It’s a daunting, but also exhilarating prospect that university will be the first time most people will have full responsibility of their finances. That being the case, when you receive that coveted, rather large chunk of money shortly after you move in – aka student loan – it can be far too tempting to splurge on purchases you couldn’t previously have afforded.
Needless to say, many people I know have found themselves deep in their overdraft before their first term even came to a close – not so fun. While still enjoying the whole ‘uni experience’, there are definitely ways to stretch the pennies that might not have even occurred to you.
The first, which may seem far too obvious, is student discounts. Aside from the typical places like Asos, Topshop and Missguided, there are countless others offering deals.
Many students choose to purchase an NUS card (£12 for 1 year) as they have a wider range of discounts such as 20% of National Express and 10% off Co-op, but I personally just use UNiDAYS (free) and have never found that lacking – 10% off Superdrug is also exclusive to UNiDAYS, which I use a lot.
A great one to take advantage of is free Beats Headphones when you buy a Mac or iPad Pro through Apple and show your UNiDAYS ID (only until 2/10/18, so get in there quickly).
It’s so convenient to have it all in an app because you can easily search to see if there is a discount available before you buy something when you’re out and about. They’re also have their own student budgeting advice sections which discusses FAQs.
Food and drink is a big one that ties in well with student discount. By no means should your student budget mean limiting your dining out experiences to the Mcdonald’s Savers menu (and free burger or McFlurry with your student ID) although, it does have some gems.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll be partial to a nice meal out with friends over a shared bottle of wine or a few cocktails. This is something my course mates and I loved treating ourselves to and it was a great de-stressor, but we were smart about it to make sure we never paid full price. We would always go on a week night when student discount offers are valid, with the added bonus of being quieter.
Some of our favourites were Ask Italian (40% off on Mondays and Tuesdays), Pizza Express & Zizzi (30% off, excluding Friday & Saturday). Byron Burger also offer an increased discount of 30% off fairly frequently, so that’s worth looking out for. These restaurants are in really snazzy buildings in York too, so it makes for a nice evening. Not to solely focus on chains though, because York is well-known for its multitude of amazing independent eateries, a lot of them with very reasonable prices.
2-4-1 cocktails are rife in York, if you know where to go and when. Our go-to is Turtle Bay – it’s a great crowd-pleaser and you can’t beat the drinks menu! It’s one of the most unique, inventive cocktail menus I’ve ever had the pleasure to browse through (along with Evil Eye). Not to mention, the great vibe and amazing staff. Their 2-4-1 on cocktails are available almost all the time too, which is uncommon.
The infamous Evil Eye Lounge has its own drinks deals too, which are good to be aware of – I’d recommend going at quieter times to be able to get a seat and properly enjoy the atmosphere and decor; there really is no where else like it. It’s a fab perk of the student lifestyle that you can visit the most popular places at off-peak times – they can get extremely busy on weekends.
Of course, I am not recommending that you go and spend all your money on nice food and drink – please do cook for yourselves too, but these things are good to know for when you do fancy it or a celebration comes around. Let’s be honest, being a student shouldn’t mean you can’t have nice things.
If I could stress anything to new uni students, it would be to NEVER buy a book for course reading, unless it is very cheap on eBay and it’s required for lots of modules. These textbooks can be ridiculously priced and may end up being something you use for only one module throughout your whole degree.
Many essential readings have now been digitised and you can access the whole textbook online, which I find to be massively beneficial (as does my spine). If not, the University Library will have a lotttttt of copies that you can borrow for months at a time – as long as it isn’t requested by someone else. Just a side note though, that this has never happened to me, and I had hold of 4 essential course texts for my whole first year.
I couldn’t recommend keeping track of your spending enough. Seeing how much you spend on what per month can be really eye-opening, and a few small changes can make a big difference. There are a lot of apps out there that can be really helpful for this, if you don’t fancy manually working it out.
For me, I realised that when I let myself slip with meal planning and just grabbed bits as and when I needed them, my food spend increased a lot because I wasn’t maximising what I already had; it’s definitely one to keep an eye on.
Everyone will find what works for them, money-wise, through their time at uni and it’s just about finding a balance. My suggestion would be to choose one or two categories of things – shoes, food or beauty products, for example – on which to spend a bit of money when you need to, and keep a tight budget for the rest.
Being overly restrictive can sometimes mean that you’re limiting the things that make you happy, so I find it’s good to indulge on these within reason, and when your budget allows for it – and keep an eye out for sales!