With one in three students living on less than £50 a month after rent and bills are paid, according to a study by the National Union of Students (NUS), many are trying to find ways to cut costs.
Before the university year begins, here are nine top tips from the consumer group Which? for students who want to save money while studying.
1. Choose the best bank account for students
Choosing the best bank account for students should be a priority. When looking for an account that suits your needs, which one? recommends finding one with a generous 0% overdraft that lasts for the duration of your course.
Student bank account providers offer different benefits and offers, so it pays to make sure you get the offer that best suits your needs.
For example, Santander (BNC.L) offers a free four-year rail card worth around £90, but it doesn’t offer the largest interest-free overdraft and you’ll need to pay £500 per period.
NatWest (NWG.L) offers one of the biggest overdrafts for freshmen, but the freebies, like your one-year Tastecard membership, aren’t nearly as valuable.
Other accounts offer cash incentives of up to £100.
2. Consider what type of laptop or computer you need
Most students find a laptop, rather than a desktop, better for college as they are easy to transport and don’t take up too much space.
Don’t overspend on a laptop that’s too powerful for your needs.
£250-£400 should be enough if you’re just going to be researching and creating Word (MSFT) documents.
It pays to look for student discounts and deals on laptops. For example, Lenovo (0992.HK) offers up to 30% discount for students, but you may need to show a valid student ID.
You can often find the best deals directly from manufacturers’ websites. For example, HP (HPE) offers a £150 cashback if you trade in an old laptop for a new one.
Buying second-hand or refurbished laptops is another way to save.
Read more: Back to school: How to save on uniforms as prices skyrocket
If you plan to work from home most of the time and are on a tight budget, a desktop computer can be a cost-effective option, especially if you already have a monitor, keyboard, and mouse. Desktop computers typically have a faster processor, more ports, and more RAM and storage, compared to the same priced laptop.
Most colleges have computers around campus for students to use, and some have laptops that can be used in their libraries.
3. Find out what additional support is available
Most colleges offer additional financial support, particularly, but not exclusively, to students from low-income families. The most common examples are grants and scholarships to help with some or all of a student’s tuition fees or living costs.
Businesses, charities, and special interest groups are also common sources of funding. Scholarships and fellowships may be awarded based on academic merit, such as achieving high grades at A level, a talent or ability, and extracurricular achievement.
If you have a disability or dependents who depend on you for care or financial support, for example children or parents you care for, you may be eligible for grants or allowances to help you.
Students will be asked about this when applying for student funding, but it’s also worth researching what your university, charities and other groups offer.
4. Share subscriptions with your roommates
Many student accommodation does not come with a television or a TV license and as a result, many students rely on streaming services. You can reduce this cost by sharing streaming subscriptions within a household.
Most of the services have plans that could help users save money without losing their personalized features. For example, Spotify (SPOT) offers a Premium Duo plan for £13.99 a month for two people in the same household, saving £71.88 a year compared to the price of two individual subscriptions.
For larger households, the Spotify Premium Family plan for £16.99 a month allows up to six users to get premium benefits, saving a whopping £515.40 a year on six individual subscriptions. Amazon Prime (AMZN) also allows users to share benefits with another person in their household, cutting the cost of having two separate accounts in half.
5. Buy second-hand books
Students will no doubt be presented with a long list of books that they will need to purchase as part of their course.
Tutors often insist you buy them all, but it might be worth checking how many are required and how many are “nice to have.”
Find out if the necessary books are available at your library to borrow, or if the relevant excerpts are available online for free download.
Some departments have their own second-hand book schemes, and many university bookstores also sell second-hand copies. It might also be worth looking for cheaper second-hand copies on online markets.
6. Find student discount codes
It’s always worth checking to see if you can pay less with a student discount, whether you’re going out for pizza with friends or treating yourself to a new pair of jeans.
Discounts can range from 5% to 40%, so big savings can be had.
Read more: Cost of living crisis: how to save £2,000 on food bills
While students can usually use their physical student card in stores and restaurants, there are also online cards and schemes you can sign up for, such as Totum, Tastecard, Unidays, Student Beans, and International Student Card. Each service offers its own exclusive online discounts, so you’ll get different deals with each.
7. Look for gifts
Several companies offer gifts for students, so it pays to look for the best ones.
For example, Amazon Prime offers six months free when you sign up for an Amazon Prime student trial.
Students can also sign up for Microsoft Office 365 Education for free using their university email address.
McDonald’s (MCD) is also offering a free Cheeseburger, Chicken Mayo or Original McFlurry when you purchase any additional value or wrapped meal and show a valid student ID or Student Beans.
8. Save money on bills
While those living in student housing are likely to have utilities included, students living off campus generally have to pay for them themselves.
Think of ways you could reduce energy use to pay cheaper bills, like cooking with housemates, charging your laptop on campus, and not leaving devices on standby.
Students are also exempt from paying the municipal tax.
9. Save on transportation
There are several ways to save on transportation as a student.
The 16-25 rail card offers a third of off-train travel for just £30 a year, or £20 a year if you buy through Trainline before 31 August 2022. You can also buy a rail card with £ 10 Tesco Clubcard (TSCO.L ) vouchers.
National Express (NEX.L) offers a £15 Youth Coachcard which also gives a third discount on travel.
It’s worth checking if you can get local travel cards or bus passes – different UK cities will have different options.
It can also be profitable to bring a bicycle to save on transport costs. Some universities have their own bike loan schemes so it’s a good idea to check this out when you arrive.