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Ten Practical Tips for UK Students to Save Money and Achieve Financial Stability


No matter what subject you're going to study at college or university, there's one course you need to take first—financial literacy!


No matter what subject you're going to study at college or university, there's one course you need to take first—financial literacy!

Young adults heading off to further education for the first time don't have the best reputation for having good financial habits once those student loans hit their bank account, so getting into the mindset of a healthy habit of managing your personal finances as college students or university students is really important!  Money management skills can be challenging, especially when you are surrounded by peer pressure and the overall theme of wanting a great social life while studying, but with the right strategies, adopting good money habits and being money savvy, you can still stay on budget and have a fantastic student experience, plus help develop your long-term goals and financial security.


Here are ten simple tips to help you stay financially secure during your studies:


1. Maximise Student Bank Accounts


Take advantage of the perks offered by student bank accounts. Many banks offer cash joining bonuses and interest-free overdrafts to students. Always be wary of freebies over getting better interest rates or longer free overdraft terms, so if you are offered a free gift or an extra 6 months on your interest-free period on your overdraft, skip the free gift, as the savings on interest are likely to be far higher than the free gift is worth to you!  However, it's essential to remember that an overdraft isn't free money; it's not actually your own money; it's a loan that you'll need to repay eventually. Be mindful of your spending and avoid relying too heavily on your overdraft to prevent financial strain after graduation. Remember that a student's overdraft interest rate will increase once you graduate, and that can be painful to your wallet!Set up an emergency fund within your bank account; many bank accounts have the facility to have an extra savings account and use that account to put away some extra money for unforeseen expenses such as car repairs, unexpected course fees or other unforeseen expenses.If you have your student loan set aside in a bank account and aren't using it all, set up a higher-interest savings account and keep the majority of your cash in there to earn some extra interest. It's also a good idea to keep money in more than one bank account as it makes it harder to spend if you have to set up transfers from one bank to another, which will likely help avoid those unexpected, often slightly drunken, impulse purchases! 


2. Stick to a Budget

Creating and sticking to a budget is crucial for maintaining financial stability. While it's tempting to splurge on social activities, only spend what you can afford. Leave your credit card at home and bring only the cash you've budgeted for the outing. By setting spending limits and tracking your expenses, you can avoid overspending and stay on track financially. Work out what your expenses actually are! These days the cost of living crisis has increased the cost of pretty much everything and so even if you 'think' you know how much your expenses are going to be, actually sit down and write them all down to be sure you have a realistic number to work with. Take into account books and course materials, phone charges, accommodation charges, food and drink, car insurance, general household products such as detergent, toilet paper, and toiletries (perfume and cologne products are expensive, I saw a blog post where students said they'd rather go without food than having decent perfume, and you'll struggle to afford big brand products on a students income, so look at cheaper dupes that have similar fragrances to the big brand products, but at a fraction of the price), travel, entertainment and clothing and then add 10% to the figure you come up with and that's probably about right! Split those costs into weekly or monthly budget amounts and then use those figures as your spending budget. If it helps, take your entertainment expenses out as cash and only take the cash out with you, leaving your credit or debit card at home, so you can only spend what you actually have on you; that way you won't wake up the next morning with a whopping hangover and an even bigger financial headache! 


3. Utilise Cashback Apps


Cashback apps can be a great way to help stretch your student budget further. Look for cashback apps that offer cashback on purchases, including gift cards. Buying gift cards through cashback apps, is a relatively new way to earn cashback on your purchases, but it is arguably the best way as it allows you to earn cashback on your spending at participating retailers such as supermarkets, bookshops, and even pubs. You simply buy a gift card for your chosen retailer and use that to pay. The cashback is applied to your cashback account, and once you have earned enough, (usually between £5 and £10), you can withdraw that money to your bank account or use that credit to buy a gift card that you can use to buy food at a supermarket or use it for a pub gift card and enjoy what is essentially free drinks!  It's an easy way to save money on everyday purchases without much effort. Also, look at supermarket cashback apps, where you can claim cashback of up to 100% on specific supermarket products, which can really help your food budget! 


4. Be Cautious with Credit Cards


While credit cards may seem like a convenient way to make purchases, they come with high interest rates and potential long-term consequences. Avoid accumulating debt on your credit card, as it can take years to pay off credit card debt and lead to significant interest charges and have an impact on your credit score, which might not feel that important as soon as you leave college/university, however, once you start thinking about getting your own place and mortgages, or using other financial services; you may suddenly find that credit expenditure as a student, impacting your later years life negatively. That said, if you do have the funds to pay off your credit card every month, in full, use it! Your credit score will be boosted by you showing that you're using your credit card responsibly and paying it off every month in full, plus you may also be able to earn extra bonuses such as cashback on your purchases as well, but this only works if you can pay the card off monthly!  Instead, consider alternatives like student loan refinancing, which can offer more favourable terms for managing your finances in the long run. 


5. Take Advantage of Student Deals


Explore the numerous student-exclusive deals available to you. Looking around and finding the best deals can save you so much money!  Look into the following student discount-themed apps and services as they can be amazing ways to save lots of money on your spending!

  1. NUS (National Union of Students) : The NUS used to offer the Extra Card, but is now known as Totum and this offers discounts both online and in-store at a variety of retailers, including fashion brands, restaurants, tech stores, and more. It's a must-have for any UK student looking to save money.

