There is nothing better than seeing your previously measly bank balance suddenly grow with the receipt of your first loan cheque. There is nothing worse than the sinking feeling you get when you realise you only have £100 left two weeks later.
Budgeting is a key skill that every student needs to master if they want to avoid weeks of eating value beans and embarrassing phone calls to the bank of mum and dad. Here are Platform’s top ten tips for keeping your bank balance in good shape:
1. Be a geek – make a spread sheet
And if you can’t manage a spread sheet just scribble your budget on the back of an old cereal packet. However you do it, making a budget is a really good idea. Even if you don’t stick to it 100% it gives you a good idea of exactly how much you need to get by on a monthly/weekly basis. It is easy to forget (sometimes intentionally) just how much your outgoings are, having them written down will help you be more realistic in your spending habits.
2. Leave your cash card at home on nights out
This will allow you to budget nights out much more successfully by avoiding the ever tempting drunken cash withdrawal. The 18” pizza and solo taxi ride home might seem worth the extra £20 at the time, but you’ll probably regret it in the morning. Set yourself an allowance and take the cash out before you head into town, and leave an extra tenner at home just in case you get stuck for taxi fare.
3. Eat smart
Tempting as it is to live off take-aways and crisps, this will do neither your health nor your bank balance any favours in the long run. Try cooking big batches of your favourite meal then freezing portions for the days you don’t have time to cook; it will help avoid the temptation of a quick and easy take-away. When you venture to the supermarket for those key ingredients always check out the bargain section, and don’t be afraid to turn your back on brand loyalty in favour of buying whatever is on offer that week.
4. Think about your transport options
Taxis are a quick and convenient way to get home after a night out, but they can also be pricey. Try and coordinate with friends and flat mates so you all get a taxi together, it doesn’t take a maths degree to realise they are much cheaper this way. And during the day, when it’s safe, try walking – it’s free and you get some exercise in without even trying! Another great tip for anyone using the train for visits back home is to invest in a young person’s rail card; if you use it regularly the money you save will more than cover the initial cost.
5. Discounts and offers – use them wisely
One of the great things about being a student is getting your student discount! So many shops offer discount now that it is always worth asking when you get to the till; it is an easy way to save a few pounds. BUT – it is important to remember what you are spending as well as what you are saving. Discount is good if it’s on something you would have bought anyway, but try not to use it as a justification to go on a mad spending spree in Topshop. As well as saving there are also ways you can get the odd thing for free. For example, lots of hairdressers need models for their trainees to practice on, and more often than not they won’t charge their volunteer models. And instead of joining a gym why not join a sports team, much cheaper and much more sociable.
6. Charity shops
Need a fancy dress costume? Broken your only dinner plate? Can’t find a copy of that Jane Austen classic in the library? Before heading to the high street check out your local charity shop, they are an absolute treasure trove for the savvy student. Plus your money is going to a good cause, bonus karma!
7. Know where to go for cheap books
Every student needs books, and unfortunately, no matter how well stocked the University library is, it can’t always meet demand. So if you’re late to the party and the last copy of that essential text has just been checked out, what are you going to do? Well, there are various other ways to secure a cheap, or even free, copy. First off, check the Nottingham City Libraries. You can join for free and they have an online database you can search from the comfort of your own room, perfect. And for cheap text books have a look on ebay, Gumtree and Amazon – lots of students sell off their old books when they graduate so you might just find yourself a bargain.
8. Nights in as well as nights out
Sometimes your body and your wallet need a time out, so why not arrange a night in. Invite a few people, get everyone to bring a DVD and some food and you’ve got a cheap but sociable night sorted.
9. Don’t get a credit card
Without a steady, full-time income you are unlikely to be able to pay it off before you get hit with the massive interest rates on your repayments. Like putting a plaster over a severed limb, it’s really not going to solve your cash flow problems, and it may well end up making them worse.
10. It’s a good time to quit
Smoking ten cigarettes a day will cost you £1,200 a year. It is expensive and unhealthy – need we say more?
By Sarah O’Malley