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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Money saving tips for students

Student budgeting limits out-of-control spending
Mobile phone budget apps. help control spending
Ah, university: the first step towards total freedom! It’s that transitional space between the comforts of home and the realities of the larger world. The faint tinge of homesickness you feel is overwhelmed, most of the time, by the delicious awareness that you are no longer bound by Mum’s and Dad’s rules, and the newness is at turns exhilarating and scary. 

Very possibly, your personal finances will fall into the “scary” category at times. Even if you have a student loan and your folks are paying for your basic expenses, it’s possible that they aren’t covering all of your expenses. If you find yourself in this position, then you may find a payday loan could benefit you and give you the extra funds you require to get you through your course. You’ll quickly learn that some things you once took for granted are a little more difficult to come by, and for many students that’s a real shocker. Here are half a dozen tips to help make things a little easier.

Make a budget and stick to it

The sooner you make a commitment to budget, and follow through with it, the better off you will be. It’s best to budget during the first few weeks of term. Unfortunately, many students get complacent or downright giddy early on. All they can see is that they are in the black: they have money in their accounts, and they are dying to spend it. And there are so many temptations – parties, concerts, sporting events, the newest electronic gadgets – and no parents around to say, “No!” It can be the most difficult thing in the world to budget when you just want to have fun. But you’ll thank yourself later – and you’ll be making things a lot easier on your folks as well – if you hold off on the extravagant spending, at least until the end of term.

The good news is that if you make up your mind to budget – and we hope you will – there are numerous student budget apps to help you. There is also lots of budgeting advice available online. All you have to do is reach out.

Take full advantage of student discounts

One good thing about being a student – besides the fact that it usually means you’re young and presumably pretty healthy and have your whole life ahead of you – is that you are now eligible for an astounding array of discounts. One good place to start: The National Union of Students (NUS) Extra Card is a gateway to more than 150 offers and discounts, and costs only £12 for the year. Having the card will make you eligible for discounts from a wide variety of retailers and entertainment venues. However, do check the offers before you register for a card. If you aren’t likely to use it you’re better off saving those £12. 

And this brings us to an important point. You don’t want to fall into the trap of increasing your spending just in order to enjoy a discount – same as you shouldn’t use coupons to buy things you wouldn’t normally use or don’t particularly enjoy, just because you’re getting a “bargain.” But do take some time to explore the student discounts available to you, as more than likely you will be able to take advantage of many savings when you go shopping.

Prepare your own food as much as possible

Those fast-food lunches and trips to the coffee shop can seriously eat into your funds over time. It’s pretty insidious because you’re only spending a little bit at a time, but when you add it up you can be in for a shock. Don’t misunderstand us: there’s nothing wrong with the occasional indulgence. And sometimes you really don’t have time to prepare a meal, and you have to choose between grabbing a quick burger or kebab, or going hungry. Even so, you and your budget will be a lot healthier if you plan your meals in advance and do as much food prep at home as you can.

Give up your addiction to brand names 

Don’t be lured by clever advertising and bright packaging. Sometimes the brand name really is preferable (you may have to do some experimenting), but for many products, including packaged foods, household goods, and over-the-counter medications, the store or generic brand is just as good as the branded stuff. Generic aspirin works just as well as the brand names, and who knows, you might even like the supermarket brand of yoghurts or salad dressings better than their branded equivalents. It’s worth a shot.

Watch your travel expenses 

If you don’t have a car, you don’t have to stick around campus when you could be travelling home for the weekend or visiting friends elsewhere. Consider getting a 16-25 railcard, which will get you up to one-third off on rail fares. Or consider a ride-sharing service such as BlaBlaCar.

And if you do have your own car, consider offering seats to paying passengers, who will help offset the petrol costs. And who knows, you might make some new and treasured friendships along the way.

Go online for more money-saving (and money-earning) tricks and tips

This just might be the most important tip of all. The Internet can be a wonderful source of help and support for the student on a budget. Visit sites such as studentmoneysaver.co.uk or studentbeans.com for all sorts of discounts and offers – and budgeting tips.

Yes, there’s that “B” word again, leading us right back to where we started. Learn to budget now, when you’re young and surrounded by temptation, and you’ll be setting yourself on the road to a lifetime of responsible money handling.

Image license: Tax Credits, CC BY 2.0