When I received my student loan in October, I felt on top of the world. All that lovely money, just sitting in my bank account, waiting to be spent! Imagine the shoes, dresses, books, music, biscuits, I could buy! I was rich and it was delightful!
Fast forward a month, and my illusions of endless spending sprees are sadly well and truly shattered. The first time I went food shopping I was astounded by how quickly even the most basic items started to add up to a fair amount of money. And with money for going out, endless books, memberships to societies, the (occasional) hot-dog on the way to a lecture, my student loan was fast diminishing before my very eyes.
I realised I needed a strategy for managing my money. Before uni, I hadn’t really thought about budgeting, but now that I’m here, I realise it is pretty essential. So here are my top tips:
1. Don’t overbuy. Perhaps this seems obvious, but you are only going to be cooking for one person: yourself! So don’t buy a family amount. From experience, I found that the way I wasted the most money was by not being able to eat the food I’d bought, as there was far too much of it, and it was off by the time I wanted to use it.
2. Charity shops and second-hand book stores are good. Doing an English degree, I obviously need a lot of books, but this can be expensive when you buy them all new. My solution? Buy the books I need second-hand. Charity shops normally have a good selection of classics and if you are really lucky, you can get an annotated version! Saving money, giving to charity, getting annotations, what’s not to love?
3. But libraries are better. Sometimes you may desperately need your own copy of a textbook/key novel, and obviously buying is the only solution. But if you are only going to be looking at something for a week, why not just borrow it from the library?
4. Look for bargains. When I’m looking at what pasta etc. I want to buy, I think about the weight given for the price. The ideal is to get the most for your money, but be careful not to overbuy!! And always give supermarket-own brands a go. They’re often cheaper but taste the same.
5. Always, I repeat, ALWAYS ask for a student discount. I mean, what do you have to lose?
Of course, there are other ways to save money and if you can get a job whilst doing your degree, that can be a good way to help your finances out. The main thing, though, is that with careful planning, you can still have money for the fun stuff, whilst not spending a fortune on the essentials!