One of the main aims of my blog is to help people see that you can live well on a student budget. My student loan came in last Friday night/Saturday morning so right now my bank account – along with thousands of other students’ across the country – looks very healthy.
This doesn’t mean that is okay to go and book a cheeky holiday though. If you are living in halls, then that temptation is easily remedied as your uni will almost certainly have taken practically all your money to pay for this terms’ rent. It is harder for those of us living off campuses as private companies/landlords generally take rent by the month.
So, to make sure that your money lasts long enough that you can pay rent until the next instalment comes in, here are a few tips to help stretch that loan/grant out:
- Sit and plan a menu the night before you do your weekly shop. I always do my shopping on a Saturday morning so I make sure to take time out to write myself a menu for the next week on Friday night. I start by working out what commitments I have for the evenings so I can decide if I need a quick meal or I can make something that takes a little extra effort. From that, you can write a shopping list to take with you the next day. There have been loads of scientific studies that prove conclusively that you will spend less if you have a shopping list as it stops you from wandering aimlessly and picking up things that you don’t really need.
- Before you go shopping, do a rough calculation as to how much you think your week’s shop will cost. When you are going around the supermarket, try and keep a tally in your head and see if it matches your original guesstimate. I know that generally I will spend between £5 and £10 on a shop, and my in-store counts are often pretty accurate. I also pay for my weekly shop in cash. This might seem a strange thing, but I find that having to turn over physical money makes me far less likely to overspend. Just waving a card over a machine doesn’t feel as real and it is easy to spend more doing this.
- Check your cupboards, fridge and freezer to make sure you don’t buy something you already have a lot of. That might seem like an obvious thing to say, but if you don’t look at what you’ve got then you may end up wasting money on food that will go off before you eat it. There is absolutely nothing worse than wasting food.
- Talk to your flat mates and see if you can split the cost of things like toilet roll, cleaning fluids, washing up liquid etc etc. There is no point in having three bottles of the same thing sitting around and getting used when you can share the cost between people or buy one for the flat to use and then let someone else pay for the replacement.
- Think about getting an ISA. Lots of banks will do ISAs with a reasonably small interest rate and, whilst that might not sound great, it means that large sums of money will be out of your main account so you are less likely to spend huge amounts on something you wanted to buy on a whim. Truthfully, I don’t know much about how ISAs or saving accounts work but I know that I have an ISA, I get a few pounds of interest and it stops me from wasting the money. I have enough in there to cover my rent and when my loan comes in I can transfer it over easily and keep it safe.
- Keep a simple Excel spreadsheet so you can see exactly what you are spending money on. It isn’t necessary but I find it very useful.
- Don’t invite a friend around to watch Strictly Come Dancing and then book a ticket to see Brendan Cole in the local theatre. I am not saying that you shouldn’t do this, after all I did it myself, but it isn’t the best way to save money. That being said, life is boring if you don’t indulge yourself and money really is only there to be spent. Since I don’t go out drinking, I figure that I have the cash to spare and I am actually very excited for February to come around.
Uni is about learning how to balance all aspects of life, in my opinion. All work and no play will only lead to sadness and that not something I fancy facing. There are hundreds of other ways to save money (coupons, joining mailing lists, freebies – there are lots of websites for all this) but really you just need to be sensible. If you want a bar of chocolate or a bag of crisps, buy them. You don’t want to hold out on things you really want as it will only make you depressed! It’s only going to be another few pounds.
Just keep calm, think about how badly you need something and have a great day!