Grand title, huh? I looked up “thrift” in my trusty OED, and this is what it said. Now students may not be responsible for a whole country’s budget, but they still need to be careful. While I would never say that a uni degree is a waste of 3+ years, dropping out part way through because you can no longer afford it is – you’re worse of then than if you’d never started the course in the first place. Although can’t give you ultimate ideas that will leave you millions of pounds better off when you graduate, what I can do is tell you how I manage to get by.BANKING
Last year I opened as many student bank accounts as I could, with the sole purpose of making money. I did not ask for credit cards or overdrafts with most of them and so they were happy enough to take me on board. Doing this earned me over £180 in cash (and some vouchers too), and most importantly did not upset my credit rating. Now I have one main current account into which my salary and student loan are paid. This comes with an interest and fee free overdraft of £1000 this year (gets more as I get older) which is enough for me. Overdrafts are important – last year I lived out of mine and invested any extra money I had. In summer I paid it all off and started again. Credit cards are also handy, although I would never recommend more than one. I use mine not for extra money, but because I get cash back points on it. It is with the same people as my current account, and I have a direct debit set up so I never miss a payment (or have to pay interest). It’s fee free and useful to have even just for when travelling as it incurs now charges when using abroad as, for example, withdrawing money on my switch card does.I also have an e-savings account with Nationwide, which I would thoroughly recommend. It’s as good as an ISA for me interest wise, and I don’t need the tax-free bonus since I don’t pay tax. It is almost instant access – basically it takes up to 24 hours to transfer money from there to my flex account with them, from where it can then be withdrawn. For me this is great as it means I have to think before I buy, but can have the money the next day if I desperately need it.
STUDENT LOANSNot all that much, and a pain since they’re not grants so you will have to pay them back, I still have one even though I don’t *need* one. Mine is invested (what can I say – I like it when my money makes money) which is a good idea if you have enough money to live off any way – it’s cheap enough to borrow (current rate approx 2% ) so any account paying 4%+ means you’re on your way to making some money from it.
ACCOMMODATIONIf you live in halls, you might well be given the option to pay monthly rather than termly. Unless you have a permanent job, don’t do this. I did last year and I was ok (since I was working) but some of my friends found that come the middle of the semester, they were running low on money having used their loans for, well, other things. You never want to be in the situation where you have real trouble paying for your room / rent, so if possible, pay in 3 instalments which usually coincide with your loan (usually a few weeks after to account for delays) or even better, pay for the whole year up front and benefit from a prompt payment discount.
TRAVELStudent railcards are currently £18 and valid for 15 months. If you live far away from uni and can see yourself going home a lot, or have to make long distance trips, these are great. Today I had to book a ticket to London for next week. Now although the organisation are paying for this, since they are a charity we’ve been asked to keep costs down. I was being asked for £127 for the return trip, but by deciding to get a railcard they reduced it to £29. In my book anyway, that’s a big difference. Being a student doesn’t mean you can’t travel abroad – look at me, I’ve done 6 countries in the last 6 months – as long as you are sensible and plan in advance – usit and sta both offer great deals to students throughout the year, and there’s usually a branch of one of them very near your uni.
STUDENT DISCOUNTSThese are available everywhere, from shops to restaurants to clubs to cinema. If in doubt, ask, smile nicely and you might just get your way. Examples in Manchester include 50% off bills in a restaurant (valid for up to 4 people per student card, so take your friends / family), cinema tickets for half adult price (and cheaper than kids’ too), millions of free drinks all over the place etc. Get your hands on a Snapfax if you’re in a city that has one – these are £3 to buy (or free from Freshers’ fairs) and offer local discounts and freebies. Many offers require student id, but if you are not automatically a member of the NUS (some unis, like mine, opt out) don’t bother paying to join. See how widely your uni’s card is accepted (mine was fine in Austria :-) and if you really need a new one, opt for ISIC – same price, universally accepted with lots of extras (cheap flights, hotels, guide books) too.
SHOPPINGShop in sales whenever possible. Or get a job in a shop which gives you a discount (just make sure it’s a suitable place – one of my friends works on Deansgate in a lovely posh shop which is great apart from their stock – you can’t wear saucepans after all…). Best of all, get a job in a shop which gives you a discount off sale prices (and being staff you get to find out about sales weeks in advance – always handy). Do not shop in union shops unless you have to – the ones near here anyway are sooooo much more expensive than, say, Tesco or WH Smiths. While I wouldn’t recommend breaking the law, there’s a fine line between stealing and taking what you are allowed to – want food? Head over to your department’s office and stock up on biscuits etc. Want something to read? Clubs (esp Gay Village ones) have some fascinating leaflets on offer – you should have seen us all last year, filling out bags with anything that had useful tips “Safe cruising” – just what we needed or funny pictures….. Pick up free uni magazines and newspapers, and try and get your hands on a complimentary student guide if possible (filled with useful advice and handy vouchers)
INTERNETUnlimited net access is free at the majority of universities so make the most of it. Use comparison websites like kelkoo.com for best bargains, and check out online 2nd hand textbook shops too. If you shop with a friend or too, even with postage prices amazon etc can work out a lot cheaper than Waterstones or Books etc. Oh and sign up for dooyoo etc if you haven’t already and make some money that way while honing your writing skills.
FRESHERS’ FAIRSThe first week (or in our case 2 days) of uni is spent in these wonderful inventions. They might have been invented so you could join clubs, sign up with societies and register with doctors, but that’s not the only thing they’re good for – and they’re not just for Freshers either, everyone is welcome as the majority of 2nd, 3rd and 4th years know, and free stuff just keeps on flowing. This year, despite working on a stand and so having less time to look, I managed to collect enough free crisps, beer, energy drinks, sweets and pasta sauce to last me a few weeks – pity I don’t like any of them, although they’ve proved very useful for bribing people with ;-) Oh and if like me you live in a city with more than one uni, go to their fairs too – no one knows / cares, and you get double the free stuff.
Overall, there are lots of ways to make the most of limited funds – the one I can’t stress enough is don’t throw money away – set up direct debits for everything so you don’t get penalised, always ask about discounts, and nick everything you’re allowed to, wherever you go.
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