Can I live on £50 a week?

Budget

With Freshers Week just around the corner, you’re probably thinking about money. That student loan looks like a hefty wedge when it first hits your account, but when you think about rent, food, books, transport and everything else you’ll be spending, you’ll realise it might not stretch as far as you think. But don’t panic! Thousands of people survive on a student budget every year, and we’ve put together some top tips to help you live a champagne lifestyle (OK… prosecco) on a lemonade budget.

1. Make a budget

Sounds boring, but if you want to avoid blowing your loan in Freshers Week, you’ll need to know roughly how much to allocate for everything. Make a quick spreadsheet to figure out how much you’ll have left after essentials to avoid splurging in the first week of term.

Top tip: Download a budgeting app to help you keep track of spending. It can be a real eye opener to see where all your money goes, and help you cut back.

2. Write a food plan

Being disciplined, planning your meals and only buying the ingredients according to the plan is a great way to keep costs down. TSR user Edminzodo believes that this prior planning is essential for saving money, advising new students to ‘do a shop at the end of the week for the next week’.

Top tip: Look at the shelves above and below eye level – these tend to be where the supermarkets put the cheaper own-brand food.

3. Hunt online for discounts

User annroseb says: “I always tend to Google 'such and such a shop vouchers' and try to find the best discount on a variety of websites.” This is a great habit to get into before you buy anything online – you may find discount codes, free delivery vouchers or even free samples.

Top tip: Don’t forget to register for your NUS Extra card for online and in-store discounts – you can make the cost of the card back very quickly.

4. Sell your old clothes

Those purple flares may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but if they still have the tags on six months later why not try making a bit of money back on eBay or Depop? Sticking with PayPal helps you protect yourself against scammers – and don’t forget to send items by recorded delivery in case anything goes wrong.

Top tip: If you want new clothes, why not organise a clothes swap with people in your halls for a whole new look for free?

5. Save without even thinking about it

Did you know that a lot of apps round anything you spend up to the nearest pound, so you can automatically save the extra few pence every time you spend? That way, at least when you spend £3.80 on that guilty pleasure large latte, at least you’ll add 20p to your savings – and it all adds up.

Top tip: If you don’t already have one, open a savings account at the same time as your student current account. Move a chunk of your loan into your savings as soon as it comes through so you can start building interest on it.

6. Get a job

Student union jobs are a great place to start – the hours are more lecture friendly, and you’ll be working on campus, so no long slogs across town. You might also snag some unexpected perks – user DiddyDec’s student union job meant getting to meet all the bands and DJs visiting the union bar, providing a great opportunity to do something a bit different.

Top tip: Get organised and apply early – student union jobs are in high demand, so start looking as soon as you arrive for the pick of the best jobs.

Let’s be honest – you won’t be living like royalty at uni… but that can be part of the fun. However, if you’re really stuck, and you can’t even stretch to £50 a week, don’t struggle on in silence. You can always try:

  • Dipping into any savings you might have – it’s usually a better idea than taking out expensive payday loans
  • Looking into extra bursaries or grants offered by your uni
  • Applying for hardship funds if you're in serious trouble
  • Contacting an educational charity for help and advice

Read more about Freshers Week on The Student Room

Seven clever tricks to save you money in Freshers Week

Huge fibs everyone believes about Freshers

Eight ways to make money at uni

Everything you need to know about being a fresher

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