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16 money-saving hacks every student should know

With freshers’ week fast approaching, millions of new students will be moving away from home for the first time and having the daunting task of managing their own money. This can be incredibly hard, now more than ever due to the cost of living crisis.

Jonathan Merry, financial expert and CEO at MoneyTransfers.com has put together some savvy money-saving hacks so you can make your finances go further when it comes to living essentials, travelling to campus and socialising.

  1. Take advantage of student discounts 

As a student you are privileged enough to get some great discounts on everything from food, clothing, memberships and tech. You just need to show your university student card at the till to get these discounts. Don’t be afraid to ask a shop if they do student discount, not all stores advertise their student discount but will often give 10% for students when asked.

You can also sign-up to UNiDAYSs and Student Beans for online discounts, entitling you to thousands of discounts online. You’ll just need your uni email address to verify your account.

  1. Food shop in the evenings 

There is nothing better than getting a ‘yellow sticker’ bargain in the supermarket, therefore you should try and time your supermarket trips to maximise the chances of getting your groceries at a reduced price.  Most supermarkets will start heavily discounting prices on items in the early afternoon around 6pm-7pm to get rid of products they can’t sell fresh the next day.

  1. Freeze food going out of date 

We’ve all been there, planned our meals out for the week but then that spontaneous meal out throws off our food plan completely and we get left with ingredients going out of date. You can actually freeze things like meat, bread, milk and ready meals. All you need to do is check the back of your food packet to see whether it is suitable for freezing. This way, you are reducing your waste but also, have a cheaper and healthier alternative to takeaways and shop-bought snacks.

  1. Plan your meals 

Not only will preparing your meals in advance save you money, it is also a great way of making sure you eat well at uni. You might not have time or energy with all your studying to cook every night, therefore having meals already prepped will reduce the urge to order a takeaway. It is very easy to opt for a £3 meal deal when you are out, but these quickly add up and could  end up costing you £60 a month.

  1. Purchase own-label Brands

It can be tempting to purchase from brands we know and love, however lots of supermarket own-brand goods are exactly the same as the branded just  without the hefty price tag. This goes for everything including condiments, cereals and even medicine.  Choosing own-brand labels is fundamental when you’re looking to save money.

  1. Avoid shopping when you’re hungry 

For a lot of new students, this might be the first time you have’ve  had the freedom to do your own food shopping freely. Although this can be very exciting, it can be easy to overspend, especially if shopping hungry (or hungover!). If you’re feeling peckish, you’re more likely to buy food you are craving rather than the food you actually need.

Planning your meals will mean you have all the food you need, already in, for when you are hungry. Writing out a shopping list and knowing exactly what you need to buy will help you stick to your budget.

  1. Bulk buy cupboard essentials 

It goes without saying that cupboard essentials such as pasta and rice are a student staple. To save money, you’ll want to stock up on these essentials including noodles, tinned sauces and cereals. These cupboard essentials are long-lasting whilst also being super easy to cook. You can also stock up on toiletries such as toilet roll, shampoo, conditioner and toothpaste, look for deals such as buy one get one free or 3 for 2 to save you money in the long-run.

  1. Make use of travel cards

Travelling is inevitable as a student, whether that be daily trips to your university campus, back from a night-out or home for the weekend. There are several ways you can save money as a student and you should definitely take advantage of these. For trains, make sure you have a 16-25 Railcard which will save you a third off rail travel.

If you are not able to walk to your campus, most Universities will offer shuttle bus services to and from the university city or town for free, however times and journeys may be restricted. If you know you will travel via bus often, you should look at purchasing a bus pass. Bus passes will usually work out cheaper than buying a ticket on each day.

  1. Utilise your university library 

You will be advised on several books that you need for your course, these books can be pretty pricey and depending on your course, you may have to purchase several books per term for each of your modules. Your university library will have numerous copies of popular books needed for each course, so try and utilise these resources before looking to purchase. Often you can also get hold of books free online through Google Scholar or Google Books.

As a last resort if you do need to purchase books then try and purchase second-hand. Amazon has an option to select ‘Used’ when buying products which will drastically reduce the price. Most universities will have a second-hand book shop where you can purchase hand-me-downs from old students.

