How to save while you're a student

29 February 2024


Rosie Murphy
Rosie Murphy
Student looking at their wallet

The student years should be some of the best of your life. However, the fun can be cut short if you are worried about stretching your money. Any savings are in high demand with likes of social activities, train tickets, course materials, food shopping and rent all adding up.

Uni really throws you in at the budget deep end, and handling all of this and being away from home for the first time can be a real challenge.

Thankfully, it’s not all doom and gloom. With a little know-how and some money savvy tips, it is possible to study and save, meaning you don’t have to turn down every social event.

With the help of our tips, you can change the way you look at student spending.

Try cooking with your flatmates

After a long day of lectures, cooking can be the very last thing on your mind. Home cooked meals are an easy way to limit spending waste and ensure you are well fed after a busy day. Eating out isn’t entirely off the cards, we all need a night away from the pans every now and then but they should be reserved for special occasions.

Try teaming up with flatmates for cooking and shopping tasks to share the load. Sit down at the start of the week and hash out a meal plan. This way, you can save money by completing one full shop for everyone to contribute to, rather than six individual food shops. Working together to cook hearty meals is a great way to socialise with the people you live with, and prevents you getting into the habit of eating alone in your room.

Make a shopping list and stick to it

If the social aspect of uni life doesn’t appeal to you, or you just haven’t gelled with your flatmates — don’t worry! It doesn’t need to be forced in the name of saving. You can plan a weekly menu for yourself and save money by bulk cooking cheap, easy meals to get you through the week. Your freezer will be your best friend, as it can help you keep said food for much longer.

When shopping, always make a list of exactly what you need before heading out. This means you will be less tempted to make impulse purchases. Never go shopping when you’re hungry or without a plan! It is not wise as you will be more tempted to leave with items you don’t need.

Taking time to find the best deals is a must. You’ll quickly find that own brand labels offer the best value, and if you go shopping after six o’clock, you might be able to nab those reduced labels! Granted this does typically mean that the items have a shorter use-by date, however the food is still in good condition and can always be frozen to use at a later date.

Take advantage of discounted student travel

If you are living in a new city, travel costs are guaranteed to make a big dent in your savings, especially if you plan on visiting home on a semi-regular basis. Trying to make these journeys as cheap as possible means you can avoid your travel plans breaking the bank.

Coach travel is not renowned for taking the fastest routes, but they do tend to be scenic. If you don’t mind life in the slower lane then why not consider applying for a National Express Young Persons Coachcard, you can save a good chunk of money and may even have time to get some work done on your travels. Or, if you prefer to travel by train, the 16–25 Railcard is a great way to get up to a third off your rail fares and keep costs down.

Shop wisely for course materials

Textbooks are expensive when bought brand new. Buying second hand copies can be an easy way to get a considerable discount off the retail price. Universities often resell the textbooks used by ex-students, however there are many online options if this is not the case including World of Books, Abe Books and We Buy Books. You may not need to buy some of them at all, as often university libraries are bursting with useful resources in physical copies and online versions.

Chipping in with course mates and sharing copies is another way to save money. This could be useful during shared study sessions in the library.

Pick up part-time work or a side hustle

Working a part time job around your studies can be an easy way to earn without putting too much time pressure on yourself. You may be able to find part-time work within your university, such as working in the library, assisting lab research and conducting campus tours. However, you can also find a role outside of uni, with many employers offering part-time hours that you can fit around lectures. Just take care not to take on anything that will negatively impact your studies!

What about a side hustle? You could start selling your old belongings on the likes of Vinted or eBay to make back some money. Take part in some paid survey or freelance work for an easy way to earn remotely. Or even create and sell your own products online or in person. Read our blog post on side hustles ideas for even more inspiration.

Save on your social life

Students, when their noses aren’t in textbooks, need some time to decompress and socialise. Fitting this around student events is a great way to have a good time while keeping the cost down. Uni events often offer discounted entry, drinks and food to ease the cost of a night out.

Socialising doesn’t always require the effort of leaving the flat either. Organising themed socials or games nights in your halls or round your flat is a great way to save money, meet people and not having to worry about taxi fares.

Uni life is a hard adjustment to make and may be the first time you have had to properly budget, but there are plenty of ways to minimise the pressure.

Need somewhere to stash away the money you manage to save? Our Instant Saver is a good shout. You can add and withdraw money instantly, while also earning interest.

Saving doesn’t mean sacrificing fun, we hope you have taken some tips from this advice and wish you all the best in your university adventures.