Balancing finances at university has always been the main challenge for students around the world, but recent studies have shown that over 80% of students in the UK are struggling financially because of Covid-19.
While the vaccination campaign has started to yield the first results, the way out of the pandemic is still long, and the next academic years are bound to be even more challenging than the previous ones. At the same time, life goes on and students are returning to campus once again in just over a month.
With so much happening around the world today, planning has never been so important to overcome challenges such as reduced budgets, lack of side hustles, and increased expenses. Here are 12 tips to consider to prepare yourself- and your wallet – for the upcoming academic year.
Make a Budget and Track Your Spending
Undeniably, signing up for a degree course is a major investment for your future – and you are likely to see the return you are counting on. However, at the moment, you have to face current challenges – which include spending your savings wisely.
For this, it is vital to create a weekly and monthly budget to stick to. In your budget, you should allow for your main expenses, which include rent, food, and essentials – such as fuel for your car. But don’t forget that you are likely to spend more on covering the cost of social events and entertainment.
So, make sure to make allowances for night-outs, shopping trips, and coffee! With mobile banking, tracking your expenses has never been easier, especially because you can review what you have spent at all times.
Find Financial Support
If you require financial support, your university is the best place to ask for it. Whether that comes in the form of grants, loans, or government help, you can find plenty of free money. Make sure to speak to your university about the bursaries and scholarships they make available to their students.
While some more popular scholarships will receive a high number of applicants, you can find less-known initiatives that can still benefit you financially. You might need to invest some time in completing the various applications, but it is certainly worth it!
Eat at Home and Plan Your Meals
Eating out can seem incredibly convenient at first – especially when you have several deadlines, assignments, and appointments to juggle. After all, all you need to do is get a cheap burger and fries to get you through the day! However, eating out – even at inexpensive fast foods – can add up at the end of the week.
Alternatively, eating at home can help you cut down on your budget and look after your health. With the right meal plan, you can save money and time while also working towards your health goals.
Know Where To Shop
Whether it is about your food or your clothes, some stores and brands are much more student-friendly than others. For example, charity shops and discount stores can help you find all the essentials you need, without having to spend a small fortune.
If you really cannot give up branded clothes and items, make sure to check your local vintage, second-hand, and charity shops. You are bound to find the right deals at a convenient price.
If there are no affordable or cheap stores near your accommodation, opt for own-brand products, online shopping alternatives, local farmers markets, and second-hand marketplaces.
Make Coffee at Home
For students, coffee is just as important as water… or oxygen! When trying to juggle several deadlines and assignments while also nurturing a healthy social life, coffee is the one thing that keeps you going. And, of course, there is nothing better than a barista-standard latte or cappuccino to start the day.
However, a £2 coffee every day can quickly add up at the end of the academic year. Instead, opt for high-quality instant coffee or, if you don’t want to give up on the best blend, on a second-hand coffee machine. It will still be cheaper than heading to a Starbucks every day! Don’t forget to buy a reusable coffee cup to enjoy your coffee on the way to lectures.
Impulse-buy can be disastrous for a budget-conscious student. We all love to look at storefronts and, occasionally, we find the one coat or jacket we have always dreamed of. However, a single purchase can impact your whole weekly budget and make it more difficult for you to recover financially. Instead, take note of what item caught your eye and look for cheaper second-hand alternatives.
You might also find some cheaper alternatives online.
All this is also true when you are shopping at the supermarket. Salads and soups don’t make for the meal every student dreams of, but they are cheap and nourishing. Make sure to shop once a week and avoid late-night trips into a 24\7 Tesco to top up your drawer with crisps and chocolate.
Learn About Student Discounts
Almost every brand provides students discounts. From clothes to food shopping, personal hygiene, and home essentials, you can benefit from low prices on a wide range of products. The secret is in finding the stores, brands, and chains that offer these discounts!
Find Free Things To Do in the Area
Whether you are staying at the university campus or your university is in a city, there is plenty of entertainment and opportunities to leverage with your group of friends. Of course, pubs, bars, and clubs can be appealing choices to fill a Friday or Saturday night.
And, undeniably, that is how you are going to spend some of your weekends! However, there are also plenty of options for free or low-cost fun. From going to museums, open-air markets and fairs, alternative cinemas, and local gigs, there is a lot you can do with your peers.
Check Out Virtual Side Hustle Opportunities
Increasing your income is just as important as avoiding spending money. However, as a student, you are bound to have limited time to spend working at a cafe or a bar. Ideally, you should check for the opportunities made available by the local student union, as they understand your needs as a student.
However, alternatively, it is worth checking out local bars and restaurants and the part-time jobs they advertise. Lastly, if you don’t have the means to go and come back from a workplace, you might consider making money online through virtual side jobs.
Invest in the Right Student Accommodation
As we have seen above, there are many aspects of your life as a student where you should cheap out. However, your accommodation should not fall into this category. There are many student accommodation options that are affordable enough to avoid weighing on your finances.
However, in most of these cases, you will have to share facilities and deal with noisy neighbors and flatmates. Yet, the best student lets offer a completely different experience. You can find a room that is clean, healthy, inspiring, and suitable for hours of studying and concentrating. Make sure to know what accommodation options are worth investing in!
Leverage Budgeting Apps
When it comes down to managing your finances, technology can help. With the right budgeting apps, you can track your spending and create a precise and convenient budget for your needs. If you wish to create a stricter schedule or you struggle to remember all of your expenses, make sure to connect the budgeting app of your choice to your mobile banking for a seamless experience.
Fight Food Waste and Save on Food
Initiatives such as TooGoodToGo are a great way to save the food that restaurants and supermarkets will throw away at the end of the day. With just a few pounds, you can get a full bag of high-quality, healthy goods. This app is only one of the many alternatives out there – just make sure to spend some time searching for the best one in your area.