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How Can You Reduce Your Spending as a University Student?

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Brighton chapter.
A practical guide to reduce spending as a university student in the UK.

At present, money is a major concern for university students in the UK. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), “9 in 10 (91%) students were either somewhat or very worried about the rising cost of living, the same as in early November 2022.” This article aims to provide practical solutions to cut back on your spending and to improve your personal finances. 

Here is a list of 10 key methods to reduce your spending:

  • Shop at budget-friendly supermarkets such as ALDI or LIDL.
  • Buy essentials in bulk. (e.g., Buy a 500g packet of pasta instead of several mini, microwaveable packs.)
  • Make use of in-store or online discounts, vouchers, and loyalty schemes where possible. 
  • Make a meal plan for the week and create a list of essentials. Stick to it. 
  • Do not spend on non-essential items i.e., just because they look ‘cute’. 
  • Avoid takeaways as much as possible. 
  • Cook food in bulk and freeze for those times when you are just too tired to cook. 
  • Find a job with incentives such as free or discounted food. (For example, jobs in restaurants.)
  • If possible, use as many alternative transport methods as possible like walking or cycling to avoid paying for public transportation. (This comes with the added benefit of not having to purchase a costly gym membership since you will already be getting some much-needed exercise.)

If you are worried about overspending, do not be afraid to say ‘no’ when your friends want to go on a night out or a shopping spree. That does not mean you have to isolate yourself from everyone. Make use of free socialising events organised by the Student’s Union, the university, or your local community.

If you do end up eating out or having a takeaway, remember to download their apps for freebies, perks, and discounts available exclusively on the app. This is particularly true for fast food joints and restaurant chains.

Another great way to manage your finances is by sticking to the 50-30-20 rule. According to HSBC UK, this rule involves spending:

  • 50% on your needs
  • 30% on wants
  • 20% on savings or debts

In this case, ‘needs’ mean rent, bills, food etc. ‘Wants’ include eating out, going to the cinema etc. You could always adjust the percentages to suit your individual situations, but it is important to stick with one major plan throughout. For instance, you could use 70% on needs, 10% on wants and the rest on savings or debts. 

Planning ahead is crucial if you want to spend less. A visual spending tracker is the most effective. The most basic way is to create a spreadsheet with your incomings and outgoings. If you are an Excel whizz, use your knowledge of formulas to automate your budget calculation. If not, do not worry! You could use apps such as Money Lover to do everything for you. From producing charts to generating reports about your spending, it is a handy way to keep track of your finances.

Another tip is to take advantage of privileges available only to students such as exemptions from council tax and student discounts on transportation. Make use of railcards, subsidised bus fares, coaches etc. 

Other lesser-known, but equally useful ways to save money include using free apps such as Olio and BetterPoints. Olio uses the concept of reusing and recycling to provide users with the opportunity to list unwanted items on the app for other users interested in the item to collect them for free or sometimes at a small cost. Items listed for free could range anywhere from food to electronics. 

On the other hand, BetterPoints is an app that promotes sustainable travel and gives rewards in the form of points to users, who can then convert them into vouchers for local businesses. For instance, a user might be able to exchange 5000 BetterPoints for a £5 Sainsbury’s voucher in-app. 

All in all, creating a weekly or monthly budget plan is the best way to help you with budgeting and sticking to your limits. It is always essential to work out what best works for you as everyone’s circumstances differ. Good luck on your budgeting journey!

Himaya is an English Literature and Creative Writing student at the University of Brighton. Her interests include reading fantasy and horror. Fun fact: Himaya is the former VP Social of Bright Radio Society at the University of Brighton, where she won 'Society Event of the Year' at the Brighton Students' Union Awards 2024.