Top Budget Tips for Students
- Find your nearest Pound Shop or Pound Stretcher, which stock all the basics such as toilet paper, cleaning products and toiletries for as little as – you guessed it – a pound. Remember to do your research, though, as you may find that other essential items such as biscuits, kitchen foil or chocolate are actually cheaper in the supermarket down the road.
- If you find you’re spending way too much money on hair care, why not investigate the local beauty colleges? The trainees there are in need of proper heads to practise on and you may just fit the bill. The downsides are the length of time it takes them (possibly up to two hours for a basic cut and blow dry) and the ever-present possibility of ending up with an uneven barnet. Having said that, they are supervised by senior staff and many of them are actually pretty professional. Alternatively, choose hairdressers which advertise for models – again at low prices for young staff to practise, or find those that offer student discounts.
- Points, points, points! We all know the big retailers use store cards to track our every move, but sometimes it just comes in handy when you’re stuck for cash in Boots and desperately need some toothpaste. Shop wisely, though, and if the best deal is elsewhere, then maybe it’s better to forego your points just that once. Also, remember that many stores do own-brand stuff on food, drink and toiletries – some of which is surely just as good as the name brands.
- Packed lunches. Yes, it may remind you of being five years old again, but packed lunches are extremely useful when you decide to leave your university bubble and go on a trip somewhere – or even on the train home again. No more being forced to buy extortionately priced food. One further tip: keep your drink bottle, tin foil or plastic bags for re-use. Saving money AND the planet.
- Earn a little extra. If you have the time and inclination, why not become a part-time tutor in the subject you’re studying? Advertise on community websites such as Gumtree, your university notice boards and in the small newsagents dotted around town. Naturally, it’s up to you how much you charge. Alternatively, try organising a ‘skills swap’ free of charge if you yourself are in need of some extra help with something. And if you’re a linguist, remember foreign students are often desperate to find a bona-fide English person to chat to.
- Text books. Unbelievably expensive. People’s first port of call is usually Amazon – tried and tested cheap book sales. Other options include the university book stores, which sometimes sell second-hand books that previous students have sold back to them for, well, much less money than they originally paid. You might also be lucky if you browse the notice boards – there are often adverts selling books. Or even going into town and checking the decent charity shops, such as Oxfam Books. If all else fails, the Library is your man. If, that is, you can put up with constantly renewing your book or fighting over it with classmates. And, of course, when the time comes, you can sell your books back again!
- Freebies. We love ‘em. From the Blockbusters discount vouchers at the Freshers’ Fair to people handing out promotional pens on the street. But did you know there are whole Internet sites dedicated to sending you free stuff? Check out www.netfreestuff.co.uk or just bash the word ‘freebies’ in Google for more information. You might never have to pay for shampoo again! Of course, the companies offering free samples are after something in return; namely your personal details, so if you don’t mind opening yourself up to a whole lot of spam, then go right ahead. But – and this is important – if you do decide to sign up on one of these sites, be careful not to get caught out on hidden charges such as postage & packing or delivery. Always, always read the small print.
- Bank stuff. Your parents have probably already told you this, but it’s a pretty good idea to put your student loan into an account with the highest interest rate possible. And look out for current accounts that offer you a free Young Person’s Railcard (which, by the way, you should look into if you haven’t already – they are well worth the money, particularly if you intend on visiting mates at other universities around the country).
- If you live away from campus, you might want to consider a car share. Not only do you save on cash, you do your bit for the environment as well. Of course, if you want to go all the way, you could even get a bike – it’s what most Europeans do, and it has the added benefit of being healthy as well.
- Another food tip. Try and take advantage of any voucher or BOGOF offer that you can – only if you actually need the item in question, of course. If you live in a shared house, try not to buy much convenience food if you can help it; why not see if you can get into the culinary arts by cooking from scratch and buying from local producers. It might be a bit of a hassle, but it will work out a bit cheaper and will surely be healthier too!
- Charity shops. No longer for old people. From great books to read on holiday – as long as you don’t mind reading last year’s bestsellers – to random household items and vintage clothes crying out to be customised, these are a bargain hunter’s dream. And best of all, they’re everywhere!
- Swaps. See Number 7. Again, there are plenty of Internet websites which promote swapping unwanted gifts. Playground swapsies for adults.