With university exams approaching and gifts to buy for loved ones, the festive season can be particularly tough for cash-strapped students. Budgeting for Christmas presents, nights out and study supplies all at the same time will take some clever budgeting gymnastics – here are out tips to help your money stretch a little further.
1. MAKE USE OF BUDGETING APPS
Student calculator tool
Don’t be tempted to splurge your student loan in one go when it arrives in your bank account. Use the free student calculator tool from charity Brightside, which will help you figure out how much spare cash you can actually afford to spend. http://unite.studentcalculator.org/
This free app will help encourage you to not spend money unnecessarily. Upload a picture of something that you’re saving towards, and every time you don’t spend money on an impulse buy, make a note of it and the app will calculate how much you have saved by not spending. It will help you get closer to your saving goals and ultimately, not just say yes to every drink you are invited to.
mySuperList (from mySuperMarket.co.uk)
This app lets you compile a shopping list and will tell you how much your basket comes to in all the major supermarkets, and the cheapest place to buy it. The app is updated with current deals, so you know where to go for the best money saving offers.
2. CHOOSE THE RIGHT BANK ACCOUNT
Choose your overdraft wisely
Most students will require the services of an overdraft account at some point. There’s nothing wrong with that, just make sure that you’re not being charged for it. Get the biggest 0 per cent interest overdraft limit that you can and make sure it’s one that will last as long as possible.
Freebies aren’t everything
While a £100 cash reward for opening a bank account can be very tempting, make sure that you’re not agreeing to worse conditions on the bank account. If the terms are good, then freebies are a nice bonus but don’t base your choice solely on that.
3. MAKE THE MOST OF STUDENT DISCOUNTS
Make sure you get yourself an NUS card. It costs £12 and it can save you hundreds of pounds a year, with over 170 potential savings to be taken advantage of. Some discounts can be as high as 50 per cent and it’s not only on clothes and luxury items. The Co-op offers 10 per cent off their groceries.
4. MAKE YOUR HOUSEHOLD BILLS EFFICIENT
A colour TV license costs £145.50 a year, but if you don’t watch it often it might not be worth it. (You don’t need a TV license for online streaming services such as Netflix, for instance.) If you do watch TV on the schedule, make sure to claim back the three months worth of fees if you’re not in your student flat over summer.
Make sure that you’re on the best energy tariff using a site like http://www.uswitch.com. If you’re renting, you still have the right to switch to another provider. If you’re lease bans switching companies, you are entitled to challenge this as it may be unfair.
Don’t buy it without checking with your parents first as the ‘contents away from home’ section of their policy may already cover you. If not, you might be able to add it on for a small fee.
DON’T PAY FULL PRICE FOR STUDY SUPPLIES
Exams are approaching but most of the time there’s no need to invest in brand new books. Check Amazon and eBay for people selling used editions. An alternative is to rent e-books from sites like CourseSmart, saving you lots of dosh.
Cheaper computer packages
As an alternative to Microsoft Office packages, which can be pretty pricey, The Libre Office package is compatible with Microsoft, available for PC, Mac and Linux and is free of charge. It includes a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation and design package.
SAVE ON ENTERTAINMENT
While there is always the option of free Spotify, there’s nothing that kills a party vibe more than an insurance advert blaring out in between tracks. Premium means no adverts and Spotify offers a 50 per cent discount for students, making it only £4.99 a month.
2 for 1 cinema tickets
This money saving tip will save you huge amounts on cinema tickets. Head to Compare the Market, buy a cheap insurance plan for a pound or two, and in return you can download the Meerkat Movies app which will get you 2 for 1 tickets every Tuesday and Wednesday.
Amazon for students
The Amazon Student club costs £39 per year (as opposed to £79 for full price Prime). The club gives all full time students access to free next-day delivery, music streaming, TV and film, the Kindle lending library and lots of other deals. If you don’t want to pay after the six month trial is up, just remember to cancel before it reaches the end of the last month.
For cheap live music and festivals, check out the Free Festivals guide which has listings including completely free festivals from across the country. It also provides information on how to volunteer for big events, and bag yourself a free ticket in the process. Well worth it.
GET THE BEST PRICES ON TRAVEL
Split train tickets where possible
When booking a train journey, you should always check if there’s a cheaper way to do it than booking the whole journey. A weird loophole means that splitting the ticket usually gets you a cheaper overall journey, even if you’re on the same train the whole time. The only stipulation is that the train must stop at the station where the tickets connect. Have a look at Tickety Split to see if you could save.
Get a Railcard
If you spend £90 or more on train travel each year, it’s well worth investing in a 16-25 Railcard. The card costs £30 and entitles users to a third off. If you have an NUS card, you get an extra 12 per cent off. Not bad at all.
Buy travel tickets in advance
Keep an eye out on promotions and always buy your tickets twelve weeks in advance, where possible. Companies like Megabus often promote £1 seats but you have to get in there fast if you want to reap the full benefits.