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Welcome to the 5th and final part of my University Tips from a Graduate series! In this part, I will be talking about how to save money as a student, as well as sharing a few ways to earn some extra cash!
For many students, money is limited, so every penny counts. I remember a time in my second year of university when I had completely run out of money. Luckily, it was the end of term and I would soon be going home to my parents’ house. On the last evening of term, I was alone in my student house and I had eaten every last bit of food in the cupboards. I was trying not to think about food, and just to deal with the hunger until I got home the next day.
In the end, I was so hungry that I had to do something. I managed to rustle up 10p and went to the local corner shop where I bought at 10p packet of cheap biscuits! I don’t remember if I ate the whole packet that evening, but I must have eaten quite a few. Certainly not the healthiest of meals but at least it kept me going!
If you are a current or future student, I hope that the tips in this post will help you to avoid getting into a similar situation! Every little bit of money you can save, or earn, will add up and hopefully you will at least be able to afford the essentials, like food.
How to Save Money as a Student
Unless you have a part-time job while you are studying, you will begin each term with a limited supply of money. It’s up to you to make it last! Here are my best money-saving tips for students, based on my own experiences.
Don’t go crazy at the start of term
I always felt rich at the start of term when the latest instalment of my student loan had just come in, plus a top-up from my parents. Unfortunately, this meant I had a tendency to splurge in the first few weeks of term. I would buy food from the more expensive (but convenient) cafeterias on campus, go shopping for clothes and order pizza with my friends. This meant that I would usually be low on cash by the end of the term and I would have to significantly cut back on my spending.
I was never sensible enough to make a budget plan, but I would recommend that you do! Work out how much money you can afford to spend on average each week, and do your best to stick to it. You could even budget to have a bit left at the end of term so that you can treat yourself during the final week!
Go to clubs and events that provide free food – and fill up!
As a student, food is the main essential thing you need to spend money on. Therefore, any opportunity to save money on food is well worth taking!
If you are short on money to buy food, seek out clubs and events that provide free food. I remember going to an event once in my department where ‘wine and nibbles’ were promised for afterwards. The number of salted peanuts I ate that afternoon was insane, I was drinking water for the rest of the day!
For something a bit more substantial than peanuts, I used to go to my Uni’s ‘Entrepreneurs’ club meetings. At the time, I wasn’t at all interested in entrepreneurship, although the friend who I went with was. The reason I went was for the free pizza they used to provide after the meetings! Despite the meetings being pretty boring, it was so worth it for the generous amount of pizza they ordered in.
If you can manage to go to plenty of clubs and events during the week, not only will you have a rich student experience but you’ll practically eat for free!
Take advantage of price reductions in local shops
I used to pass a SPAR shop on my way from campus to my student house. Sometimes at the end of the day, their fresh bakery items such as rolls and croissants would be reduced right down to 10p! I would go in and check every time I walked past in the afternoon.
If there is a similar shop near to your Uni, it’s worth going in to check these. Look out for the ‘reduced items’ shelf as well because you can get some really good bargains there.
Make use of your student discount
As a student, you will be able to get a discount in many shops. It’s always worth asking if a shop does student discount, even if they don’t advertise it. You might get a nice surprise!
I remember getting told off by an elderly shop assistant once when I was buying a dress and I asked if they do student discount. The dress had already been reduced right down, and she said, “No we don’t, and I think you’re already getting a good enough deal here!”. Well, I was only asking, and I still think it’s always worth doing so because every penny counts as a student!
You can also check for student discounts on student-discount.co.uk. They find the best student discounts and voucher codes for many of the largest brands including Boots, Currys PC World and The Works so you can get all your student essentials and more at a discounted price.
Walk where possible instead of taking public transport
My Uni’s campus was about a 10-minute walk from the local town. There were also buses into town but I would rarely get those unless I was returning from town with heavy shopping or if it was raining. I remember one time, my friend and I were just feeling really lazy so we decided to get the bus, even though in the amount of time we waited at the bus station, we could have walked home! Usually, though, we would save the bus fare and walk.
There was also a larger town a bit further away from my Uni. It was a 10-minute train journey away and I would always get the train when I went there because I assumed it was too far to walk.
Then in my third year, I suddenly thought, surely it can’t be that far to walk if it’s only 10 minutes on the train? I looked it up on Google Maps and it said it was a 35 minutes walk. Not too long at all! I planned out a route and walked next time I went there. In fact, I think I walked every time I went there since! I am a fast walker so it only took me 30 minutes. The challenge was walking back with my shopping, but it was good exercise and saved a train fare!
Put money aside for rent
In my second and third years, I was living in a student house and I needed to pay rent every month. I had to be careful to make sure I had enough money in my account to pay this!
If you need to pay rent, I recommend that at the start of each term you work out the total amount of rent you’ll need to pay that term. Make a note of that amount, and make sure your balance never drops below it! You can update the total every time rent comes out of your account.
