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How to save money as a student

8 hacks from recent grads

Know about everything from discounted travel cards to refillable coffe cups? Here are 8 money-saving hacks from recent graduates to help you get more for your money.

OK, so you can live on baked beans, take showers in the gym and swap heating bills for woolly blankets, but does student living have to mean scrimping and saving every step of the way?

Well, not if you spend a little bit of time planning out your finances. According to a survey by The Student Money Website last year, 1 in 4 students have never budgeted before in their lives, and it can make all the difference. We asked some recent grads for their top tips on keeping track of their money at uni. 

1. Keep an eye on your bank balance

Emelia, 24, University of Leeds graduate

“It may be the last thing you want to do but – instead of burying your head in the sand – it’s a good idea to check your balance a couple of times a week. Knowing how much money you have in your account will make you feel on top of things and allow you to budget until your next loan or pay cheque comes in.”

Quick tip. Switch on text alerts in the Barclays Mobile Banking app to keep track of your money. You can choose to get alerts when your balance is getting low and when large payments leave your account. The app will even warn you if you don’t have enough money in the account to pay a cheque or Direct Debit, so you can top up the balance and avoid charges. 

2. On a night out only take what you want to spend

Emily, 23, University of Sussex graduate

“We all know uni is about the work and the social life – but too much partying can really hit your bank balance. A smart idea is to work out how much money you’re willing to spend on a night out, and take that money out in cash, leaving your bank card at home. This stops you from buying rounds for the whole pub after one too many – something both your hangover and your bank balance will be thankful for.”

Quick tip. Help get your finances back on track with Financial Wings. It’s free, interactive and tailored to your financial needs. 

3. Put your rent money in a separate account

Tabitha, 23, Leeds Beckett University Graduate

“If all your money’s in one pot, it’s hard to work out how much you need to keep aside for rent and bills. To make sure you always have that money available, create a separate account and transfer the necessary amount from your current account every month, or even at the start of the term when your loan comes in. Then, if you do spend over your budget for the month, you know you won’t have to worry about paying for the necessities.”

Quick tip. Set up another account and give it a name, so you know just what that money’s for. 

4. Don’t buy coffee every day

Georgia, 23, Manchester Metropolitan University

“We all know a coffee or two won’t tip you over the edge when it comes to your budget, but thinking a bit more carefully about what you buy when you’re out and about can make a big difference. Instead of grabbing a sandwich from a high-street café, think about making one before you leave home.”

Quick tip. Invest in a refillable coffee cup – you won’t only be saving yourself money, you’ll be helping the planet, too.

5. Make a weekly meal plan

Rosie, 23, University of Sussex graduate

“It might sound like something your granny used to do but planning what you’re going to cook for the week can really help with budgeting. If you go to the supermarket with no plan in mind, it’s easy to end up buying food you don’t need and, the likelihood is, a lot of it will get wasted. By thinking ahead and making up a shopping list of things you know you need, you’ll save time and money, and won’t be tempted to impulse-buy.”

Quick tip. If you’re buying your shop online, use a tool like mySupermarket to compare your shopping trolley across multiple retailers.

6. Make a budgeting plan at the beginning of the term

Charlie, 24, University of Sussex graduate

“Making a budget for the term is the easiest way to make sure you look after your finances. I used to create a spreadsheet and split my expenses into three sections – food, bills and entertainment. This helped me prioritise the more important things and know how much I had left to spend on treats, like a Sunday roast with the housemates. And when my finances were getting a bit out of hand, it was helpful to look back and work out where I was overspending and what I needed to cut back on.”

Quick tip. Use a budget calculator like this one to help keep your spending on track.

7. Get the best deal for your household bills

George, 23, University of Sussex graduate

“You might think it would be a bit of an effort but one of the easiest ways to save on household bills like electricity and gas is to consider switching. We switched using a price comparison website and saved about £150 a year. It’s incredible what you can get just for putting in details like your electricity usage, postcode and supplier. You can then consider putting the extra money towards a treat night out for your flat.”

Quick tip. Shop around and consider using price comparison websites to see if you could save money on everyday bills.

8. Save money while you travel

Kate, 24, University of Manchester

There are a number of easy ways to get the best deals travelling that no one really tells you about. If you’re planning a trip home, make sure you book in advance, or check out the 16 to 25 railcard which gives you a third off rail fares. Travel apps, such as Skyscanner, have some amazing tools – including identifying the best time to travel – which can save you money on flight, hotel and car hire wherever you’re planning to go.”  

Quick tip. Consider getting a 16 to 25 railcard. It’s £30 a year but you can save about a third on rail and tube fares.

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