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Heading into my second year of university, I’m always on the look out for new ideas to save a bit of cash. So when FundCalibre asked me to write a guest blog for them as part of my work experience stint this week, I knew immediately what I wanted to write about!
Surprisingly, we never seem to learn these kinds of handy life lessons in school, so I was also pleased to hear about the KickStart Money program, recently launched by several Elite Rated asset management companies, which is now teaching primary school kids the essential skills they need to manage their own finances. Sadly, it’s come a bit too late for me.
So, to help out my fellow university students this semester, I asked some friends to each provide their top savings tip – the best of which I’ve compiled for you below.
If you are staying in student accommodation or flat sharing then chances are that you’ve been about to cook yourself something that almost passes for food, only to find that the kitchen is already being used in another equally questionable process. This tip will prevent that, as well as saving you money. Band together with your flat mates, agree on a cooking night rotation and shop together. This means you can buy your food in larger quantities and so have a cheaper food bill.
Vouchers and special offers may be the bane of your letterbox but they can provide significant savings on everything from the latest MacBook Pro to your weekly grocery shopping. Signing up to student schemes such as Unidays and National Student Card is a great way to get more vouchers, coupons and cash backs.
Paying your bills immediately and in a lump sum can often yield a discounted rate compared to a payment plan, and at the very least avoids paying any late fees. When trying to reduce costs, a major step is avoiding paying for anything unnecessary. While payment plans can look attractive to students on a tight budget, it is important to factor in interest over the term of the plan and any associated fees.
While this technically increases your available funds rather than reducing your outgoings, it is a fantastic method to help along your student finances. Though the gig economy has its problems, it can be a real boon to students who want short-term jobs that work to their timetable. Joining the gig economy is easy; simply download a couple of apps like Coople or Toptask and start searching.
Booking your travel in advance can yield massive savings, especially with the addition of the 16–25 rail card. If saving money is your priority, however, it is usually much cheaper to travel by coach than by train. That is, of course, assuming that the toll on the psyche caused by driving down a bumpy road at 2am is not counted.
For students who aren’t lucky enough to have utilities included in their rental payments, heating can be a significant cost. Luckily, there are some good tips to help you save. It may not be glamorous, but wearing your winter clothing indoors will keep you warm without incurring massive additional costs. Ironing in your main room and leaving your oven door open after cooking (once the oven is off!) can also help to alleviate the shivering that often characterises student living during the winter months.
Buying second hand is a smart way to cut down costs as a student and eBay is great as its policies are friendly to buyers and provide good protection against any unscrupulous characters looking to exploit bargain hunters. Gumtree is also an excellent alternative to eBay in the UK and has plenty of listings for students to trawl through looking for the best savings.
University campuses may be full of parties lasting well into the morning, but the alcohol fuelling them is not cheap, with spirits costing £15 or more per bottle. And if you buy drinks in a bar or club then that price skyrockets beyond the realms of affordability for all but the most well-funded of students. Your social life may take a hit from the solution to this avenue of expenditure (i.e. to drink less!), but your bank balance will reap the rewards.
Biking may strain those muscles that have atrophied during the hours of procrastination that student life entails, but the savings on transport costs can more than make up for that, not to mention the environmental friendliness of biking. Biking can also save you money on a gym membership if your objective is just to get some regular cardio.
The single most important part of financial success at university is creating a budget for your income and expenditures. The best money saving tip is simply to plan your finances in advance and reflect on what is truly essential in your weekly budget.