For many young people, going away to university represents their first independent steps into the financial world – and they can be overwhelming. Having to budget for food, bills, course materials and more can often leave many first-time students feeling depressed and overwhelmed. But it doesn’t need to be a challenge. With a little forethought and planning, it’s still possible to make even the tightest student budget stretch to cover everything you need.
Housing is an important consideration. While the all-inclusive option of student housing may seem like a great idea at first, removing the worry of bills and council tax, most student halls are now run by private companies that are profit-driven and don’t always represent the best deals. It’s worth investigating houseshares as an alternative; the rent is commonly around half the price of private student housing, and your household can work together to save energy and reduce bills. If you get along with your housemates, it’s also a great idea to cook communally. This saves a lot of money on your food bills, minimizes food waste and creates a great environment to live and work in too.
As well as saving money on where you live, an alternative approach can save you money on your course materials too. Check second hand bookshops for your required texts, or ask around on places like Freecycle or University message boards to see if any older students have texts they would be willing to part with for a discounted rates. These days, you can also find many important texts online, so check with your tutor if there is a cheaper way to access the material you need.
As a student, you’ll obviously want to spend some time socialising and having fun, but this doesn’t need to break the bank. Keep an eye on websites like Groupon and LivingSocial to find special deals at local restaurants and offers on nights out, and make the most of discounted students nights at local bars and clubs. You can also get great deals in local shops with your student ID, so make sure you have it with you at all times. Also, check out the fun things to do for free in your city. You’ll find museums, parks, historical sights, hiking and walking trails and plenty more to do that doesn’t cost a penny in every city.
Every student has a mobile phone, but do you really need to be spending the equivalent of a week’s food bill on a contract to get the latest iPhone? Instead, why not opt for an older model smart phone and pay half the price? Or, if you mostly use your phone for calls and texts, a pay-as-you-go tariff could be the best choice for you. Many networks let you order a free SIM card to try out their services, with plenty of deals available such as free texts and free calls to other users on the same network. For international students, check out a specialist service provider that offers discounted rates on calls to other countries. For example, networks like Lebara offer great opportunities for calling Pakistan cheaply, while others offer texts to places like India, China, Africa and Eastern Europe for as little as 10p per text.
Taking these first few steps into the world of finance can be scary at first, but with a little help and advice you’ll find yourself on your feet in no time at all.