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Nine quick money-saving tips for students

Don't overspend on the basics: follow our advice to free up more of your student budget and have a larger fun fund

From student discounts to savvy supermarket shopping, we’ve cherry-picked our favourite money-saving tips to help you stretch that student loan.

What makes them our “favourite” tips is that they’re quick and easy to sort out. You simply don’t need an in-depth understanding of finance to shave your spending.

Whether you’re off to university for the first time or you’re returning for just one more year, we have you covered.

Preparing for university? We have lots of articles on everything from what to pack to even more budgeting advice.

1. Line up your discounts

If you’re 16-25 years-old, it’s probably worth buying a 16-25 railcard. It costs £30 a year and you save a third on train travel, so you’ll make the money back in no time.

It’s probably worth buying an NUS extra card, too – it costs £12 for one year and gives you access to over 200 UK discounts, including 10% off at Co-op. While your university’s student card will give you discounts when buying in-store, you’ll need an NUS extra card for online-only deals.

For more info, take a look at six ways to get money-ready for uni.

2. Go out on student nights

Student nights are often during the week and are usually cheaper than going out on the weekend.

To cut the costs of hitting the town even more, it’s usually cheaper – or sometimes free – to get into a nightclub if you arrive before midnight or if put your name on the guestlist.

3. Sort out student banking

Almost a third (31%) of students told us they don’t have a student bank account, in our survey of 5,000 undergraduates at UK universities between 22 March and 6 April 2018.

As a result, they may be missing out on generous 0% interest overdrafts, as well as perks such as free travel cards.

In the same survey, we asked the student bank account holders to rate their bank on a few different areas, and whether they were satisfied overall. Watch our video for the top-level findings:

Head to Which? Uni’s student banking tips guide to find out how to get started with a student bank account, alongside advice on keeping on top of your spending. If you’re only interested in finding out the best providers, take a look at Which? Money’s student bank accounts guide.

4. Buy second-hand books

If you’re given a long list of books that you’ll need to read as part of your course, the first thing to do is to check which are mandatory to buy now, and which ones can be looked at later.

Find out if any necessary books are available in your library to borrow, or if relevant sections are available online for free to download. If neither of those efforts bear fruit, try to find them second-hand from Amazon or AbeBooks, or similar.

5. Become a savvy supermarket shopper

Here are a few easy things to remember to help you master the supermarket aisles:

  • Try to avoid shopping at ‘express’ stores – these are usually more expensive for their convenience.
  • Buy non-brand for cheaper prices.
  • Consider larger pack sizes – you often pay less per weight/quantity this way.
  • Pick up food for a packed lunch if you have lecture-heavy days – it’ll probably be much cheaper than buying food out all the time.
  • Plan meals for the week ahead and stick to your shopping list. Also, try to avoid going to the supermarket when you’re feeling very peckish, as you’ll more likely end up with heavier (and pricier) bags.
  • Cut down on the price of basics by checking out the cheapest places to buy toiletries.

Food shopping, accommodation, transport, phone contract… it all adds up! Find out the average cost of living at university.

6. Switch energy supplier

This only really applies to those living in private accommodation where bills aren’t included in the rent – for freshers living in halls, utility costs are usually factored into the price.

If you have the power to choose your energy supplier, take the time to look into the cheapest options with Which? Switch. You can save quite a lot of money, and it probably won’t take much longer than 15 minutes.

We won’t go into all the detail here, but check out our handy student survival guide on electricity and gas bills to quickly get up to speed.

There are plenty of other things you can do to save energy and cash, too. Watch our video for our top tips:

7. Find free or cheaper alternatives to hobbies

Rather than signing up for a gym contract, consider whether you’d get your exercise fix by running outside or joining a sports society.

For music lovers, immerse yourself in the local scene and discover the next big things, instead of forking out on big-ticket acts.

8. Walk or cycle, where possible

Transport costs can build up slowly, and almost slyly. What you write off as a mere few pounds a day suddenly turns into a not-insignificant monthly cost.

If you can make savings by walking or cycling parts (or all) of your journey, it might be worth considering. It’s a nice little bit of exercise, too.

9. Use our student budget calculator

We’ve pulled together lots of data on everything from accommodation costs to average spendings on clothes and going out to bring you our student budget calculator.

To get started, all you need to do is enter the name of your university. You’ll then get a tailored breakdown of costs to help you budget well, avoid overspending, and know whether you’ll need to find a part-time job or seek other support.

Use our student budget calculator now to have a clearer picture of how far your current budget will get you.

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