As you get ready to set off to university, Which? Money experts round up 10 great ways to save money at college.
1. Get the best student bank account
If you’re looking for a student bank account, the most important aspect for most students is the interest-free overdraft, rather than the eye-catching freebies.
Halifax/Bank of Scotland and HSBC offer the highest 0% overdraft at £3,000 throughout your degree course, followed by Barclays’ £2,000.
Some banks increase the amount you can borrow each year. For example, RBS/NatWest, Smile and Santander all start with a £1,000 overdraft in your first year, gradually rising to £2,000 later on your course.
2. Claim student loans and maintenance grants
As well as student loans for tuition fees (£3,375 in England and Wales in 2011/12) and living costs (up to £6,928), you may be eligible for a student maintenance grant of up to £2,906. These grants are means-tested and don’t have to be repaid. Read the Which? guide to Student loans and grants for contact details.
3. Use cashback websites
Going to university is probably the first time you’ll be personally responsible for paying the household bills. Once you’ve used Which? reviews to find the best deal on broadband, gas, electricity and your home phone, consider using a cashback website,, like Quidco, to earn extra cash.
4. Cut the cost of car insurance
If you’re taking your car to university, adding your parent as a named driver can often reduce the cost of car insurance.
It doesn’t work the other way round though – if you’re the sole driver and put the car insurance in your parents’ name with you as a named driver, your insurance company will probably not pay out if you have an accident. This is called ‘fronting’ and is illegal.
Some insurers also won’t pay out if the student is not the legal owner of the car, so it’s worth transferring ownership before you head to university.
5. Hunt out the best bargains
Many big stores, including Comet, Richer Sounds and Argos have clearance websites or list their excess stock through eBay. You can get big discounts by using these sites rather than buying in-store.
Timing also plays a big part – autumn can be a great time to grab a bargain as shops offer back-to-school and university deals and clear out their summer stock ready for the colder weather. Read the Which? guide How to get discounts on products for lots more money-saving ideas.
6. Get cheaper train tickets
Your mum and dad will probably expect you to pop home for a weekend now and again. And yet, finding cheap train tickets can be a lottery. Buying in advance, buying direct from the rail company, travelling by a slower route and getting yourself a student railcard can all slash the cost of train travel. Read our guide to Cheap train tickets for lots more tips.
7. Effective budgeting with personal finance software
As student grants are paid termly, you’ll need to plan your budget to make sure your money stretches to the end of the semester. Personal finance software lets you plan and monitor your spending on your computer – and there are some good free options like AceMoney Lite..
8. Renting a student house
If you can’t get into student halls, you may decide to rent a house with friends. The last thing you want is to lose your deposit when you move out or for your rent to be hiked while you’re living in the property.
Many rental contracts also state that you have joint liability for any unpaid rent – so if a housemate doesn’t pay his or her rent, you might be liable. The Which? guide to renting a home explains your rights and the questions you need to ask before you sign your contract.
9. Use recycling websites to get things for free
If you need extra furniture or a basic computer and printer, it’s worth checking community recycling websites like Freecycle and SnaffleUp. Not only will you get the things you need for free, you’ll also be doing your bit for the environment by reducing landfill.
10. Transfer your student loan into a Best Rate savings account
Chances are that you won’t need your whole student loan at the beginning of term, so it makes sense to earn some interest on it in the meantime. If you’re a non-taxpayer, you can fill in form R85 and your interest will be paid gross (i.e. without tax knocked off).
Pay your student loan into an instant-access Best Rate savings account and you’ll not only earn interest, but you can get your hands on your cash whenever you need it without withdrawal penalties.
- Going to university guide – great ways to prepare for university and save money
- Student bank accounts – find out which accounts offer the biggest interest-free overdraft
- Car insurance for young drivers – more tips to cut the cost of motoring