How to live on a student budget and still have fun
While student life is notorious for both disciplined studying and wild nights out, excelling at this one aspect of student living is essential for life – The Art of Being Broke. Most students have only a tiny budget to live off of. Even with student loans, parents support or part-time jobs, students often find themselves short on cash. In this blog, I hope to show you a few ways to save some money while still having a fun and rewarding university experience.
Wait to buy textbooks
While it is tempting, especially as a first-year student, to buy your textbooks as soon as the reading list is realised – WAIT. I cannot tell you how many times I either never used the textbook or saw it online for way cheaper. My advice? Wait until about the second or third class to get a textbook. By then you will be able to tell whether you actually will use it. Additionally, some classes have multiple required textbooks, in that case, I have often found that getting only one or two of them is sufficient for the course. If you do end up needing the textbook be smart about it. Tons of schools have places to buy or sell textbooks second hand, Amazon is another great place to look for textbooks to and sometimes is you’re lucky the full textbook might be available online for free.
Ditch public or private transport
In many university towns taking Ubers or buses is simply unnecessary. In Cardiff, this is certainly true. Why pay for a bus or Uber when you could easily walk or bike to class? Not only will it help your wallet but also your health. For nights out especially, try walking to the pub and then getting an Uber or taxi back. This saves you money and also lets you have more time to bond with your friends on the walkover. Invest in a small pocket umbrella so that even if it’s raining (which does happen quite often) you are still prepared to stretch your legs and be your own transportation for the day.
Plan your meals
I cannot stress the importance of this one enough. When you don’t know what you are going to eat you will often a) reach for something unhealthy and b) reach for something more expensive. At the beginning of the week choose a handful of meals that you want to make. I often go for yogurt and granola in the mornings, soup or sandwiches for lunch and then pasta or curry for dinner. Picking a handful of meals for the week means that you can stop impulse spending on healthy and often unsatisfying food. This is not to say that you can’t go and get a MacDonalds after a night out (I am a fan of a Mayo Chicken too, especially at 2am). It does mean, however, that you both anticipate this craving and plan it into your meals. If 5/7 days you eat meals you made yourself then you are allowed to splurge a little on the other 2.
Plan your entertainment for the week
A common misconception about students is that they are so overwhelmed with school that they do not have time for themselves. While this may be true for some, most students I know have plenty of time to go out, hang with friends and shop. I completely support students making the most of their free time, but if you want to stick to your budget; plan ahead. By a couple weeks in you will know how many times you will go out, or buy coffee. If you go out on nights often – try to buy your alcohol in bulk, if you get a coffee every morning from Starbucks – get their app and collect points. Most places in the UK also have great student discounts; all you have to do is ask. Just the other day I was in Topshop and got an extra 10% off clothes that were already on sale just by showing my student card. Whatever little extras get you through the week try and find ways to save money.
Set a budget
The most important part of this is to try and set a budget. It can be as strict or lenient as you want, or as expensive or frugal as needed. For reference, in Cardiff, most friends and fellow students of mine have budgets of around 30-60£ a week. Pick an amount and see how that works for you and adjust as needed. Just make sure the amount you choose is feasible for your income. Additionally, track your spending and try and ensure it stays within your budget. To do this you can make a spreadsheet, write it in a journal or look at your bank statements at the end of each week. If one week you spend a little more and the next a little less that is totally fine. The point of budgeting is to make you aware of your spending habits in relation to how much you have to spend.
Most important tip?
Plan time to spoil yourself a little and try not to be too hard on yourself. University is stressful enough as it is. Don’t beat yourself up over going a little over budget or splurging on a nice brunch one day. It is important to care for yourself and your needs. If you wanna go for a nice coffee shop breakfast one day go for it. When you plan in indulgences and allow yourself a nice treat once in a while then you will be less likely to go overboard the following week. So go out and enjoy, you only do university once after all.