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

save money during fresher's

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

Moving away from home can be a big and very expensive life change. But don't worry, it doesn't have to be. Here are 10 money-saving tips from students to help you keep costs down.

1. Make a budget

Making a budget may sound boring, but it's well worth it. 

"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," they add. 

If you want a little more assistance, then you can read our article about the best apps for managing your money.

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," they add. 

3. ALWAYS ask for a discount

You’ll be eligible for a lot of pre-arranged student discounts with your NUS 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, adding "I bought some boots in the sale and asked for student discount, lady said they didn't do it but then thought about it and gave me 10% off sale price".

If you’re shopping online, then use myunidays.com 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. 

You can read our article on whether or not you need a TV licence at uni if you're still unsure.

5. Buy used books

Try to assess how often you're going to need any books before you commit to buying them. There's no point in buying an entire book if you only need to read one chapter  you could just borrow it from the library.

"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/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/college town," they finish. 

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.

Shop off-brand

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 make the most out of your food and stretch your budget as far as you possibly can.

"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, visiting in the afternoons. As they get nearer the end of the day prices often drop 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!," they comment. 

9. Download free software

It can be tempting to spend money on a lot of apps if you've just bought a new laptop for uni, but this could end up costing you hundreds of pounds. Instead, check out our guide to the essential free software for students.

10. Shop off-brand

It's ridiculous how much money you can save by just shopping at discount supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl. But keep an eye out for 'value' or 'basics' ranges if your accommodation is closer to a more expensive supermarket.

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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