Navigating how to make the most of university life while staying under budget.
University is possibly the most exciting time in a young adult's life. However, the last few years have been, needless to say, not so 'exciting'. With 2020 catapulting us into a worldwide pandemic, just when the people thought all was well, the country got dragged into the cost of living crisis. Amidst all the distress, those suffering immensely from this are the very teenagers that had their last years of school cut short due to the effects of COVID-19.
Published figures show that over 91% of students are concerned about the rising cost of living. It has been extremely challenging for students to navigate the current crisis all while being thrown into semi-adulting. So how can you live your best university life right out of a 2000s sitcom, without breaking the bank?
Prioritize your affairs
As tempting as getting those new trendy bags or shoes are, it's time to prioritize your funds to the places most necessary.
Top of that list remain rent (which is 45% of monthly costs on average), food and drink, and utility bills closely followed by transportation and fuel (for all those driving). All of which have seen a significant hike in the past few months. food and drink increasing by 16.4%, while utility bills have skyrocketed due to rising gas prices. Try to reduce heating usage by investing in heated blankets or other alternatives. Food costs can be lowered by switching to own-brand products, buying seasonal and meal planning to optimise the usage of every penny spent.
With maintenance loans not rising at the required rate, it is essential that these items are ticked off the monthly budget. This however does leave us with a smaller-than-usual disposable income, which leads us to...
Capitalize on student discounts and other help
Use every student discount under the sun!
Make sure to get your member's loyalty cards for your local supermarket and high street stores, whether that be a Tesco club card or a Boots loyalty card. these will help you bag those big savings on essential shopping.
want to have fun on a budget? student club nights would be the best time to go clubbing and get all those drinks at a much cheaper rate than usual.
Unidays and StudentBeans have to be every student's best friend. Look out for featured restaurants and brands that do special deals on them and take advantage of the savings. For avid online shoppers, download browser extensions like Honey. These will make sure you've always got the best deal on hand. Using websites that sell reduced food can help slash food budgets even further. These include Olio, Approved Food and Too good to go.
If you're in desperate need of money and think you might have to go without food, research your local food bank and seek out their help.
Make a monthly budget and stick to it!
Budgeting will really help you understand where you stand in terms of money at any given point in time. An effective budget will let you save and maybe even splurge occasionally.
Simple budgeting apps will help you make budgets without any of the calculation hassles. Buddy is a perfect tool for monthly budgets, and each category can be completely personalised to your liking. there are numerous other free tools as such on the app store, and if those don't do it for you, the old pen and paper work just fine!
Find a secondary source of income or extend the existing one
Getting a Part-time job would help give the budget a bit more breathing room and you a bit more financial freedom. Websites like Indeed, Total job and Student jobs are to name a few.
For additional financial assistance, contact your university about hardship funds or check if you're eligible for extra funding in terms of scholarships, bursaries and grants.
“We recognise the financial challenges students face with the rise in global inflation. That is why we have continued to increase the amount students can access through loans and grants for living and other costs every year. Many universities are also doing fantastic work to support their students through a variety of programmes and we urge any student who is worried about their circumstances to speak to their university” - A spokesperson for the Department of Education
Additional guidance can be accessed here.
At the end of the day, it doesn't take a lot of money to grab a few friends and have a good time (could be just sitting around a kitchen and chatting). University is meant to be filled with such 'good times'. Even if you are tight on the budget this year, find those little moments to enjoy and make the most of them.