Strapped for cash? How to live your best life on a student budget

It is no secret that students go through university complaining about having no money on a fairly regular basis. By that I mean at least once a day (yet somehow multiple nights out a week are justifiable, you’re only at uni once right!?).  No matter what your hobbies or interests are, somehow that cash always finds a way of disappearing before your eyes, so here are a few tips on making your dough last that little bit longer. 

ORGANIZATION IS KEY. Buy a planner or diary at the start of the year, take half an hour, and make yourself a schedule. Most students will tell you that most of their money goes on food, and this is because a lack of organization will have you popping down to the shop every day to quickly grab something for dinner, get revision snacks or even pick up some breakfast on the way to lectures! This is something I was particularly guilty of and it drained my money faster than you can say “frozen pizza.” This all changed when I started scheduling a weekly food shop. Luckily, I lived near a Lidl (if you can make it to a Lidl or an Aldi, it is certainly worth it!) and once a week I would plan all my meals ahead of time and this made my shopping experience very quick, efficient and cheap! Knowing what I was going to eat made life a lot easier and I often found myself saving over £10 a week which made a huge difference in the long run. 

BE CAREFUL WITH CONTACTLESS. Just tapping a little plastic card here and there makes life a lot easier doesn’t it? It definitely makes it easier to spend a lot of money, very quickly. If you want to budget yourself, say on a night out for example, I would recommend going back to the dark ages and getting cash out and leaving your card behind. It may sound obvious, but you can therefore only spend what you have, and not a penny more. I’m sure we all have those friends, (or maybe we are guilty ourselves) who are either too generous for their own good or always get carried away, tapping their savings away without thinking. By getting out cash, you can plan your night factoring taxi rides, food and drink without that fear of waking up with no knowledge of how much you’ve spent. 

The other issue with contactless of course, is that the money does not leave your account for a number of days after any transaction. As we have already established, organisation really is key, and this issue can throw a spanner into the works. Always (without being obsessive) be aware of how much you have at any one point as this will help you make those daily decisions: morning Starbucks or coffee at home? Home sandwich or a meal deal? 

STUDENT DISCOUNT. Many restaurants and shops are all too aware of the general financial difficulties faced by most students and will offer discounts if you bring your student card with you. Many places will take your university card, but others will look for NUS or UNIDAYS specifically, so research this before you shop! Also, whether you’re a student or not, a lot of food services in particular will have days where they offer special deals like 2 for 1. Again, it comes down to organisation and research: look online and find the deals- there are so many out there, particularly for students! Student discounts are the best way of treating yourself without too much guilt!

Here I have listed just a few tips that have really helped me make the most out of university. You can still have fun whilst being careful with your cash; just remember to be organised and do your research. However, if you do find yourself continue to struggle with finding sufficient funds, then there are a couple more options out there. Some banks, like Santander offer a £1500 overdraft and throw in a student railcard to! Although overdrafts are a loan and must be treated as such, having a safety net behind you can certainly ease stress and give you more freedom. Finally, all universities will have a financial advice service where they may help you find employment, give you more tips or even provide you with a hardship fund or a bursary.

Post by Gabrielle Morris