Not content with my previous posts on saving money, here are some more tips to get stuck into when trying to survive on a student budget:
Shopping & Eating
- Cut down on convenience food – I’m not talking about ready meals, I’m talking about buying food when you’re on the go and when you haven’t planned your day. Stop spending on takeaway meals, ready-made sandwiches, coffee/tea/bottled water, cafe grub and pasty purchases. They eat up valuable cash.
- Buy special offers – I like a bit of variation, so I don’t mind trawling the supermarket for what’s on offer. It’s cheaper (for me) than making a list of specific items to buy. Then again, if you’re tempted by too much when you don’t write a list, you may prefer to stick with just the items you know you want…
- Go to more than one supermarket – If you can get to a few different places to buy your food, it’s worth seeing what’s on offer in each place. I used to go into town to get just the special offers from Sainsburys, Tesco, Somerfield, Marks & Spencer and even the convenience store. Those shops all had different special offers, so even an avid writer of shopping lists should come out with most (if not all) they want at a good price!
- Don’t give in to impulse buys – Okay, I admit, some special offers will result in an impulse purchase. But most buying on impulse is because the product is tempting you as you wait by the checkout, or it has a big presentation associated with it down an aisle. The food may look better than anything you’ve ever had, but it’ll only end in tears and a premature parting of your cash.
- Haggle for a discount (even over any student discounts you may already be eligible for) – Student discounts are great, but there’s no harm in asking if the seller can go any lower in price. It doesn’t have to be an expensive item and you don’t have to be buying anything else in order to ask. It doesn’t even look cheeky if you’re serious about saving money. The worst answer you’ll get is “No”. I’m sure you can live with that. You weren’t going to get a discount anyway if you hadn’t asked. No harm done, eh?
- Check the charity shops for bargains – Forget about stigma and start enjoying the fact that you’ll help a good cause and get some good, cheap clothes/books thrown in. It’s worth spending a few minutes looking around for a bargain, even if you come out with nothing.
- Check prices online – What you can buy for £20 on the high street, you could get for less than £10 online. Some things may even be free on the right promotion. The Web is awash with brilliant prices on almost anything you want to buy (even your shopping!). Always see how much you can save online. I know a lot of you do already, but I still don’t see everyone doing it.
- Cut back on your shopping habits – Do you need to visit the hairdresser so much? Are you buying posher brands than you really need? Have you even tried to buy a cheaper version of something as a test? Are you carelessly texting and calling on your mobile (be it PAYG or contract…) without considering the cost? Do you buy expensive glossy magazines for a quick 10 minute fix? Are you subscribing to services you don’t really use? Claw back all the money you can and you’re bound to save a bit here and there.
Money & Banking
- Treat any gifted money as savings – Don’t spend gift money from family and loved ones at the first opportunity. It’s worth less that way. Save it for something special when you have a true want for something. Even better, just save it amongst your everyday cash and be happy that you’re a bit better off this month…
- Note your purchases – Write down everything you spend your money on. It can open your eyes to where you waste it most. Who thought the 50p you spent on a chocolate bar most days came to over £100 in a year?
- Don’t see lump sums (like bursaries and loans) as a chance to splash the cash – It needs to last over a lengthy period of time. Large deposits into your bank account look exciting, especially the first couple, but you’ll soon find you aren’t as rich as you think, alas!
- Have some emergency cash – Even if you normally don’t have two pennies to rub together, try to keep an emergency fund to one side. Maybe have a separate account for it. Keep as much as you can manage, even if it’s just a small amount. You never know when something unexpected is going to bite you on the bum.
- Don’t see credit cards as available cash – If you must use a credit card, use it sparingly, wisely, and pay off as much as you can when you get the chance. I had to use a credit card at uni, but it was the first thing I paid off when I left. It’s a costly burden.
- Take a fixed amount of cash – Only have the amount of money that you’re willing to spend. Don’t go above it. If possible, take the cash out so you don’t forget how much you’ve spent on a debit/credit card.
- Get some cheap alcohol for indoors before you head out – The fun starts at home, so you won’t be tempted to buy so many drinks when you’re out (although remembering this after a few too many is a danger…).
- Book events in advance for maximum savings – Paying ‘on the door’ usually means a few quid more out of pocket that you needn’t have spent.
- Check out flyers when you’re handed them – Even if you’re offered a flyer for an event you’re already set to attend, it’s worth taking a flyer to see if you get any money off for taking the flyer with you on the night. It’s another way to pull in the punters. They don’t need to know that you were already going to attend!
- Play sports, go for a walk, find out about free events – It’s better than defaulting to theme parks, cinemas and anywhere with an entrance fee.
Books, Entertainment, Fitness & Fun
- Choose DVD over cinema – Unless you’re a huge movie fan, or you’re studying film & media and want the most recent film exposure, it doesn’t hurt to wait a few months for stuff to come out on DVD. Of course, you may like downloading the latest films for free online, but you know you shouldn’t be doing that…tsk, tsk!
- Buy secondhand books if possible – Amazon and abebooks show secondhand sellers who may be able to save you a bit for a slightly used book. And past students may offer to unload their textbooks onto you for a good price. But beware some older editions of books…they may be cheaper, but make sure it’s not out of date for using on your course.
- Don’t sign up to a gym – See what your institution has to offer. And go for a run outdoors. And buy a few cheap pieces of equipment for your own personal fitness routines. So much less than finding a private gym to throw stupid amounts of money at.
Utilities (gas, electric, water, phone, etc.)
- Find the cheapest electricity and gas deals – If you’re renting with mates now, don’t just go with the first suppliers you see. Go to uswitch and see who gives the best deal for you.
- At least find a better tariff with your supplier – If you can’t be bothered to go to another supplier, the utility company you’re already with may have different offers that can still save you a packet. Online tariffs usually mean you cancel a paper bill, but get a reasonable saving. Also, try paying by regular direct debit if you can (so long as you trust your housemates to pay you for their share…). Gas and electric companies usually discount a bit more when you pay by direct debit.
- Personally save energy – From turning off lights and appliances, to using the rights pans and curtains, you can do a lot around the house to save money. Get all your housemates on board…it only takes a few moments to think about it, but it could stop you from wasting money. Check out the tips on these three sites.