If you happen to have multiple current accounts, I recommend transferring your termly rent amount into a different account from your regular spendings so that it stays separate. This way, you will have a better idea of how much spending money you have left for the term.
How to Earn Money as a Student
If you follow all the tips above, hopefully, you will be able to make your money stretch further. However, you might also want to make a bit of extra money to boost your bank balance! Here are some ways you can make money as a student.
Take surveys online
I used to be a member of so many survey sites! Basically, you fill in surveys and get paid a small amount for each one. Often the pay was very low and/or I didn’t qualify for many surveys so it took a while to reach the cash-out amount. Nowadays, I don’t do surveys any more because it’s just not worth it. But as a student, I really appreciated the little cash bonuses I would get from doing surveys! Those small amounts of money meant a lot to me.
Occasionally, there would be an opportunity to receive a free product to try out and answer a follow-up survey later. I remember receiving 2 large bags of tortilla chips and some tinted moisturiser among other things. I especially appreciated the food items, being a hungry student with little money! It was definitely worth getting these and answering a survey about them.
It’s been a few years since I used survey sites so I don’t know which ones are the best any more. However, I found this list of survey sites which look like they are worth checking out.
Take part in student experiments
On my University’s student intranet, there were often advertisements asking for people to take part in experiments for a small payment. These were mostly by Psychology students who had to gather data for their coursework. I can’t remember the exact details of the experiments now, but most of them involved looking at pictures of faces or words on a computer screen and having to recognise or remember certain features about them. Most of them didn’t take very long, and they were quite interesting and fun to do!
Typically I would earn between £5 and £20 for each of these, which was a significant amount to me at the time. I must have done at least half a dozen of these experiments so it added up! It’s definitely worth checking out whether similar experiments happen at your University, as it was a fun way to earn a bit of extra cash.
Look out for temporary jobs at your Uni
Some students manage to hold a part-time job while they are at University. One of my housemates used to work at a fast-food chain down the road from my Uni. I personally didn’t get a job because I would have found it too much in addition to my studies. However, I did find some temporary work within the Uni.
In my third year, I saw an advertisement on the student intranet asking for students to help out with paid admissions work. I applied and was accepted. Because it was casual, temporary work, the process was very simple and I didn’t have to interview or show any prerequisites. I was offered some hours and I just did the ones that I could. It was great because I could work it around my other commitments.
I just had to sit in a computer lab with lots of other students and we were shown how to enter paper applications into the online system. It was fairly easy, and there were people around to help if we ran into any problems. I spent several days doing that over a few weeks, and the pay was £9 something an hour. It added up and I ended up getting paid over £200 which felt amazing!
They also provided free coffee and biscuits with this job and it’s safe to say I definitely took advantage of that!
Temporary work at your University is a good alternative to finding a part-time job because it will usually be a lot more flexible and easier to fit in around your studies. It’s also something you can put on your CV. So if you want to earn some extra money and boost your future job prospects, keep a lookout for opportunities!
Start a blog
This is the only thing on this list that I DIDN’T do when I was at University! But I wish I had had the idea to start a blog when I was a student. Blogging is a lot of hard work and is certainly not a way to ‘get rich quick’. But if you have the time to dedicate to blogging, it could provide a nice little bonus.
I’ve been blogging for nearly two years now and I am only earning a small amount of money from it. However, the amount I am earning now would have been a significant amount to me back then!
Even if you don’t manage to make much money from blogging, it’s still a win-win situation because it’s a good thing to put on your CV after you finish University.
How to start a blog
If you need some help setting up a blog and getting started, I would recommend the e-book A Blogger’s Best Friend* by Kyra who runs the lifestyle blog, Love Kyra. This e-book is a great blogging guide for beginners because it’s easy to understand and contains all the information you need to create your blog, as well as plenty of lesser-known secrets that will help your blog to be successful!
Kyra is a student herself, so she is living proof that it is possible to run a successful blog whilst studying at University.
That’s the end of my University Tips from a Graduate series
If you made it through all 5 posts in this series, congratulations! I hope you enjoyed them and learned some new things that will help you make the most out of your University life.
If you haven’t yet, do check out the other 4 parts of this series:
Do you have any University stories to share? Do you know of any more ways to save or earn money as a student? I would love to hear from you so please comment below!
My final message to you
It’s a cliche when they say that your university years are the best of your life, and it’s also a cliche when they say it goes so fast. But there is truth in it! I don’t like to say they were the best years of my life because I hope that the best is yet to come. But I can honestly say they were the most fun and amazing years of my life so far and I will always look back on them with a smile and no regrets!
So, make sure to enjoy your University experience and make the most of it. It won’t all be easy, there will be ups and downs and obstacles along the way, but try to see them as things to learn and grow from. Work hard but make sure to get a balance between work and play. Make the most of the social life at University, because even though I am an introvert, that was my favourite aspect of University life.
I wish you all the best with your studies and I hope you have an amazing time at University!