Spend money more wisely at university

September 24, 2019 Icon 7 mins read
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The time has come, your bedroom is all packed up, you’ve got your ticket to all the events at Fresher’s Week, and you’ve already met your new housemates on social media. This is the start of the rest of your life.

The only problem? Money.

You’ve never worked with a budget before or had to pay your own rent – and not to mention bills. It all seems like it’s going to be too expensive. Don’t fret, we’ve got you covered!

Here are some great ways to help you spend money more wisely at university.



Book train tickets 12 weeks in advance

If you’ve gone to University a little further away than the average student, your train fare home for Christmas might work out to be quite pricey. For example, a single from Cardiff to London is £47.30 full price. However, if you’re prepared you can get advance tickets which will be considerably cheaper. These tickets are released 12 weeks early, so you’ll have to put a date in your calendar – thetrainline.com will give you a free alert. The same journey costs £19 with an advance ticket. That’s a saving of £28.30.  My best price was a journey from Swansea to Brighton for just £3. I still don’t know how I managed it but I was quite chuffed that I’d travelled home for Christmas for less than the cost of a pumpkin spiced latte.

In the first case, you might be buying your train ticket before you’ve even arrived at university, depending on when you break up for Christmas. You can check your University’s website to see when you break up for Christmas. Student Unions tend to keep events within the term dates, so you’re unlikely to miss out on anything. 

Consider the coach

Another option for travelling home could be a coach. You can get prices as cheap as £1 with Megabus (90p with a student card). They take longer, but you’re guaranteed a seat, they often have WiFi and plug sockets, and the seats are much more comfortable.

Get a railcard

You can now get a railcard if you’re aged between 16 and 30. These take 1/3 off for off-peak rail fares, including on London Underground. This can sometimes pay for itself in just one journey, so it is well worth the money.

You can get loads of 2 for 1 deals on attractions with one of these as well – their website can give you all the information you need: www.railcard.co.uk

Work out a budget

Before you blow your entire maintenance loan on freshers’ week, work out a budget. This is really simple.

Work out your income:

Your loan is split into three payments, but not equally. Deal with each term individually, as you’ll need to budget differently for each one. Take a few minutes to think about how many weeks each payment is covering and divide the instalments by this. If you have any grants, do this with them as well.

If you will work part-time, factor this in as well. Work out approximately how much you’ll be earning each month. Divide the monthly amount by 4 to get the weekly amount and add it to your loans and grants.

You now have your base weekly amount.

Work out your expenditures:

Now, you need to work out how much you’ll be spending. Think about:

  • Rent
  • Household bills (gas, electricity, water, broadband)
  • Mobile phone
  • TV License
  • Insurance
  • Course supplies/ textbooks
  • Groceries
  • Entertainment (going out, cinema etc)
  • Gym/Swim memberships
  • Prescription costs (if you get regular medication)

If any of these are monthly payments, divide them by 4 to get your weekly average. If they’re annual, divide by 52. Textbooks and course supplies may be per term, so divide by the number of weeks in the term. For things like groceries and entertainment, give yourself a weekly budget.

Now, total up your expenditures (weekly) and take it away from your weekly income. Hopefully, this number is a positive one. If so, you’re doing great just stick to your budget and you’ll always have a positive balance.

If the number you have is a negative one then you need to revisit your budget and reduce some of your spending.

Get a TOTUM Card

This was previously the NUS card, but they’ve got a brand-new look and name. This card is only £12 for one year and can save you a lot of money! Here are my favourites:

  • 25% off at Domino’s
  • 10% off at Boots
  • Up to 43% off at London Attractions
  • Up to 64% off at Alton Towers and Thorpe Park
  • 25% off at ODEON
  • 20% off at Warehouse
  • 25% off at Boohoo
  • Up to 20% off insurance at Endsleigh
  • 6 months of Amazon Prime
  • 10% off in the Co-op

You can buy these up until the final day of university. So you can reap these rewards up to 3 years after you graduate!

Check out the website: www.totum.com. You can also buy these direct from your student union when you’ve arrived.

Hold off before buying textbooks

This is one case where holding off on buying something can save you money. If you need a textbook that the previous year has needed, they’ll be likely to run a book swap or sale once the term has started. You’ll be able to arrange to buy used books from those in the year above, and then next year can continue to pass them down. Don’t get into a habit of buying any books brand new, always look on Amazon Marketplace to see if they have any used ones. World of Books is also great for this.

If you’re lucky, you’ll probably find them un charity shops too. Check the ones in your university’s city as previous students will probably drop them off before they move away. I studied Literature so I needed ten to fifteen books every term. I found all my term books in an Oxfam bookshop once, saving me hundreds of pounds.

Shop around for banks

All of the banks are currently competing to get you to sign up for a Student Bank Account with them, which means that they’re offering some amazing rewards just for opening an account with them. When I signed up for HSBC back in 2014, they were offering a £60 Amazon voucher. This gave me some money to spend on making my new room feel more homely, as well as contributing to my books for the first term. Most banks will offer a free overdraft with their student bank accounts, which will be charged a year after you graduate.

  • Santander will give you a free 16-25 railcard, which will save you £70 over the three or four years you’ll be studying.  You can also get up to 15% cashback with your spending.       
  • HSBC is offering £100 in cash if you open an account with them. You can also get a wide range of student rewards and offers, accessible via online banking.
  • NatWest is offering the choice between a tastecard, Amazon Prime, or a National Express Coachcard.

All three of these are great deals and will save you money compared to a regular current account with a chargeable overdraft.

See what you are offered

When you go to Freshers’ Fayre there will be plenty of companies offering you great deals, from insurance to gyms. Make sure you find out what each of them is offering. I managed to get 15% off my contents insurance with Endsleigh, and won enough Nando’s for a year! Plus, look out for us! We’ll be going to the following Universities!

  • Plymouth University – Tuesday 17th September
  • Newman University, Birmingham– Wednesday 18th September
  • London City University – Thursday 19th September
  • Kings College University – Friday 20th September

You’ll be in for a chance to win a Nintendo Switch or a pair of Beats Headphones if you come say hello!

So there you have it! You’re officially ready to go! You’ll be settled into your new place and arguing with your housemates about the washing up in no time! Make sure you actually get some studying done. But mostly, enjoy it. Your university years are amazing.

About the author
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Zoe Stabler

Zoe is a cat owner, ice skater and Christmas enthusiast living in London.

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