First of all, congratulations to everyone for their results yesterday, I hope you all received what you wished for!
Secondly, this week I’ve been hooked on reading posts on The Student Room. I noticed a lot of threads and comments about what students tend worry about the most when starting uni. The most popular two answers I found are: money worries and not making friends (I will blog about this topic next week).
Let’s not beat around the bush: students are usually broke. With the costs of student life, many of us feel out-of-pocket fairly quickly. It’s not as if we can go without, either! We need accommodation, textbooks, food, alcohol… Y’know, all the essential stuff. Most of us receive some sort of student finance, including maintenance loans and grants (depending on personal circumstances). When student loan day finally appears, it feels like you have won the lottery, and many of us (myself included) get a case of the ‘spenders bug’. But before you know it, it’s gone, and you’re left with £0.83 to last until January.
It can seem a little daunting, but try not to stress too much about money, there are plenty of ways to budget so that you can still enjoy student life, as well spend a little extra on new clothes, travel or things that you like. Here are my top tips on how to be a budget-wise student:
1. Make a list of all your bills/ outgoings
One great way to keep tabs on your monthly/weekly spendings, is to set reminders on your phone’s calendar, so that when each bill is due you will get an alarm or notification on your phone. At least then you can decide if you really can afford that iPad. If you’d rather not use your phone then pick up a calendar or diary and jot it down, you can get these for a bargain at pound shops. Here are some examples of what you may need to pay for:
- Rent – If you are living in UCB halls, remember that rent is due at the end of each semester. Luckily, living in UCB accommodation includes utilities such as water, heating and electricity. This may be different if you live in private accommodation, so it’s worth checking out when your rent and utility payments will be due. Although I live at home, I still have to pay rent each week, too.
- Food shopping – A good idea is to stick to a certain budget each week and only take that amount out with you – forget taking bank cards! Newspapers, magazines and online sites tend to do coupons for certain items too so embrace it, it all adds up!
- Bills – Utility bills, car insurance, phone bills. If you have to pay council tax it might be worth checking with your local council about a discount. Students don’t actually get counted as adults in regards to this, and therefore have their council tax exempt or discounted.
- Personal spending – Every person is unique, and every single one of you will have items that are absolutely essential to your life. It might be a Netflix subscription, gym membership or quirky items for yourself. For me, it’s a Lonely Planet magazine – which I need every single month in order to function properly. Making a note for ‘I need LP magazine today’ isn’t a priority, but by looking out for your expenses you won’t have to worry about making sure you can afford these items.
2. Student discounts will be your best friend
Everyone loves a discount, although at first you might feel like a bit of a penny pincher. Be sure to ask at every shop you enter if they take student discount – within a few weeks it’ll be second nature. Hey, after all, you are a student on a budget.
- Get an NUS card! For just £12 you can get cheaper clothes, discounted day outs and lots of pizza! I would also recommend upgrading your NUS to include ISIC (International Student Identity Card). It’s £2.99 extra but you can use it in 130 countries around the world – great for students who love to travel! Be sure to sign up on Uni-days too, just use your UCB (or other university) email to get the deals.
- Store cards – and I don’t mean the credit card types. I mean the ones you save up points from what you spend. You don’t even have to spend a lot to get points; I recently discovered I have a whopping £5.30 to spend at Costa. It might not seem a lot but it can pay for a hot chocolate or two, when you have something more important to budget for. Stores like Superdrug also enable you to use your NUS card alongside gaining points, so it might be an idea to save up these points to put it towards Christmas or birthday presents!
3. Get a part-time job
Birmingham is a vibrant city, with plenty of opportunities for finding part-time work. It will add up money-wise, you develop skills and confidence and make a whole new group of friends. September – November is one of the best times to look for a job in the city, as a lot of employers usually start recruiting for Christmas during these months. Hired@UCB is a great place to start searching, as well as a wide database of jobs, the team can also help you with you CV and applications. Did I mention you can also work for UCB? Some of the roles you can apply for include student ambassador, mentor or blogger – all paid positions!
4. Commuters route
For students living outside of the city centre, chances are you will be travelling by car or public transport. A great and healthy way to save a little extra is to cycle to uni. The National Cycle Network has routes all over the UK, with easy-to-follow signs to get to your destination. I wouldn’t recommend this to students who live miles and miles away, however, if you live in a suburb of the city, it’s an alternative, cheaper commuter option. I usually bike to work, but I plan to cycle to uni this semester (just have to be careful riding alongside the canal with my laptop!)
If you get the train to uni, or plan to visit home a lot, make sure you snap up a 16-25 year old railcard (mature students are entitled, too). It gives you 1/3 off rail fares all over Britain! Even better, use your NUS card to save a little extra when purchasing one of these!
5. Travel on a budget
As university students, we are spoiled when it comes down to how much time we get off during the year. From backpacking through Europe and Camp-America in the summer, to long Christmas breaks in Australia or the Alps, us students can take full advantage of the holidays. Longer trips take a little more saving than others, yet small or big can be done without breaking the bank. It’s definitely refreshing to get away for a couple of days, especially when exam stress or assignments start to get on top of you. As a tourism student, I seize any opportunity to travel. Here’s a few ideas to help your wanderlust throughout the semester.
- Sign up for newsletters: Some airlines will have seats they need to fill on their flights. Usually they tend to send out email newsletters with details of any sales.
- Use Skyscanner: One of my favourite sites for finding cheap flights! Select the airport you want to fly from, hit search ‘Everywhere’ and choose ‘whole month’ to see a wider range of flight prices (unless you have specific dates in mind). £8 fare to Dublin, anyone?
- For accommodation, look at staying in a hostel: You’ll meet people from all over the world and have tons of fun. Many have free Wi-Fi, breakfast and most importantly, they’re super cheap! I’d recommend using HostelWorld – they have an app you can download too!
- Wowcher and Groupon for weekend travel: Most of the travel deals I’ve seen include flight, hotel and sometimes an excursion. The prices advertised are extremely cheap (it can change though, depending on the dates/airport selected). I’m yet to book something on either of these sites, but I hope to soon!
- Eating on a budget: Head to a supermarket to stock up on local food, then make a picnic to take when sightseeing (a lot of hostels have kitchens to store and cook food), or try a local cooking class!
- Sightseeing: Do research before you go. Lots of destinations have free excursions and walking tours. Use your ISIC or a YHA (Youth Hostel Association) card to get a saving on tours or attraction entry fees!
Hope you find this helpful. If you would like to give me more suggestions, tweet or email me!