  1. Go to the cinema during off-peak time

Although a weekend or evening may seem like the best time to go to the cinema or theatre, this is peak time and will mean more expensive tickets. As a student, you will have a lot more free time, so around studying and lectures, try going to the cinema at off-peak times. This way you can save up to 20% on tickets whilst also avoiding the queues. Each cinema will be different but as an example, the Odeon states ‘every Monday through to Thursday, Supersaver tickets will be available for any showing before 5 p.m. at most theatres.’

  1. Look for student deals at gyms

 The average gym membership in the UK costs around £40 a month, so it is worth shopping around for the best price. Your university is likely to offer a student gym at the fraction of the price that a known fitness chain would offer, without the lengthy contract. A lot of well-known gyms will do student memberships including Pure Gym which you will find in most university cities. PureGym provide up to 30% off fixed-term memberships for 6,9 or 12 months or 10% off monthly memberships for your first six months.

  1. Sign-up for loyalty schemes 

With more and more shops fighting for your custom, loyalty cards and reward schemes are popping up left, right and centre to entice us. Whether it be your local coffee shop or your local supermarket, most stores will have some sort of loyalty scheme. Some of the most popular are Tesco Clubcard, Boots advantage card and Nectar card (Sainsbury). These schemes are usually free to sign-up to, allowing you to get discounts in store or build up and redeem points in store.

  1. Be careful with your energy consumption

With the full impact of the cost of living crisis yet to kick in, students will no doubt feel the strain. There are many ways you can help reduce the amount you are spending on your energy bills. Always remember to turn everything off when you leave your accommodation for the day including lights and plug sockets.  This is even more important at the end of term, when all housemates leave to go home for a few weeks. If no one is around, then you can turn your boiler off, if no one is around then there is no point heating hot water or leaving the heating on as normal. Remember during the Christmas break however, you need to set your heating at a very low temperature to ensure your pipes don’t freeze and burst.

When it comes to washing clothes, there are two things to remember. Firstly, make sure you are only washing full loads to ensure you are not wasting both water and energy and secondly set temperatures at a lower temperature around 30 degrees. Washing at higher temperatures is no longer necessary due to the washing powder technology now being designed to work effectively at lower temperatures.

When it comes to colder months, before switching on your heating, try putting on a jumper or snuggling up in a blanket. Switching your heating on should always be a last resort to warm up.

  1. Shop around for the best student bank account

Before you go to uni, it is a good idea to get a student bank account, they offer additional benefits such as interest-free overdrafts. Setting up a student bank account is a fairly quick process, but you will need a UCAS confirmation letter with your university offer to be accepted.

When choosing a student bank account, you should try and get the biggest and longest 0% interest overdraft. This means the bank will let you spend more than you have, up to a set amount, for no extra cost. Debt is never a good thing, but having an interest-free overdraft provides you with a buffer in case of emergencies.

Some banks will offer students perks or freebies to entice students to sign-up. Although you shouldn’t be tempted purely by the incentive, if you know you are going to be travelling a lot for example, then picking an account which offers a free rail card would be a great way to save money.

  1. Make the most of pre-drinks 

Anyone who has been to uni will know that pre-drinks are usually the best part of the evening. Having a few drinks with your mates before a big night out will save you a lot when it comes to buying drinks out. Even student-friendly bars and pubs can be rather expensive, especially if you are going out on more than one occasion a week. Pre-drinks can also be a great way to socialise with other students in your university accommodation or your course.

  1. Use budget supermarkets 

Knowing which supermarkets are cheapest in your local area is an easy way to save you money on your weekly shop. If you have one in your city or town, you should try shopping in Aldi or Lidl who offer brilliant discounts and can be up to 30% cheaper than other supermarkets. You could also consider shops like Poudland and Home Bargains who sell household names and cupboard essentials for a fraction of the price.

If you aren’t lucky enough to live near an Aldi or Lidl, always shop at bigger supermarkets. Whilst local, smaller stores are always more convenient they end up being more expensive.