I remember my mum saying this to me if I ever picked up a penny. Of course I was much younger then and when I finally got older and knew what it meant (when you’re five it just sounds like a load of jumbled words) it seemed irrelevant – even for year 6 maths I could work out it was going to take a lot of pennies to even make just one pound. Worth it? I didn’t think so.
But now that I’m even older I get the bigger picture, and whilst I don’t expect people to take it at literal or face value – a lot of students don’t take this on board enough. Saving money and if you can making money, are two of the most important things students should be doing – or at the very least paying attention to.
But amongst everything else in student life – socialising, extracurricular activities, university work, shopping etc etc it can be very hard to lose control and completely ignore your financial situation. This is bad for two reasons:
1) Some of you (myself included) probably haven’t realised the reality that you cannot financially afford to forget about your finances. For different people the importance of this may vary – from not being able to go out that week, to not being able to pay rent.
2) For those of you who have unlimited access to the Bank of Mum and Dad this still isn’t ideal. Whilst you may feel you have constant access to money whenever you want and therefore you don’t have to worry about it – realistically when you graduate and start to live by yourself you will struggle massively. Use uni as the tansition period so that when you have to do serious financing (bills, mortgages, tax etc) you’ll be better prepared.
But fear not; I’m not going to tell you to do something without offering any advice about how to go about doing it! So I’ve compiled an easy list of six things you can do to save or make money – and take note, these are basic things you should be doing as a student, so if you’re not, you might need to make a few lifestyle changes!
1. Vouchers and discounts: So many students can’t be bothered with them or don’t see any real financial benefit. Wrong. The more you save the more you gain – from using Nectar card printed vouchers to using a 2 for 1 if you were going to go out for a meal anyway. Voucher websites like vouchercloud are great for restaurants and all round deals, and it doesn’t hurt to sign up directly to certain companies you like such as Pizza Express – they regularly email with discounts. Similarly sign up to unidays.com – they update you about shopping discounts (sometimes as good as 25% off) from major brands like Urban Outfitters, Topshop/man and ASOS.
2. Finance sheets: This may sound horrible and ridiculous but in the long term it’s friendly and realistic. Do whatever you find easiest; personally I use Microsoft Publisher and print off a basic empty calendar template for each month. Then every day I check my bank statement (or at least at the end of the week) and fill in my spending. That way at the start of the term if you’ve been organised and worked out incoming money (student loan, any work money or money from parents) and then outgoing costs (food, accommodation costs, bills etc) you should know how much you have to spend each week or day – and you can monitor it on a weekly basis. If you overspend one week, you should cut back the next to balance it out. Similarly, if you under spend – any money you save should go straight into a savings account; because there may come a time when you need some money and you haven’t planned for it!
3. No brands: It may be the uni I’m at which attracts these types of people, but I’m always astounded at how students waste money on food. And no I’m not talking about a kebab on a night out (in most cases you won’t be able to prevent yourself from buying one), I mean branded, espensive goods. Do you like crunchy nut? Great – buy the Sainsbury’s version. Constantly eating pasta – buy a giant bulk bag. Obviously in some cases the cheapeast item isn’t always the greatest – but Tesco Finest feta cheese and Waitrose bread? I don’t think so. There’s never really a massive difference in taste and quality (on necessities at least) – so opt for Sainsbury’s Basics and Tesco Everyday Value over any commercial branded goods.
4. Part time work: This doesn’t have to mean a regular paid part time job, such as a Saturday job – although if you’re organised with your uni work you should definitely be able to fit this in. If you don’t want to commit there’s loads of extra jobs you can carry out – mystery shopping is a perfect student job, and I’ve written a full article about it here for more details. Exta sources of income may come from online surveys (sometimes paid in the form of vouchers) or local jobs such as walking a local person’s dogs – jobs such as these which are usually flexible and not many hours can be found on gumtree.com.
5. Be efficient and organised: I am in catered halls which can sometimes be difficult because we don’t get lunch and our kitchens are fairly rubbish (half a fridge for 14 people and only one hob operating…). However, even with this setback it doesn’t mean students should fork out even more money. So many people in my hall resort to buying lunch every day from cafes or supermarkets spending between £3-£5 a day: times that by 7 days, and you’ve spent around £25 probably. Given that self-catered students spend on average £30 a week on their whole food bill, that price isn’t great. Instead, and this applied to catered and self-catered because it saves time and money all round, plan your meals. At the start of the week work out what you’re going to cook so that you can overlap ingredients without having food leftover which eventually goes off – if you’re making chicken tikka masala one night, maybe have chicken pasta the next night so you can use up all your chicken. Similarly make BIG portions; leftovers for lunch, that way you might cook yourself a meal for around £1.50 – saving yourself 50%.
6. Cut down bills: It’s hard to pay attention to electricity and heating, especially if you’ve come from halls where your bills are paid and it’s not an issue. But overall little changes can be made to save a big amount – if it’s a bit chilly, put a jumper on first to see if you warm up. Or even try moving around more; you’ll be active and you’ll warm up – let the heating be the final resort. As you leave your room in the morning, make it part of your routine to check all switches, lights and electrical appliances are off. Even things like leaving the TV on standby – most of the time its laziness, but if it’s going to cost you – you need to avoid it!
These are just a few tips off the top of my head, but if you have any other useful tips you’ve learnt as a student please share them & I will feature them in my next post!