Budgeting at university is notoriously difficult, and when it comes to making your student loan go further, some creative thinking is often needed to make sure whatever money you do have lasts you ’til the end of the month. But student life needn’t be so tiring.
By being careful with your money and employing a few money-saving tricks, there’s no reason you can’t live well on a tight student budget. From diet and exercise to technology and headspace, here are a few things to consider.
Invest in your mental well-being
31% of students indicated that their mental health had been negatively affected by financial worries in a survey conducted last year. With that in mind, looking after your mental health and spending a small proportion of your monthly allowance on things that reduce stress or make you feel better is totally worthwhile.
Whether it’s attending a yoga class, buying some candles or spending some money on a board game to play with friends, you’re better off making these small purchases to stay on top of your mental wellbeing than worrying about every penny and making yourself miserable.
Get class-ready with a VPN
One of the simplest ways to save money on student necessities like computer software is to use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to hide your location, as companies regularly set prices according to region. For example, by changing your location to India, you can save plenty of money on buying the latest Office package from Microsoft.
Don’t forget that using a VPN can also help you to unlock hours of geo-restricted content on certain streaming services, which may prove useful for keeping ahead of spoilers and for organising cheap nights in rather than expensive nights out.
Don’t neglect the importance of a healthy diet
We’ve all heard the jokes about student diets and how they’re less than culinary, but you don’t have to spend a fortune to eat healthily.
For example, frozen fruit and veg are just as healthy as fresh varieties but are often overlooked. They also have the added bonus of being cheaper, pre-prepared and ready to use.
Another way to eat well for less is to write a list of everything you need before hitting the supermarket – that way you’re less likely to make last-minute impulse purchases, or get to the checkout with nothing but unhealthy options in your basket.
Exercise for less
Staying active is a good way to look after your mental health and doesn’t have to mean splashing out on a pricey gym membership. Instead, try to think of ways to introduce exercise into your daily routine, like walking to and from university or joining a sports team.
If weight training is more your thing, there are ways other than spending tons of money on weights or expensive sports equipment to bulk up. Instead, look for untapped sources of weights around the house.
By grabbing multipacks of cans from the cupboard or doing some reps with smaller items of furniture, you can get those muscles working and gain some definition in no time.
Enjoy some time away from the library
When you’re at university, not spending every moment of the day in the library can feel like you’re slacking off or falling behind. But don’t forget that everyone needs some down time.
Spending a couple of hours reading a book that’s totally separate from your academic work, or catching up on your favourite TV show, is an important part of staying well and keeping anxiety at bay. Better yet, it doesn’t cost you anything – so there are no financial worries involved in enjoying the time out.
Looking your best when you’re on a tight budget can be quite the feat, but you can keep your wardrobe updated without spending a fortune if you start perusing thrift stores and charity shops.
Buying second-hand clothes is a great way to stay on trend and in the case of charity shops, has the added benefit of supporting a worthy cause. It’s also more eco-friendly than buying new, so you can feel smug in the knowledge that you’re saving money and saving the planet at the same time.
If you’re used to indulging in online shopping binges or raiding the rails of your nearest shops, you aren’t far away from cheaper choices. Simply head down to your local high street or scour retailers like eBay to source the newest low-cost clobber.
If you have more interest in your studies than your ensembles, you can also find preloved books online. Better still, textbooks passed down by previous students often come with useful notes in the margins that you can use in your own studies.
Save with student discounts
Having your student card in your pocket at all times is a great way to save money, as plenty of restaurants and places like cinemas and theme parks offer student discounts. Investing in other student cards, like NUS Extra or an ISIC card, can also save you money before graduation.
These cards usually incur a small charge, but don’t be discouraged, as spending a few quid now will definitely save you money in the long run. It isn’t just chain brands and pricey excursions you can get money off, either. Lots of independent stores and cafes offer discounts to students living in their area, so keep your eyes peeled and don’t be afraid to enquire as to whether you can get a percentage taken off your spend when you’re out and about.
Getting the most out of your student loan can be challenging and the cause of some serious headaches without budgeting. But if you take the time to consider your finances, and where your priorities lie, you should be able to live comfortably at university and make the most of your money while studying.
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