Student Life on a Budget
Nights out, new friends, getting stuck into student life – during the first few weeks of university, your finances can be the last thing on your mind!
Keeping an eye on your bank balance and sticking to a budget can help you to avoid having to survive on Pot Noodles until your next student loan arrives.
We asked some of our students to share their budgeting hacks, so that you can stay on top of your finances during Freshers’ Fortnight.
1. Savvy shopping
Food shopping on an empty stomach can be great for the snack cupboard but not so good for the bank balance – a bit of forward-planning can keep the cost of the Big Shop low.
Suss out where your nearest budget supermarket is, shop later in the day (when food is likely to be reduced or on offer) and make a list so you know exactly what you need. Clubbing together with your housemates to get your food shop delivered can also save you from splashing out on those checkout impulse buys!
“I always make a shopping list BEFORE going to Tesco by using the website. That way I can look for any of the deals they have and know exactly what’s in my fridge/freezer for the next week or so. It means that I reduce my food waste every week and don’t spend too much money!”
– Rhiannon, History student
It’s a myth that all students live on baked beans and burnt toast. Fresh fruit and veg is readily available, whether at the supermarket or at the regular food markets that pop up around Cheltenham and Gloucester. That said, tinned food is cheap, nutritious and useful for bulking out curries, soups and stir-fries so don’t be afraid to stock up.
2. Get cooking
Eating out every day quickly adds up. Getting acquainted with your spice rack and a frying pan can be an excellent way to save money. If the thought of cooking from scratch every night makes you want to reach for the takeaway menu, why not try meal-sharing with your new flatmates?
If you’ve never boiled an egg or baked a potato before, now’s the time to learn! For more kitchen inspiration, have a gander at the BBC Good Food website (melt-in-the-middle mug cake anyone?) or this list of 23 cheap and easy meals that cost less than a pint. Winner!
“Learning to meal prep helped me save a chunk on money in second and third year. Schwartz flavour packets with recipes on the back and some rice on the side was how I lived. Investing in some basic spices too, just to season things a little bit, really helped me (I add paprika to just about everything nowadays).”
– El, Media Production student
3. Student banking
It might be tempting to keep your fingers crossed and hope for the best every time you use your debit card, but don’t be afraid to check your balance! Online banking is your friend – you can see how much is in your account at the touch of a button (or the swipe of an app).
If you haven’t already, pop into your local bank branch and they’ll be able to set you up with a student account. Don’t be too swayed by freebies; look out for interest-free overdrafts and check the repayment conditions (boring but important!). Read more about the best student bank accounts at Money Saving Expert.
“Even as a “grown up” mature student, balancing the books is a challenge so I have two bank accounts – one that pays the bills and then I work out how much I have a month for me. I transfer that into the other account and then know what I “really” have to spend. I also use online banks Starling and Monzo which do free overdrafts.”
– Michelle, Psychology Student
Our Money Advice team can also offer confidential guidance on student loans, bursaries, emergency short-term funding and more – you can book an appointment through the Future Plan portal (you can access this via the MyGlos app) or by emailing email@example.com. If you need a bit more motivation to save those pennies, visit the Money Advice webpages for extra resources and information.
4. Freebies and discounts are your friend
They say the best things in life are free and we’re not about to disagree with that! Cheltenham and Gloucester are easy to navigate on foot or by bike if you want to avoid paying for public transport or parking.
Don’t forget to apply for a TOTUM card, and download the Unidays and Student Beans apps, for student discounts, offers and giveaways.
“If you have a reusable water bottle and coffee cup you can get drinking water for free in lots of places, even in cafes if you ask, and you can get a discount on your coffee with a reusable cup. Buy or bring a bike; it’s fast and saves the money you’d spend on the bus.”
– Tereza, Advertising student
5. Put extra money in your pocket with a part time job
A part time job is a great way to boost your finances – lots of our students do this, and it can be a great way to learn new skills. Try to look for something flexible, that will fit around your studies – roles in bars or restaurants tend to be evening and weekend work, whereas retail is more likely to be in the day.
“Overall, I totally recommend getting a part time job, just a couple of evenings a week, and putting aside money every payday. I had two jobs, one through the Student Ambassador scheme, and another in part time hospitality. I’ve also gained so much valuable experience via working in multiple jobs, which made it a faster process getting hired post-uni.”
– El, Media Production student
Becoming a Student Ambassador or Mentor can help you to earn some extra money by helping out at Open Days, leading guided tours and representing the Uni at various events. Good news for your bank balance AND your CV!
If you’re a current student and are interested in joining the Student Ambassador scheme, you can find out more about what’s involved on the MyGlos app – applications will open on the 12th September!
6. Upcycle as much as you can
Saving cash with your stuff is easier than you might think. Check freecycle.org and Facebook Marketplace for free household items in your area, browse the charity shops for pre-loved bargains and second-hand books, or organise a clothes swap with your friends.
Do you really need that new shirt or jumpsuit? Don’t forget that every new item you buy might end up in landfill when you’re done with it – so saving cash could help you save the environment too. Choosing clothes which are ‘timeless’ and well-made will mean you have a wardrobe full of loved items, which you’ll wear for a long time!
If you have any broken bits and bobs around your flat that you’re not sure how to fix, you can take them along to the monthly Regeneration Repair Café in Cheltenham for a masterclass in make-do-and-mend.
7. If in doubt, reach out!
You’re good to go! A bit of savvy spending can mean the difference between ending your first term on a high (or at least not in your overdraft!).
Keep track of your bank balance, make the most of your student discount and get cooking – and if you’re struggling, don’t forget to reach out to the Money Advice team. Good luck!
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