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Surviving on your Student Loan

Budget during the first weeks of term

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When the next large chunk of your student loan (or grants) arrives in your bank account, before you head off on a shopping spree, make a budget. Find out how much you can expect to be paying in rent, utilities and for the internet and set this aside. If you have more than one bank account, use one to put this money in straight away, removing the temptation of such a large bank balance and showing you exactly how much you will have left to live on.

 

Set aside money for your weekly entertainment – but be realistic. If you start off by being too strict with yourself and keep going over budget you’re more likely to bury your head in the sand and ignore the budgeting altogether. There are also useful budgeting apps to download, most of them free. They can help you keep track of your day-to-day spending, and your bank balance.

 

You should definitely check out a local Freecycle group – you could find free laptops, TVs, bicycles and even a cheeky trampoline to jazz up the garden of your rented house (I’m sure the landlord won’t mind).

 

 

Plan meals in advance

 

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Buying in bulk and cooking from scratch is a no-brainer; non-perishable foods like pasta and rice are great to buy, they can form the base of many different meals and will last forever (well, almost). Equally important is not doing your weekly food shop while you’re hungry. Shopping on an empty stomach means the list goes out of the window – you impulse buy and often forget what you actually went for in the first place!

 

Walking to a morning lecture with friends, you’ll probably want to grab a coffee to perk you up, but be wary of this sort of habit! Shop bought coffee might be tastier than what you make at home, but it’s far more expensive too. It would be more prudent to invest in a flask and bring your caffeine fix with you from home (or even some soup for your lunch).

 

If you haven’t already, you really need to stop paying a premium price for branded products – especially when in most cases the quality is indistinguishable! Swap M&S for Aldi and Ketchup for Catsup to see you fridge fill up for half the price.

 

 

Don’t miss out on student discounts

 

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As you probably know, being a student makes you eligible for a ridiculous number of discounts. From a new dress at Topshop to your food shop at the Co-op, and even 25% off Odeon cinema tickets, an NUS Extra card can save you a bundle! This doesn’t mean you should go shopping crazy, but it does mean savings when you do go shopping.

 

You can even save on travelling home for a weekend with a 16-25 railcard, giving you up to a third off rail fares. Or if you have a car, why not offer seats to paying passengers using a ride-sharing service like BlaBlaCar? This allows you to claw back a third of your petrol costs for each person you take on board and you might even make some friends along the way!

 

 

Beat hidden course costs – buy second-hand

 

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Even once you’ve paid the £9,000 fees, your rent and your house’s bills, there will still be plenty of other hidden course costs; the main culprit being textbooks. Of the students we spoke to, the prices for a term’s books varied from £50 to £300! That’s £300 of your student loan stolen away in just one term! But there are ways around it.

 

Most universities will run second-hand book sales, but even if yours doesn’t, with amazon, eBay and AbeBooks online, you can usually get the books you need for a steal! You should also take the time to ask students who have done your modules before which texts you actually need to buy – sometimes suggested texts are hardly touched upon and even if they are relied upon, there may be plenty of copies in your university’s library.

 

 

& once you’re done: Sell, sell, sell

 

You should know from buying them that your textbooks are surprisingly valuable, so rather than leaving them to collect dust, head online or to a book sale to sell them on. Amazon to trade it in for a gift card. The same applies to those clothes you don’t wear any more!

 

 

Get paid to sit at a computer

 

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If you’re busy between your studies and societies and you can’t quite commit to a job, that doesn’t mean you can’t get paid. Try taking part in paid online surveys or market research focus groups. We all like talking about ourselves, so why not get paid for doing it? Studentbeans offer a small monetary incentive for completing surveys through them, Ipsos rewards users by offering vouchers from the likes of Amazon and John Lewis and if you have a little more time, a focus group like Saros will pay handsomely for a couple of hours of your time.

 

 

‘Pre-drinks’

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We’re not telling you to get drunk, that would be irresponsible, but since you’re a student you probably will anyway and you might as well do it in a cost-effective way. The best way to save money is to drink before you go out and to restrict the amount of money you take out with you. You can get your favourite poison from your local supermarket for a fraction of the price it would cost in a bar, and by only taking a limited amount of money out with you there is no risk of going all out and emptying your account in one night of boozing.