Student Money Saving Tips

15th January 2021
Two students in a shared kitchen laughing and chatting.

Learning to manage money is one of the less interesting things you’ll learn as a student, but it’s a skill that will set you up for life. Unless you’re one of the lucky few, you’ll need to balance the books throughout your life, without some of the generous discounts you get as a student.

That’s what this page is all about.

We’re going to share some actionable tips to help you save money as a student – many of which you can take with you after graduation and throughout the rest of your life.

So, without further ado, let’s get to those student money-saving tips!

Set a budget

We know, we know – budgeting is boring, but it’s also essential. You need to know how much money you have coming in and going out, so you can stay afloat.

This is an essential life skill and something you’ll take with you into the rest of your life. We still budget and we (sadly) stopped being students long ago!

The good news is that once you set up a budget, it takes very little maintenance to keep on top of it. It can also help prevent you leaving uni with more debt than you planned!

Use a free spreadsheet app, create a new sheet and add two columns. One column for income and one for outgoings.

List all your sources of income and add a total at the bottom. Add all your outgoings in the other column and add the total.

Subtract the outgoings from the income to (hopefully) see an excess you can use for discretionary spending.

If you end up with more going out than coming in, you can either get a job or identify areas where you can cut back without getting in the way.

Keep the budget going and update it once a week or month so you can see exactly where you are.

Save on council tax

If you’re not staying in halls or student accommodation, you may be asked to pay council tax. It’s an unfair tax but one we all have to pay. If you’re living with other students, make sure you’re not paying it.

If you’re a student living with other students, you don’t need to pay council tax. If you share a house with non-students, you still don’t need to pay it but non-students will.

Don’t let anyone tell you that you have to pay it as you don’t.

Get a student discount card

Some student discount cards are free while others you pay for. Assess what discounts you get with what card and decide which makes sense for you to get.

There are a huge range of student discounts available and some of them require a card, which is why we recommend getting one.

Think Unidays, Student Beans, Totum and ISIC (International Student Identity Card) and you’re on the right track.

If you’ll be travelling, consider the 16-25 railcard. It’s a simple way to save up to a third on rail travel but costs £30 for a year or £70 for 3 years.

Always look for student discounts

Most retailers, restaurants and other businesses within university towns offer some kind of student discount, so take advantage of them.

Many online retailers also offer student discounts, including some of the best known retailers. Use them shamelessly to score discounts on all of life’s essentials.

There’s no point paying full price when you don’t have to!

Shop around for your student bank account

Not all banks are created equal and neither are student bank accounts. Some are really good and offer fair terms and no fees. Others may look attractive with low fees and generous overdrafts but hide high interest rates once you’re no longer a student.

Shop around, compare deals and do your research before opening a student bank account.

Don’t worry if you make the wrong choice as you can always switch if you don’t like the bank you’re with!

An overdraft is a loan, not a gift

Yeah, we know you don’t want to hear it, but the student overdraft is an emergency fund designed to be there if you need it. It is not a cash gift from a friendly bank to help you on your way.

You will need to repay your overdraft at some point and the interest-free element won’t last forever.

If you do need to use your overdraft, use it. Don’t go without just so you don’t dip into it. But don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s free money…because it isn’t.

Compare and switch to save on bills

If you’re not living in halls or somewhere that’s all-inclusive, you’ll be expected to pay (or contribute to) bills. Despite the uncertainty in the market, you can still compare energy prices, broadband, mobile phone contracts and most other bills.

Use comparison websites and check your options. Make sure to use more than one comparison website too, as they all have arrangements with the companies they promote.

Don’t buy new books

Never buy new books unless you have to. If a new version of a book or study text has come out with substantial changes or revisions, you may have no choice, otherwise, buy used.

Some universities will organise book sales where students sell off the books they no longer need. This is an excellent way to get hold of the books for cheap.

Otherwise, there are second-hand book shops in town, on eBay and other online stores that sell used textbooks.

Make your own coffee

Coffee is a huge part of student life, but it doesn’t have to bankrupt you.

There are times when buying a coffee with friends is the right thing to do. There are also times when making your own and taking it to class or to the park in a flask can help save you money.

Even a couple of coffees a week saved could mean an extra £200-300 per year extra in your account.

For the price of a good flask, coffee maker and some coffee, that’s a no-brainer!

Use free software

Unless you need specific applications for class, there are free versions of most popular software out there. Use it to save big.

Free office applications, free image editors, free video editors, video players, antivirus, malware scanners and more.

Don’t be tempted to use illegal software as there really is no need. There are free versions for just about everything, so choose carefully and save a lot of money!

Don’t panic about debt

Debt isn’t a good thing but it’s part of modern student life. Be careful with money and keep debt to a minimum and you’ll be fine.

If you do get into financial trouble, talk to someone. Debt is part of life. We all have it and sometimes, we all need a little help with it.

There’s no shame in asking for help or wanting to talk to someone about it. Life is too short to carry that kind of burden alone, so talk to a friend, sibling, parent or student counsellor but don’t worry about it.

There’s a lot of help to be had if you need it, including our Student Advice Line from our partners at Health Assured. From stress and depression to financial issues and coping, we offer professional support to help you with any problems you may face. The phone line is open day and night, 365 days a year and everything you discuss is kept confidential, so there’s nothing to worry about.