Five ways to make your student budget stretch further

From managing your finances to finding the best freebies and deals – here’s what advice TSR users have for students looking to balance their budget.

Worried your student loan won’t make it to the end of term? You’re not alone. In fact, according to Future Finance research, more students than ever before are struggling to make ends meet – and the stress is real.

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to make your student money go further. Here are some of the top tips for setting your budget – and sticking to it – from the students on our forums.

Use cash

One of the easiest ways to get a grip on your student budget is to set a certain amount of spending money aside each week – and stick to it.

Ditching the debit card and opting for an allocated amount of cash each week helps a lot of students resist the temptation to spend.
As TSR member DrawTheLine puts it: “Take cash out every week as your allowed spending money, and don't take your card anywhere. Some people find it easier to manage money if they can actually see how much they have for the week.”

Not keen on carrying cash? Try a prepaid card, says Jack22031994: “I’d suggest you have a set amount you want to spend… and either take it out in cash or put it on a prepaid card that can’t go overdrawn so you can only spend that amount. Then if you have anything remaining - save it.”

Shop smart

Who knew shopping for food could be so expensive? If you’re going to avoid pricey mistakes, you’re going to need some savvy tactics.
Meal planning in advance, shopping late at night (to bag the best bargains) and bulk buying essentials with your housemates will all help you save your pennies.

“Take advantage of offers on expensive stuff that doesn’t go out of date - like laundry detergent and toilet paper,” says Puddles the Monkey. “Buy it before you need it!”

Savvy shopper DrawTheLine’s tip is to “always buy own-brand things - they're just as good and half the price” while ARUOfficial’s rule is to “never go shopping hungry... or you could end up with a trolley full of expensive snacks”.

Some supermarkets (like Morrisons and Co-op) offer a student discount, while Aldi and Lidl are popular choices for students on a shoestring “because they are so cheap,” says CoolCavy.

Avoid the campus shop

One thing most students seem to agree on is that the campus shop should be avoided at all (inflated) costs. This advice applies to the small convenience stores nearby, too.

Aliman65 says “The biggest money loss I saw during university was people buying from the university shop, which charged almost twice as much for almost every single item than what most typical supermarkets charged.”

While, k3ro warns “If you go to the closer stores [such as] the shop on campus, or the Spar on the corner, you'll get mugged off”.

To put it bluntly, battycatlady insists students should avoid “EVERYTHING EVER IN THE CAMPUS COSTCUTTER!”

Enough said.

Don’t overspend on books

Uni textbooks are renowned for costing a pretty penny – and If you’ve been given a huge reading list for your course then the cost could soon mount up.

“I have about £130 worth of core textbooks on my bookshelf… then have about £150-£200 of books borrowed from the library. That's scary come to think of it.” says .snowflake.

But is it worth forking out for expensive books?

“I bought loads of textbooks in my first year that I never used,” says Kevin De Bruyne.

“I can honestly say I looked at one book once and then just left them all on the side in the first year. I just found it much easier to revise online,” adds Firefly13.

SophieSmall says students should “never buy a textbook unless you absolutely need to...unless you have the money to waste. Lecturers will stress that you need to buy them, [but] often you don't.”

“The core textbooks are almost always in abundance in the library,” adds studier. “Any textbooks you genuinely need you'll find out later on down the line if you're actually reaching for it a lot.”

Can’t wait to find out just how much you will (or won’t) need a book for your course? Firefly13 suggests new students should “ask the second years what books they thought were worth buying (if any) and then just get anything you need from the library. If you find you keep getting one book out, then maybe think about buying it.”

And when it comes to buying the textbooks you really need, Knalchemist says “Second-hand books can be half the price…you can get them on eBay, as well as from students in the second year, etc.”

Cook with friends

While takeaways and eating out are easy options, the cost of them can really mount up. As ARUOfficial puts it: “£10 for one dinner out could be used to buy five dinners if you go to Aldi!”

If your housemates or friends are game, then cooking meals together will save you money (as you’ll be buying ingredients in bulk) and but can also double up as a social experience too.

“For the two years I was in a house, the three of us all shopped… cooked and ate together, and it worked out pretty cheaply while still being able to have lots of variety,” says Aleeece123.

Laurah5498 adds that her housemates would “eat together as much as possible. We agreed on what the joint meal would be and split the bill for it. “

DrawTheLine’s advice for cooking with your friends or housemates? “Always meal plan and cook in bulk. It's a lot cheaper!”

Make the most of student deals

There are tons of discounts available to students – and it’s well worth taking advantage of these while you can.

Both UNiDAYS and TOTUM (the new name for NUS Extra) give you access to student discounts on food, fashion, tech, travel and everything in between.

But while UNiDAYS is free (all you have to do is register and verify your student status), TOTUM will cost you £14.99 a year.
But is the fee worth it?

“I barely ever use my TOTUM card tbh… [and] for online shopping, I don't use TOTUM at all - the UNiDAYS discount is much more common on the websites I use,” says PhoenixFortune. “The only place [that] insists on seeing my TOTUM card as opposed to my university student card is Superdrug.”

Jessie24 says TOTUM has its benefits. “I do use the TOTUM card for shopping which isn't online. It can be easier just to show a card than to rely on 4G to show your UNiDAYS ID. It is also great if you have a Co-op nearby. But I do use UNiDAYS more, it’s much better for online shopping and is free.”

It’s not always easy living on a student budget, but these tips should help you spend less time stressing and more time stretching your finances further. Got any more money saving hacks to add? Don’t forget to share them over on our forum.

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