  2. UNiDAYS: UNiDAYS is a free platform that provides access to exclusive student discounts on fashion, beauty, tech, travel, and more. Students can sign up with their university email address to unlock deals from popular brands like ASOS, Apple, Spotify, and Nike.

  3. Student Beans: Similar to UNiDAYS, Student Beans offers discounts on a wide range of products and services, including fashion, food, entertainment, and travel. Students can sign up for free and access deals both online and in-store.

  4. Amazon Prime Student: Amazon Prime Student offers a six-month free trial followed by discounted membership rates for students. Members enjoy benefits such as free one-day delivery, access to Prime Video, Prime Music, and exclusive deals on Amazon products.

  5. ISIC (International Student Identity Card): The ISIC card is recognised worldwide and offers discounts on travel, accommodation, entertainment, and more. It's available to full-time students aged 12 and above and provides access to over 150,000 discounts in over 130 countries.

  6. Student Universe: Student Universe specialises in travel deals for students, offering discounted flights, hotels, tours, and travel insurance. Students can sign up for free and access exclusive deals tailored to their needs.

  7. Apple Education Pricing: Students, teachers, and staff at eligible educational institutions can take advantage of Apple's education pricing, which offers discounts on MacBooks, iPads, and other Apple products. Verification of student status is required.

  8. Railcards: If you're a frequent train traveller, consider investing in a railcard to save on rail fares. The 16-25 Railcard, 26-30 Railcard, and other regional railcards offer significant discounts on train tickets across the UK.

  9. Local Student Discounts: Many local businesses, restaurants, cinemas, and attractions offer student discounts. Keep an eye out for signs or inquire about discounts with your student ID to save money on everyday purchases.


6. Cook Meals at Home


Eating out regularly can quickly drain your bank account. Instead, embrace home cooking as a way to save money on food expenses. Plan your meals for the week, make a shopping list, and buy groceries in bulk to take advantage of discounts. Perhaps speak with your friends and buy food together to save money, as it is often cheaper to buy large packs of food than buy smaller sizes, so splitting large packs between you can help your food budget.  Cooking in batches and freezing portions can also save you time and money in the long run. Not only is homemade food generally healthier, but it's also much more cost-effective than dining out or ordering takeaways. In the supermarkets, look for yellow sticker food as the savings can be up to 90% off the normal prices, and it makes good financial sense to buy more frozen food than fresh food, especially meat and some vegetables, as frozen food is normally cheaper, plus as its frozen, it's less likely to go out of date before you actually eat it, which will reduce your food waste and help your budget. You can see my top tips, as a former supermarket worker, in this blog post , which will give you ideas on how to be a savvy supermarket shopper!


7. Opt for Second-Hand Items


Furnishing your student accommodation or updating your wardrobe doesn't have to break the bank. Consider buying second-hand furniture, electronics, and clothing to save money. Websites like eBay, Vinted, Gumtree, and Facebook Marketplace are great places to find quality items at a fraction of the cost of new ones. You can also explore charity shops and thrift stores for unique bargains. By opting for pre-loved goods, you'll not only save money but also reduce waste and contribute to sustainability efforts. Don't forget that if you have them you aren't using or don't want anymore, then you can use these selling sites to sell your unwanted things and bring in some extra money, and eBay recently removed all its fees for individuals to sell their unwanted clothes, so you'll no longer have to fork out 12% fees on your income! 


8. Use Public Transportation or Cycle


Transportation costs can add up, especially if you rely on taxis or ride-sharing services. Instead of spending a significant portion of your budget on travel, explore cheaper alternatives like public transportation, discounted bus companies such as Megabus for longer journeys, or cycling. Most cities in the UK have well-connected bus and train networks, offering discounted fares for students. If possible, invest in a bicycle for short commutes or leisurely rides. Not only is cycling an eco-friendly mode of transport, but it also promotes a healthy and active lifestyle while saving you money on fuel and parking fees.


9. Stay Informed About Financial Aid and Scholarships


Don't overlook opportunities for financial aid and scholarships. Research available grants, scholarships, and bursaries that you may be eligible for based on your academic achievements, extracurricular activities, or personal circumstances. These funds can help alleviate the financial burden of tuition fees and living expenses, allowing you to focus more on your studies without worrying about finances. If your expenses are still more than your income and you've cut back as much as possible, then getting a part-time job is a great option. If you can't do this, look at side hustles such as taking part in paid market research projects or becoming a mystery shopper or renting out your allocated parking space if you don't need it, for some extra income, but remember that you will have to pay tax if you earn too much.  You have to pay Income Tax if you earn more than £1,048 a month on average - this is your Personal Allowance and National Insurance if you earn more than £242 a week.


10. Plan Ahead for Big Expenses


Anticipate major expenses such as textbooks, course materials, and housing deposits, and plan for them in advance. Look for ways to reduce costs, such as buying used textbooks, sharing materials with classmates, or exploring rental options. By budgeting for these expenses ahead of time, you can avoid financial stress when the time comes to make significant purchases.


By implementing these financial strategies, you can achieve financial stability and make the most of your student experience in the UK. Remember to be mindful of your spending, take advantage of available discounts and rewards, and prioritise long-term financial health. With careful planning and discipline, you can navigate your student years with confidence and emerge financially secure, BUT if you mess up, and we've all been there, it's important not to bury your head in the sand! If you let it escalate, that's where you get into real trouble; speak to your parents or a college financial advisor/counsellor for advice and nip things in the bud; life is one big lesson, and you have to take the good with the bad! 




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