When I finally became a university student, I was determined not to be another student stereotype (can’t cook, always broke, never sober etc.). My university experience was going to be me at my best, on top of my grades and flourishing like a pineapple in the tropics (good vibes and all that).
Thankfully, my reality hasn’t been a total 180 from my resolutions, but the financial aspect of university life is something that I have to consciously be aware of. It’s a known fact in my family that I’ve always been the one that spends her money first (though in my defense, it’s mainly because my sisters never buy their own things and mooch off on my ‘investments’) but there’s a lot I’ve learned from having to manage myself which I’ve compiled into a little list to make sure you’re spending in the best way.
* You’ll notice that there’s an affiliate link (marked with an *) in this post. This just allows me to earn some vouchers; as usual, I would never recommend something that I’m not an avid and satisfied user of.
1. Draw up a Budget
Everybody says this- your lecturers will tell you this, your tutors, your parents and now I’m telling you. Draw up a budget to help make sure you don’t overspend. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy (you don’t even need to draw a table), just a list of your known expenses (such as food, laundry, your phone bill etc.) and allocate a reasonable amount of money towards each expense. For example, I usually make sure I have around £80 a month on food for groceries, eating out, snacks etc. I also take some money out for savings to make sure I have some emergency funds (you really never know what’s going to happen, even if it doesn’t happen to you)
You can also add to your budgeting skills by using apps and platforms like Shoptagr which can tell you when an item you have your eye on is going on sale. This can help in scheduling those bigger buys.
2. You don’t always have to go out
Maybe I don’t get it- after all, I don’t drink and clubbing’s not exactly a hobby of mine but just because everyone’s hitting the clubs doesn’t mean you’ve got to join them. Especially if you’re trying to save money. Depending on where you are, a night out can be relatively expensive and the costs do rack up over time. Let’s say a night out costs around £25 (taking out pre-drinks). If you repeat this once a week for a month, you’ll find you’ve spent £100 alone on going out.
Instead, diversify your evenings with sober socials like movie and game nights. Or if the prospect of meeting (some) people sober makes you groan, throw a house party where your guests contribute by bringing a bottle with them.
3. If you can’t cook, learn how
I think we’re way past having any debate about who should cook. Regardless of your biology or what you identify as, if you can’t cook, your options become very limited and your chances of starving become higher. There’s such an abundance of resources available that can teach you how to rustle up something and with cooking, the more you practice, the better you get. Get an arsenal of recipes under your belt and soon, you’ll be expanding your repertoire and hosting dinner parties.
4. Write a shopping list (for EVERYTHING)
Genuine overspending tends to occur when you don’t know what you have and what you don’t have. Writing a shopping list is a way of keeping inventory and making sure you don’t buy what you don’t need. I keep a general shopping list on my phone and when I buy an item, off it goes (I only untick the item once I find myself running low). This is especially useful for those times you think you’re running out of rice but also can’t remember whether you bought an extra bag last week.
Your shopping list doesn’t only have to be for essentials; adding those things you really want can keep you in check and make sure you’re not buying a new pair of shoes every month (unless you really want to).
5. Make use of those student discounts
It’s easy to forget to sign up for those discount sites amongst all the chaos of packing and repacking for uni but take the time to have a look at which stores offer student discounts (especially on sites that are exclusively for students such as Unidays * or Student Beans). Most student discounts are at least 10%, although sometimes brands do offer more so it’s always worth asking. There are also student cards (e.g. NUS cards) available which give you discounts at various stores, however, you do have to pay for some of them so make sure you double check to avoid unwanted costs.
6. Save, Save, Save
The term, ‘saving for a rainy day’ only becomes more appropriate when you have to manage yourself. Rainy days appear without warning and no matter how well prepared you think you are, something’s bound to turn wack at some point. That’s where your savings come in; the sigh of relief that comes from finding a stash of money when an emergency comes up is almost unparalleled.
Keep in mind that saving doesn’t have to be complicated; it’s best done little and often, rather than as a lump sum so you barely notice it affect your day to day life. Try to have a goal in mind when you save; it’s supposed to be an investment towards a reward, so enjoy the process.
All in all, thinking about your finances shouldn’t scare you; it’s all about scheduling and deciding which fun to have at which time. I’d love to hear what your tips are for stretching your money, so drop a comment or reach me via my Instagram.
Happy Spending x