It’s the start of a new academic year and student life beckons once more; with promises of laughter, opportunities and perhaps just a smattering of hard work. However, the inevitable expenses loom overhead, threatening to taint our university idyll.
With the endless fun and sociability that university brings comes a significant degree of responsibility. For those of you starting university for the first time, or indeed those moving into private housing, the concept of water bills, rents and television licenses are perhaps alien but nevertheless a stark reality. On top of necessities such as bills, food and tuition fees comes the vast expense of a hectic social life; memberships to societies, nights out and the legendary ski trips to name a few.
Beginning to feel a swelling of panic… sinking feeling of dread perhaps? Fear not! There are endless ways to minimise spending sacrificing enjoyment.
1.To Heat or Not to Heat
Student houses are the inspiration of many stereotypes, none more common than the fabled ‘arctic conditions’ of many a student dwelling; the majority prefer to ‘tough it out’ rather than waste precious pennies on such trivial home comforts as staying warm.
However, saving money need not mean enduring permanently chattering teeth or sitting huddled under a pile of blankets watching plumes of your own breath threatening to engulf you. In fact by refraining from turning the central heating on you may even be spending more! Many contracts stipulate that the heating must be turned on for a certain period per week or day, a clause aimed at reducing damp. By breaking this contractual obligation many students are actually making themselves liable for damage caused to the house as a result of damp which can lead into hundreds of pounds. Not to mention the large amounts of money that will be spent on cures for the cold related illnesses that inevitably occur as a result of poor living conditions.
The solution is to establish a plan whereby the heating is only turned on for the optimal amount of time. For the most part, the best time is a couple of hours in the morning (from about 7.30-9.30) and a couple of hours at night (from about 7-9): enough to warm the house and maintain a manageable temperature.
2. Savvy Shopper
It is fair to say that a bit of retail therapy is verging on an addiction for many of us (healthy of course!), but we so often have to curb our enthusiasm in an attempt to preserve our bank accounts. However by making a few select compromises the urge to shop need not be quelled quite as often as one may think… said shopping must simply become ‘savvy’.
- Problem: Love vintage? Often end up paying large amounts for that beautiful vintage dress from Urban Outfitters that you simply can’t live without, and of course because it is vintage it is entirely unique so therefore a MUST buy?
- Solution: Find some genuine vintage garments by popping into charity shops or some of the ‘mis-matched’, quirky clothes shops that emerge from time to time. You can also find a great bargain on websites set up by creative students selling re-vamped clothes. It may seem a little bizarre; the idea of nearly new garments, but that is exactly what you get from high-street chains that are marketing vintage produce!
- Problem: You manage to complete your morning of lectures unscathed… so reward yourself with a shopping trip. Before you know where you are you end up with a new item of clothing every day of the week and a resultant looming overdraft.
- Solution: limit yourself to about two trips a week, making your rewards all the more sweet.
3. Meal Plan
One expense that students are inclined to overlook is that of the weekly food shopping bill. At home food magically appears and is simply there to be eaten, but in university it becomes a whole new dilemma.
- Problem: You find yourself rushing back from lectures or sports practice, anticipating a great night out but realise you have nothing in your fridge except for a sweaty lump of cheddar cheese. Not to worry, you can drop into the corner shop and pick up a ready meal. For many students this scenario is all too familiar and, at approximately £3.50 per ready meal can end up being very expensive
- Solution: plan your meals. It may seem boring but by taking an hour at some point during the weekend to make a list of your planned culinary creations for the coming week and the required ingredients for completing such masterpieces you will save vast amounts of your precious pennies.
- Problem: Cooking for one can be expensive as very few things are sold individually.
- Solution: There are many ways of avoiding the expenses incurred by cooking individual portions. The first being, to cook with a friend or as a house. This way the cost of ingredients is spread between more people, minimising the cost. You can also try batch cooking which proves highly effective for many students. By cooking enough bolognaise sauce or chicken curry for about six people you can then freeze portions to be eaten at a later date; your very own homemade ready-meals!
We all love visiting friends and jetting off abroad at any given opportunity, but travelling can be excessively expensive with even a simple train ticket extending into hundreds of pounds. However, as students there are countless options available to us; ranging from railcards and bus passes, which provide huge savings, to holiday companies such as STA which are dedicated to finding the best deals around. Provided you can be relatively flexible with timings and dates, travel need not be prohibited.
Another great way to save money so that you have a bit of ‘excess cash’ for longer journeys is to walk or cycle short distances. You will be amazed how quickly a couple of (unnecessary) pounds here and there, spent on bus and taxi fees, can add up.
5. Gifts from the Heart
One of the problems faced by many students is the excess of friends that we suddenly acquire upon attending University (I know poor us!) with whom gifts must be exchanged on occasions such as Christmas and Birthdays. It is all very well agreeing to only get ‘something small’ but even a simple Birthday card can cost as much as £4, which most certainly adds up.
My solution to this dilemma is to get creative. There is so much more meaning behind a gift that you have put time and effort into making or putting together such as a personalised card or some homemade cookies. If you aren’t the creative sort a little box of ‘memories’ or trivial favourite things such as sweets/films/stationary will undoubtedly be appreciated.
6. Fresher’s Fair Freebies!
One of the many great things about being a student is that it becomes socially acceptable to seek out the best deals, profit from whatever ‘freebie’ comes your way and exploit discounts. I am always amazed by the levels of generosity (or at least self-interested generosity) many companies show when promoting their produce to students. At the fresher’s fair this year make sure you pick up as many samples, discount cards and 2-4-1 deals as you can carry and I can pretty much guarantee you will never have to pay full price for a pizza or a subway for the remainder of your university career!