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The biggest worry for any student is balancing the books, which, in the confusing world of loans and grants, is a significant challenge. However, there are many tricks and tips that can help students save money and stay frugal while still having a good time at university.
To begin with, it is important to keep an eye on your spending. At the start of the term, your bank balance may look like a world of opportunity, but if you don’t keep track of things, you’ll quickly find money trickling out of your hands, leaving you drowning in your overdraft. Either keep a weekly or monthly budget, or make a note of what you’re spending and where so that you can adjust and balance as necessary. It may also help to categorise your spending, which can be split into five general categories, as explored below.
This may not be the most exciting way to spend your money, but unfortunately food is a necessity of life. It may be tempting to nip to Sainsbury’s once a week to avoid the long walk around time, but you may find that you’re spending a lot more than someone who shops around. While the free Sainsbury’s bus from campus each week is a fantastic thing to take advantage of, it doesn’t stop you looking in each supermarket for the best deals. Another tip is to make sure to never go shopping when you’re hungry. You will end up spending a ridiculous amount of money on impulse buys, which can quickly eat into your bank balance.
While you’re shopping, be sure to check out apps such as Quidco, who offer cashback for purchases that you make on the high street, including day-to-day items, such as milk. If you have an NUS Extra card (which is absolutely worth the small fee), don’t forget that The Co-op will offer you 10% off of your shop.
If you’re happier to order food in rather than go out and drag a handful of bags back to your flat, try checking out Approved Food. They offer food at discounted prices because they are nearing their ‘best before’ dates, but are still completely safe to eat. Delivery is around six pounds, but holds up to 25kg of food, so this may be an option where your whole flat can chip in together.
You should also check out the market on campus held once a week. They offer great quality food at affordable prices and even the atmosphere of walking through the market is a treat. Just try not to spend too much money on the cakes!
If you’re on campus all day, it can be tempting to pick up food while you’re there, or to grab a meal deal every day. £3 may seem like a small spend each day, but it very quickly adds up. You’d be better making your lunch at home and taking it with you. Not only will it save money, but you get complete control over what you’re eating that day.
It’s a well-known fact that academic books are extremely expensive and will eat up a large chunk of your loan, but they don’t have to.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that you have to buy everything off of your reading list, as you will probably find that your lecturers upload set texts each week. Some other books may only be used for one or two seminars, never to be opened again. The best thing to do is to make use of the library. It is currently being renovated and holds a huge collection of books, though be aware that some of the more popular ones are only available on a 24 hour loan.
For books that you absolutely need to buy, check Facebook pages for ex-students selling off their old copies, as well as websites such as eBay and Amazon. Again, if you have an NUS Extra card, Amazon will offer an extra 5% off of any books that they sell. If you join Amazon Prime for £39 per year, you get free next-day delivery, which means that you can order a book and have it in time for the next day’s lecture.
If you’re anything like me, you will be tempted to spend the remainder of your loan on a brand new wardrobe, but it really isn’t worth spending the rest of term living on beans on toast.
Lancaster have a brand new Primark opening up, which is well known for having cheap clothes.
Again, shopping online could save you a lot of money as well, with popular websites such as Boohoo and Asos offering great deals and a nice student discount. Most shops that you find on the street will have an online sale, which can save a penny or two.
Another favourite website is Everything5Pounds, which, as the name suggests, has everything on sale for £5. From tops to dresses and jackets, you can end up saving a small fortune on that new wardrobe.
The best way to save money on a night out is to pre-drink. With such a large choice of bars on campus, it may seem easy to pop along before heading into town for the clubs, and they do offer some great deals, but it will always be cheaper to buy your own drinks and start at home. Not only will it save money, but it’s much easier to talk to others and play a whole host of drinking games in the comfort of your own kitchen.
In terms of saving money while you’re out, doubles are much cheaper than single measures of drink and make sure to keep an eye on what offers the clubs are hosting on the night that you’re out.
If you’re at Sugar, make use of the free Sugar bus on the night which will take you back to campus, or if you do get a taxi, make sure to share with a group of friends heading to the same place.
If everyone in your house uses Amazon regularly, it is worth purchasing Amazon Prime together. It gives you free one-day delivery, exclusive deals and Prime Video, which is a strong contender for websites such as Netflix.
As well as streaming shows, if you don’t watch live television often and can wait for things to appear on catch up rather than watching an episode the moment it’s aired, don’t bother buying a TV license. If you do, then remember that you can get a refund on the quarter of the year that you’re not at university.
Lancaster also offer students free access to Vision, which has 30 live TV channels and over 15000 on demand programmes.
The campus is huge and great for a jog or run, meaning that you don’t necessarily have to fork out for a gym membership. It is also great exercise to grab a ball and go down to the fields around campus with a group of friends. It’s free and you can do it whenever you like, rather than having to book a pitch.
For everything else, the Purple Card provided by the Student Union can give great deals and discounts around Lancaster, though many students claim that they don’t use them for anything other than joining societies around the year, so it may be worth holding off and figuring out whether it is personally worth it for you before buying one. You can do this by checking the Purple website or the Pocket Lancaster app for all the offers. New deals get added regularly, particularly savings at the LUSU shop.
In general, keep an eye out for sales, bulk buy things that you can, such as pasta, and make sure that you keep a note on how much you have spent and how much you have left over. Money is a stressful topic for all students, but it doesn’t have to be painful if you stay sensible. You don’t have to give up little treats and having fun outside of university, but make sure you keep on top of your spending. An overdraft doesn’t stay interest-free forever.