely to stay for life. That’s why they fall over themselves to attract students.

You might be tempted by a current account that comes with a large, free overdraft. If you do take it, try to use your overdraft only as a buffer.

The common mistake is to treat an overdraft as free money, when in reality £0 is still £0. You’ll go below zero when you tap into your overdraft, meaning it’s a form of debt that you’ll have to pay off when you next receive some money.

An overdraft can help get you out of a tough spot, especially when you’re a student and don’t have a lot of income, but using it regularly can be a difficult loop to get out of.

If you do have to dip into your overdraft as a one-off, try to curb your spending once you’ve paid it off to stop you going back into it.

Be smart in the supermarket

After rent, food is likely to be your second biggest expense while at university. Thankfully, there’s a lot you can do to spend less in the supermarket.

  • Learn how to cook. Ingredients are cheaper than takeaways, ready meals and shop-bought sandwiches and there are a variety of resources online full of cheap and low-effort recipes to help you dip your toes into cooking. This will also let you prepare meals in advance to take with you when you have a busy day.
  • Do a big weekly shop. This will get you into the habit of planning out your meals and snacks for the week and can stop you from over spending.
  • Do your food shop at the end of the day. Many items, such as bread, will be reduced as they can’t be sold as fresh the next day.
  • Look for supermarket own brands, as these are often cheaper.
  • Buy in bulk. It can be a lot cheaper, as long as it’s not something that could go off before you get to use it. You can also share the cost of common cooking ingredients and house necessities with your roommates.
  • Get a points card. You’ll probably have one shop that you go to most, so it’s wise to sign up for a free points card. These cards usually give you deals and you collect points as you spend to cash out as vouchers, saving you money in the long-run.

Look for student discounts

Student discounts are everywhere. Start by getting a student discount card, which gives you access to thousands of discounts on everything from food and clothing to beauty products and travel.

There are a variety of student discount card schemes out there, but some of the most popular are Unidays, Student Beans and Totum.

Don’t be afraid to ask if a shop has a student discount when you get to the till, as they might not be advertising it but, more often than not, they will give you around 10% off. You’ll only need your normal student card for this.

Because they’re necessary tools for your studies and education, computers and other tech products will often come with big discounts for students. Make sure you double-check your options before you commit to a big purchase!

Buy second-hand course books

If you find that there’s not enough copies of the key texts you need for your course in the library, and they’re not available online, you might need to buy your own. This can get very expensive.

Thankfully, there’s a thriving second-hand market from students who have already graduated and no longer need their textbooks.

Ask your university bookshop, library or student council about this or look for information online. Just be careful to get the most recent edition, as textbooks can change a lot from one edition to another and you might miss out on crucial updates.

Get a 16-25 railcard and buy split-save tickets

If you’re planning on getting the train a lot, whether you’re going home for the holidays or going on weekend trips with your friends, you should get a 16-25 railcard. It costs £30 to get one for the year and it saves you a third on most journeys.

A railcard also works with split ticketing. The rail system in the UK is divided between dozens of train companies, which means it’s often much cheaper to buy multiple small journey tickets than a single, long journey ticket. You’d be surprised at how much money you can save! The website or the TrainSplit app can do the hard work for you.

Start building up your savings

If you’ve been good at sticking to your budget and you have money left over every month, why not make that money work hard for your future?

Even if you only have £10 left over, it can be tempting to spend that extra cash on a takeaway meal or a night out. But if you put £10 away at the end of every month, you’ll have £120 at the end of the year.

Also, if you downloaded a budgeting app with spare change features, you’ll probably already be stashing away some change every month, so you could set up a standing order on top of that!

You won’t be a student forever and the earlier you start to build up your savings the better.

Whether you’d like to save to buy your first home or treat yourself to a holiday when you graduate, there’s a savings product out there for you, your budget and your goals.

Stocks and Shares ISA

With one, simple annual management charge of 1.1%, our Stocks and Shares ISA could be a good option if you're looking to invest over the long-term.

Lifetime ISA

If you want to save for your first home or for life after 60, our Lifetime ISA could help as you'll gain a 25% boost from the government on top of your savings, as well as any potential stocks and shares returns.

Our Lifetime ISA and Stocks and Shares ISA both invest in stocks and shares. This means they have good long-term growth potential, but the value of your investments can down as well as up and you could get back less money than you’ve put in.

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