Freshers: Here's how to spend less during your first year of uni

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First year can be expensive, but not if you do it this way!

After you move to university, it can seem like there are endless expenses draining your bank account. But don't worry – here are 10 money-saving tips from students to help you keep costs down.

1. Make a budget

It's well worth making a budget to stay on top of your finances.

"The main thing to remember is to plan ahead. Think about what you need to be spending and what might be happening later in the term  is anyone's birthday coming up? Christmas? Do you have some left over for an emergency?" says TSR member furryface12.

"Your loan may seem like a lot but when you start thinking about what you need to buy it's really not! However tempting it may be to spend it all at once, it's rarely going to be a good idea."

2. Stick to your budget

Don’t buy a coffee from Costa every day just because it’s convenient. Stay strong, you've got this!

"If I'm not planning on buying anything when I go out I will leave my purse and cards at home so even if I see something I want I can't buy it," shares DrawTheLine.

"Next month I am also going to start a spreadsheet and track all my purchases and then review it every month to see where I can cut down."

3. ALWAYS ask for a discount

You’ll be eligible for a lot of student discounts with your TOTUM card. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which shops offer discount, but it can't hurt to ask – a lot of places will offer a discount if you simply provide your student ID. 

"Always ask, just to be sure," comments TheGalwayGirl. "I bought some boots in the sale and asked for student discount, the shop thought about it and gave me 10% off sale price."

If you’re shopping online, then use to receive student discounts.

4. Don't buy a TV licence if you don't need one

You can watch on-demand or catch-up programmes without having to pay for a TV licence. However, you do have to pay if you plan on watching live TV or using iPlayer.

"The likelihood is that you will be busy when programmes you want to watch are on and will end up watching them on demand anyway," comments jelly1000.

Remember that TV licences are per household, so if you're in a shared house and one person is watching live TV then you will need a license for the entire house. 

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5. Buy used books

Think about how often you're going to need any books before you get them. There's no point in buying an entire book if you only need to read one chapter  universities usually upload PDF copies of relevant chapters online.

"Don't buy everything on the reading list straight away – check with your course leader which ones are necessary and which are less so," recommends Millie_J. 

If you absolutely need to buy a book then it's probably best to just buy a used copy online. This could save you hundreds of pounds over the duration of your course.

6. Sell your old books

Once you’ve finished reading your books (if you bought any), you could then free up some extra cash by selling them. 

Watch out for those postage fees though – you may find it more cost effective to try selling them locally. 

"You'll find that any online selling involves fees or postage and this often makes it pointless," comments returnmigrant. 

"Your best option is to advertise them locally or give them to an Oxfam bookshop in any uni town."

7. Never pay for condoms

You can pick them up for free from NHS sexual health clinics and some students’ unions. Find your nearest sexual health clinic here.

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8. Be smart about food

It's useful to know the difference between use by, sell by and best before dates. You should also plan your meals in advance to stretch your budget as far as possible.

"If you live with people, shop and cook together when you can. It's often cheaper and easier to get a large pack of something than to get lots of individual size packs," says FlyingTeapot.

"Also check out local markets in the afternoons. Prices often drop at the end of the day as they try to clear their stock. I once got a weeks worth of veg for £4 – and I get through a lot of veg!"

9. Use free web-based tools

Instead of downloading expensive software, use free web-based tools where you can collaborate with others, save your work automatically and login on different devices.

Use Google Docs, Sheets and Slides for academic work and Canva or Figma if you need to design something.

10. Shop off-brand

You can save so much money by just shopping at discount supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl – but keep an eye out for 'value' or 'basics' ranges at other supermarkets.

And if you're worried you'll accidentally overspend when you're at the supermarket, you could check prices online first. 

"You can do a practice shop online and come up with a basic food budget and see what you can get for what money," says doodle_333.

Do you have any other money-saving tips? Let us know in the comments below.

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