Let’s face facts: heading off to university can be a major drain to your finances. New academic commitments typically mean you’ve got to spend a lot of time hitting the books, which makes it hard to save money as a student.
Translation: even if you’re able to score a student loan, grants or scholarships to pay for your degree, chances are you’re still not going to be rolling in cash. That’s why it’s incredibly important for you to think hard about your student finances and budget in order to stretch your income.
But if living on a budget is new to you, don’t stress. There are loads of simple (but effective) budgeting strategies you can deploy. To help you get started, here are a few ideas on how to save money as a student you might want to check out.
Use a budgeting app
If you want to shore up your finances as a student, you’ve got to understand all of your outgoing expenses and how those overheads stack up against your income.
By outgoing expenses, we’re talking about essentials like rent, energy, WIFI, food, travel, course materials like textbooks, tuition fees, and everything in between. You’ve also got to take an honest look at how much you’re spending on non-essentials like nights out, streaming services, takeaways and anything else you could live without.
You then need to look at those expenses and how they tally up against your sources of income. That income could be a student loan or bursary, an allowance from family, part-time work, or available savings.
There are loads of great free websites and apps that can help you generate a monthly budget which you can then use to track and monitor your spending – but if you want a budgeting tool focused on student life in particular, you should take a look at the UCAS Budget Calculator.
By using a budgeting app, you’ll be able to assess the state of your finances to ensure you’re actually living within your means.
If your income is greater than your spending, that’s amazing! But if not, you’re going to have to cut back on some expenses. But don’t worry, because we’ve got plenty of ideas on how you can do that.
Set up essential payments first
Remember how we talked about all of those essential expenses like rent, utilities and tuition fees?
Because they’re some of your most important outgoing expenses (the stuff you can’t life without), they should be among the first bills you pay every month. This ensures all the important stuff gets paid right away – and the best way to make sure it all happens is to set up direct debits.
This is easy to set up with each provider – including the University of Stirling Accommodation Team if you’re staying here on-campus.
If you need to make general fee payments or international tuition fee payments at Stirling, we’re able to offer loads of flexible ways to pay through our preferred payment partner Flywire.
If you’re an international student then this is a great tool to ensure all of your course fees (including deposits) are getting paid in your own local currency, which means you can start to budget these costs in before you even arrive in the UK.
Take advantage of student discounts
When it comes to how to save money as a student, discounts are your friend. Loads of local and national businesses are sympathetic to students financial commitments – which is why they offer a range of generous student discounts.
Plenty of retail shops, restaurants, cafes and other service providers offer decent discounts if you’re able to prove you’re a student. That normally means providing those stores with a student ID or by using your student email address for online purchases – but it’s important to bear in mind that not all businesses actively promote their discounts.
That’s why you should always ask before making a purchase just to make sure you’re not spending more than you need to.
Some businesses also offer student loyalty schemes.
For example, here on campus we offer a loyalty scheme for students which includes a virtual hot drinks card and the ability to earn loyalty points for all other purchases that you can use to pay for future meals. It won’t save you thousands of pounds, but it will score you a free meal every once-in-a-while – and that’s nothing to scoff at.
You’d be absolutely shocked how much cash you can save just by shopping smarter.
What exactly is “shopping smart”?
There are a few elements, here.
First, you should always use comparison sites for big purchases. You can compare train fares, airplane tickets, car loans, gas and electricity tariffs, mobile phone contracts, and just about everything else you could possibly imagine online.
It takes longer to get your shopping done this way, sure. But it also ensures you’re getting the best possible deal and saving money in the long run.
Next, ditch the brand names. Try out discount supermarkets like Lidl or Aldi for your food shopping, or give the own-brand labels of other big supermarkets a try. You can genuinely save tens of pounds every month just by going for off-brand cereal and crisps.
Pizza and takeaways are the easy option as a student – especially if you haven’t got much culinary experience apart from binge-watching Masterchef. But if you want to slash your spending, you’ll be shocked to find out how much you can save by making your own food.
Cooking yourself is also a way to eat healthier and impress your flatmates.
If you need a hand getting started, BBC Good Food has loads of free student recipes that don’t require a lot of time, money or skill to put together.
Choose the right bank account
When you arrive at uni, you’re going to be bombarded with offers from different student bank account providers – especially if you’re an international student. These UK banks tend to offer cool perks to hook you in, like a few months of free Netflix or Uber vouchers.
But it’s important that you read all the fine print before agreeing to set up a student bank account based solely on exciting incentives. You really need to look at overdraft limits, fees and deposit requirements. Some banks will actually charge you a penalty fee if you don’t have enough money going in each month, or will hit you with big charges if you go into your overdraft.
Think carefully, do your homework and ask questions before setting up a bank account. You’ll be thanking yourself a few months down the road – we promise.
Ask for money advice
None of us have all the answers. Fortunately, there are professionals out there who can lend you a helping hand – and so if you ever need help managing your money, just ask for it.
For example, our Student Support team is on hand to offer helpful advice and inform you about possible sources of additional funding that might be available to you. They can offer budgeting tips, connect you with useful resources or guide you on how to manage debt.
But more important still, our team can help you to apply to other sources of available financial aid you may not be aware of – including discretionary funds if you’re facing unexpected budgeting issues.
You can find out more about the University of Stirling’s money support services on our website.
OK: so, you’ve got to remember that this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how to save money as a student.
No two students are 100% alike, and so your student budget isn’t going to look exactly like all of your mates. There are other ways you can save money, and this list is by no means exhaustive.
But if you follow all these basic rules, you’re definitely going to save money as a student. Just remember to plan ahead, hunt for deals and never (ever) be afraid to ask for help.
Just because you’re heading off to university doesn’t mean you need to fulfil the stereotype of the broke student – and if you need any money management or ideas on how to save money as a student, we’re always here to support you.