Being a student in the UK can be an expensive business if you don’t manage your finances wisely. Here are some tips for living the student lifestyle without breaking the bank.
Cut down on your food spending
We’re all guilty of food wastage – and yet grocery bills, particularly in urban areas, can really eat into student finances.
Supermarkets and cafes face continual criticism for the vast amounts of food they throw away – the food industry wastes 1.9 million tonnes of food each year in the UK. But although food past its sell-by-date can’t legally be sold, it’s often still fit for consumption.
This is where sites such as Olio, which promotes food sharing, step in. Supermarkets, coffee shops and members of the public post food that they can’t eat or need to get rid of. Filter by location to find food close to you and pick it up for free. Return the favour when you can.
You can also cut down on food spending by planning and preparing meals ahead of time. Convenience food is expensive and although everyone needs the occasional 4am kebab after a night out, regular takeaways can really add up.
Tackle this by making your own convenience food. Soup is cheap, easy to make, nutritious and will last for at least a week in the fridge provided there’s no meat in it – make a large batch and keep it for when you need it, or freeze individual portions and defrost on the day.
Crackers and cheese transport well, as do nuts, seeds and crudites. Premake carrot, celery and red pepper sticks and bring a portion of hummus for a healthy snack. Eggs also last well – hard boil them ahead of time and take them with you for a high-protein, low-fat meal.
There’s no need to buy expensive lunch boxes or tupperware – you can repurpose the plastic containers and sauce pots that takeaways come in to store and transport your own food.
Stop smoking, start vaping
In the western world, smoking is a costly habit for your finances as well as for your health. The UK is the most expensive place in Europe to be a smoker and a pack a day habit will decimate your student maintenance loan.
With the cost of a 20 pack of cigarettes predicted to cost £20 by 2020 in order to discourage people from taking up the habit, smoking is likely to become even more of a financial burden than it is at present.
Contrary to popular belief, rolling your own cigarettes is not that much more cost-effective than smoking straights – loose tobacco is taxed more highly than conventional cigarettes. If you really want to save money, you’re better off making the switch to e-liquids.
Not only is vaping much less expensive, with costs as little as 10% of the price of smoking, it’s an effective means of weaning yourself off a smoking habit in the long run. You’ll be doing your lungs and your bank account a favour.
Save money on caffeine
From all-nighters in the library or as a pick-me-up when you’re heading to seminars after a night out, coffee is a vital part of many a student’s life. But with many coffees coming in at £3 each, especially in urban areas, a single cup each weekday can set you back £720 a year – a huge drain.
If you can’t resist that caffeine fix but can’t stand instant coffee, there are many ways to satisfy your cravings without breaking the bank. If you like to source artisan coffee, buy a bag of pre-ground espresso and a moka pot and brew your own on the stove. It’s quick, easy and tastes delicious.
Nespresso machines seem extravagant, but at 33p or so a capsule they’re still much more affordable than a trip to the coffee shop. Nespresso also offer a system whereby users can buy a monthly subscription to their pods and ‘rent’ the machine for £1. £18 a month – the price of their cheapest plan – is still a fraction of the £93 you’d pay for the same amount per month in a coffee shop.
If you really must treat yourself to coffee shop coffee, it’s definitely worth investing in a reusable cup. Most chain coffee shops, including Costa, Starbucks, Caffe Nero and Pret a Manger offer generous discounts to reusable cup owners and although branded versions such as KeepCups can be pricey, there are plenty of more cost-effective alternatives.
One of the most common reasons that people don’t use reusable cups is that they find the plastic flavours their coffee. If you’re sensitive to this, there’s no reason to abandon the idea altogether – just invest in a reusable cup made of glass for a purer taste.