How To Live Your Best Life On A Student Budget
Usually around now for new Undergrads, the transcendent ideal of a student loan finds its place in reality, and you may realise that respective of rent and outgoings you're left with very little. For some, you may even be in a deficit.
I was one of those people and have been ever since; I go to uni in one of the most expensive areas in the country and only qualify for a medium amount of loan, so after paying rent and bills I'm left with nothing. But this isn't a sob story. In my first two years of uni, I managed to self-fund two week-long holidays abroad, countless Premier Inn stays, day trips to London nearly every month, three tickets to separate concerts and my first ever designer bag, all without coming close to my overdraft. Here's how you can too.
1. Dedicate your pre-university summer and holidays to working.
I won't lie, it's not fun to work long hours in the hot weather, but when you have such a long period of time with no course commitments (except a bit of pre-uni reading,) you'd be mad not to. In my first year of Uni I didn't work at all in term-time, but the company I worked for was really good to me and let me keep my job for the holidays, and any time I was home really. It was perfect for me, I settled into Uni life very naturally, but was eager to work when the holidays rolled around to have some money coming in. Now I have a job in term-time but I'm comfortable with balancing my course and spare time, I'd only advise it once you are too.
2. Keep necessary outgoings in a separate bank account.
Whether it's one you don't really use or a new one you've decided to open, your student loan will be much easier to keep track of if it's not mixed in with your current account. Picture the scene: Euphoric that an amount of money you've never seen before has just graced your bank balance, you accidentally splurge on a Vitamix, a whole new wardrobe and Domino's 15 days in a row. Suddenly, you're trying to calmly tell your mum that you can't pay your rent and well on your way to getting scurvy. My advice? As soon as the money appears, put it away. Work out exactly how much you need for rent and bills before you even touch it.
3. If you want something, start saving for it EARLY.
Whether it's a new laptop or a holiday, get the wheels in motion as soon as you can. Even if it's just putting away the tenner you didn't spend on a night out, (hey, it's already out of your bank account!) you've worked towards it. Lets face it, even if you save up the money and don't end up buying it, it's there for you to treat yourself to something else. Another good way of saving without really noticing is a £2 jar!
4. Ask for student discount on everything.
Except your rent. But for everything else, just do it.
5. Learn what you can do socially for a reasonable price.
One of my favourites is bowling, and most bowling alleys do student offers which allow you to play 2 games for £5-£10. That's the same price as a cocktail.
6. Shop in Primark, and ask for clothes shop vouchers for your birthday.
It might not be appropriate for your Christmas Ball attire, but for the basics, you really can't beat Primark. I'm talking socks, underwear, loungewear, pyjamas- even some of the shoes and bags! Watch Primark hauls on YouTube for inspiration. If designer items are something you want, again, save hard for them. Your impulse purchase Gucci cardholder will look far less impressive if your card gets declined.
7. Learn to like Lambrini.
£1.50 for a 75cl bottle, and it's 7.5%.
8. Factor travelling home into your budget.
If you experience homesickness, not having the money to go home will exasperate the problem. Keep a little extra aside in case you need it, you never know.
9. If you can't live without Netflix, get a joint account with your flatmates.
You won't even notice you're paying for it.
10. If you can't afford something, don't be afraid to turn it down.
It's so important to make lots of memories at uni and I advocate spending money on that, however if it isn't going to be a good use of your funds, say no. You don't have to be at the bottom of your overdraft for this either. As an undergrad, you mostly feel like a child that's been hurtled into adulthood, (bumping your head on the way,) but finding your financial security will be a vital step in that transition.
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