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How to do University on a Budget

A lack of money is something that most students struggle with at university. But have you ever considered camping out in a tent to save money on accommodation?

This is what one student at Manchester University did for a whole year to save money on living costs. Although he may well have saved a packet by living in someone’s back garden, there are other (less uncomfortable) ways you can get through university on a budget.

Get your finances in order

First things first, you need to know how much money you have to see you through each term. We recommend creating a simple income and expenditure spreadsheet so you can work out your weekly living budget. Once you know how much you have to live on each week after expenses, you’ll be in a better position to make financial decisions.

You may find that you need to make a few lifestyle adjustments in order to meet your budget every week, but foregoing a few nights out every now and then will certainly help your finances in the long-term. Take a look at our guide to student finance to get your house in order.

To help you make the most of your budgeting plan, take a look at these five student budgeting apps that will make your efforts a whole lot more successful.

Take advantage of student discounts

Ah, one of the perks of being a student…discounts!

You’ll be amazed at what items you can get discounted just for having a valid student ID card. Whenever you buy something in a shop, restaurant or pub, it’s always worth asking if they do student discounts. Just because a shop doesn’t advertise discounts for students, it doesn’t mean they don’t offer them.

Other than having your student ID card at the ready, we also recommend applying for a National Union of Student’s NUS Discount Card. They only cost £12 for the year and you can make savings on over 170 top brands. Shops like the Apple store offer 15% off products to NUS card holders, Domino’s Pizza offers 25% discounts and Virgin Media offer 9 months of unlimited broadband at special rates for students with NUS cards.

You should also look out for midweek student discounts at restaurants and pubs.

Don’t buy, borrow

One of the biggest expenses for students (and English students in particular) is buying books for courses. But unless you have a particularly nice bookshelf to display them on, what do you do with them afterwards?

If you’re the type of student who only reads a book once, then you could consider borrowing the books you need for your course from a previous student, friend or the university library. According to the government’s Student Income and Expenditure Survey, the average student in the UK spends £1070 on books and other materials every year, so borrowing yours could save you a significant amount of money over a 4 year course.

Alternatively, if you prefer to buy your books, you could consider selling them afterwards. Some local university bookshops will buy back your books at a reduced rate, which can save you time trying to sell them individually on Gumtree.

Buy shopping in bulk

Are you a weekly shopper or a daily shopper?

If you’re the latter, then you’re probably not stretching your pounds as far as they can go. Planning you meals for the week encourages you to buy all your shopping in one go and if you make your meals from scratch rather than buying packaged food, you’ll soon find yourself with more spare cash.

And you know those coupons that you throw away alongside your receipts?

Keep them.

Supermarket coupons are a great way to get money off on your weekly shop, as are loyalty cards that collect points.

Consider taking on a part-time job

If you find that despite your best budgeting efforts, you still can’t make ends meet, then you could consider looking for a part-time job. A few hours at the weekend could be all you need in order to raise the extra cash needed to make your university life more financially comfortable.

However, you should be cautious of taking on too many hours. You are after all, at university to study and spending all your time working will eventually start to take its toll on your grades.

For more information on finding a job as a student, have a read of our post How to Find a Summer Job as a Student.

What experiences do you have of living on a budget at university? What budgeting advice do you have for other students?

For more advice about university life, search our student careers blog.

Image credit: Craig Sunter - https://www.flickr.com/photos/16210667@N02/18841330016/