Being a student and still having money. (It’s possible!)

One of the first things people think of when they hear the word “student” is being poor…I did too. And I’m not about to tell you all that with a good bit of budgeting, there’s a way to be taking weekend trips on brand new yachts and buying pet horses – there isn’t (at least, not with just your student loan to live off!) – but I am going to give you a few tips on how to not feel as though you never have any money.

Here it is:

You’ve just arrived at University, unpacked and ready to go. You’ve got a nice chunk of money in the bank, courtesy of Student Finance, but now comes knowing what to do with it. So, what’s it to be? Go crazy and buy a new computer? Book a ski trip for the Christmas holidays? Save it for rent and use what’s left for food? I hope you know the right answer to this…

Book a ski trip, obvs. No, that’s a joke.

On a more serious note, budgeting is one of the trickiest things to do at University, especially when you know that all of your friends are going for a night out and for you it’s a case of joining them or having food in your cupboards. But with a bit of sensible budgeting (yes, it’s that dreaded word: ‘sensible’!), there’s no reason you can’t do both.

What first?

I’d advise making a simple expenses sheet. Whether this be hand written or on a computer (much easier to edit), you need it to show first how much money you have, and then all your regular expenses/things you know you need to pay out i.e. rent, food, equipment etc. Then you can see how much you have to spend (whoop!). Simple! If you do digital expenses, then you can set it up so that each time you add an expense, it will automatically up date how much you have left. Boring, boring, but very useful. Google is an amazing tool for learning how to make one of these.

But now comes the age-old complaint: I don’t have enough money. In most circumstances, what this actually means is: I’m spending more than I have.

So, how do you make more?

This is really just a more attractive way of saying, “how do I save more?”, but it basically means the same thing. Some of my friends were lucky enough to live off the Bank of Mum & Dad, but I wasn’t, which is why I’m writing this post. It’s unfortunate, but what you have to do if you’re in the same boat as me is to try and get a job. It’s the easiest and most rewarding way to earn a bit of spare cash. It doesn’t have to be many hours, just enough to keep you going. (McDonald’s is an excellent employer, and there are a few dotted around town – just sayin’).

It might take a bit of time, but there are also normally shops and restaurants hiring all through the year. Let me tell you: these places love students. Coventry University also regularly advertises jobs for us guys, and these are nice and flexible around your studies.

There are other ways of making your money stretch, and these are through deals and freebies. The first relates specifically to Coventry University students: the IKEA Family Card – a card that can get you cheaper items, food and free coffee in the Restaurant during the week. The best thing about this is that there’s an IKEA slap-bang in the centre of Coventry. Take advantage!

Getting an NUS card is also a good way to go, as it can get you discounts on everything from travel to food. For example, when buying a (medium) meal at McDonalds, you can get a free McFlurry/small fries/cheeseburger if you have your card on you, and it can also get you cheaper cinema tickets – so don’t forget it. Another thing that’ll allow you to watch a movie on the cheap is an Orange sim card for 2 for 1 Wednesdays, though most of you probably know about this already.

The next tip: keep an eye out for anywhere that has a free loyalty/club card: Tesco, Nectar, Boots, Costa and more. Get one! You never know when this might come in handy, and the saying is true: you don’t get something for nothing (… except with IKEA, I suppose). With these loyalty cards, you may not get something for nothing, but you will be rewarded for using them. If you regularly get your Coffee from Costa (FYI, there’s one of these in The Hub), you’ll get something back by collecting points.

So, what about food shopping? You can save yourself a lot of money in a few ways. If shopping on your own, only buy what you need and don’t be afraid to get some of the cheaper products – they taste just as good! Also, offers are great, but if it’s an offer on something you wouldn’t normally buy, don’t be fooled into buying it just because it’s cheap. Sometimes, places will advertise 2 for 1 on products that you’ll only need one of for the next few months, like washing powder – don’t be fooled by false deals. The best way to save money on food shopping is actually to buy food between a group of you. It saves buying multiples of everything, when you could just share. This is especially true with perishables such as bread and milk. Move-in date is very soon, so here’s a tip for when you and your housemates turn up with the before-mentioned perishables: freeze them. They’ll keep until you’re ready to use them, and that way, you won’t have to chuck it out and buy more.

There are many ways to save money and stop yourself from spending more than you have. It just takes a bit of willpower and common sense. Use the tips in this post and if you’ve got any tips of your own that you want to share with your fellow students, feel free to comment in the box below!

– Alex