Starting your first year at university can be a very exciting time. This may well be your first time away from home and you can be sure that however you are feeling about it, others are feeling the same.
Whilst this is a time to be enjoyed, it can be easy to get carried away, especially when that first maintenance loan drops into your bank. And whilst not wanting to be party poopers, it is important that you think about how to make that money last until your next instalment. With that in mind, we want to give you a few tips to consider to try and make things a little easier for you.
Tip 1: Budget
It sounds boring but budgeting can be a great way to ensure your money lasts as long as possible. We appreciate this isn’t the easiest thing to do when you first start your university journey but working out a broad outline of what you will likely spend on food, bills and other commitments will help you see how much you will have leftover to spend on yourself.
You can get access to a budgeting worksheet as well as links to a whole host of useful budgeting apps that you can download on your phone, alongside lots of other budgeting information, here on the UPSU website.
Tip 2: Bank smart
Many students end up keeping the same bank that their parents set up with them before university but the terms and perks vary from bank to bank. This could include things such as your overdraft limit.
There are a couple of websites that allow you to compare different student accounts, with one being moneysupermarket, which you can find here: https://www.moneysupermarket.com/current-accounts/student-bank-accounts/
Martin Lewis also offers a raft of useful information on this area via his Money Saving Expert website, which you can find here.
It is also important to remember, that whilst a student overdraft can be very useful and most don’t charge interest, these will have to be paid back and extra charges and fees can be added on if they are not paid back within a certain timeframe of finishing your course.
Tip 3: Student discounts
Your Student ID can do so much more than gain you access to the library, they can be a very useful bit of plastic and can save you so much money. Shops, bars, restaurants and a whole host of leisure activities across Plymouth (and further) give students a fairly sizeable discount for flashing their ID card. And make sure you ask each place you visit whether they do student discount, some establishments don’t shout about it as much as others and you will be no worse off if they say no.
Some streaming platforms also offer discounts, which makes watching some of your favourite binge worthy shows or listening to the latest music sensation feel all the sweeter.
Tip 4: Cheaper travel
Whilst spending a little bit of money on a railcard can seem like a pain, it is better to do it when you aren’t counting the pennies quite as closely. If you are likely to use the train a lot, whether that is to go back home to visit family or friends, or just to explore, a 16-25 railcard will save you plenty of coins.
We all know that trains aren’t cheap, so you need to do all you can to knock as much off the cost as you possibly can. Some student bank accounts can offer a free rail card as an incentive, so doing your research as mentioned above can prove to be very handy.
A 16-25 railcard costs £30 for one year or £70 for three years and you will get 1/3 off of rail travel each and every time you purchase a ticket. Despite the cards being named 16-25, mature students can also apply for them. You can see more about them here.
You can also get a 15% discount on a range of adult products when it comes to using Plymouth City Bus. To do this you need a valid student email from Plymouth University. The discount is available on the following: 1 day adult ticket, 7 day adult ticket, 28 day adult ticket, 91 day adult ticket and 12 day adult ticket. You can read more here.
Tip 5: Smart cooking
Grabbing a takeaway or eating out can seem like an easier option, particularly after a long day at university but the cost quickly adds up and the money spent on one meal could provide you with substantially more if you buy ingredients from the shop. Even grabbing a sandwich every day for lunch can mount up, with what you’d spend in two days being enough to make you sandwiches for the week.
Looking for recipes online that you can batch make can help as it reduces the amount of time that you need to spend in the kitchen every night. Having a soup, casserole or chilli that you can dish out into containers and then place in the freezer, means on the days you can’t be bothered to cook, you have something that just needs defrosting.
The Student Food Project is a great resource for meal preparation on a student budget, which you can find here.
There are also apps such as Too Good To Go which you can download on Apple or Android, which allow you to get unsold food from supermarkets, restaurants and cafes at heavily discounted prices. It saves on food waste and allows you to search venues by name, location and time of day.
Another handy tip is to consider shopping in the evening. That is the time where shops start to reduce the price on certain food items, which means you can get more for less. This can be a particularly useful to get cheaper bread, that you can store in the freezer and take out what you need when you need it.
Tip 6: Know what bursaries are available
The University of Plymouth offers a wide range of support to students that are experiencing financial hardship due to the cost of living which you can read more about here.
There are also a range of bursaries and funding options that students experiencing financial hardship can apply for depending on their circumstances. Having a knowledge of this list and knowing what you could be eligible for is worthwhile: https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/study/fees/scholarships-bursaries-and-funding/bursaries
There is also a website called Turn2us which has a grant search tool, linked to charitable funds. There are various pots of money available, and many of them will have specific criteria to assess the eligibility of applicants. Often the amounts available are minimal, and there are no guarantees of being awarded a grant, but there is nothing to lose by applying.
You can find out more here.