Student Survival Guide | A Thrifty Mrs

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Ever since I made these videos for my A Thrifty Mrs YouTube channel about going off to university I’ve had students and those looking at going to university nexy year dropping me emails asking for more advice. Finances and the types of educational institutions you may be studying at will vary but a common factor seems to be – most students have to deal with their finances for the first time and it can be a big shock. Plus it is oh so easy to make mistakes. I should know!

With increased fees, lack of jobs and a student rent hike of 25% in some areas, clawing every penny back and not landing oneself in too much debt is an important subject for 2012. Here are a few tips from me.

1. Your loan is not free money
So many people, at the time of receipt, see their loan almost as free money. Hurrah a chunk of money has gone into your bank account and it is time to go crazy. Stop and think. Your loan is a loan not free money.
 In a few years time you may be working in some crappy job, unrelated to your degree and the student finance folks will be taking money from your pay packet every month. Do you want to buy that £45 top which you won’t remember in 6 months or do you want to use it for books, rent and food? You have to pay that money back, think about it when you’re spending it. I wish I had, I really hate paying back money for bloody maroon knee high boots. Oh 2004.

2. Don’t eat out – learn to cook
Eating out bumps up the price of every meal you eat significantly. Learn to cook a few basics really well and then adapt with time. Make great big portions so you can freeze some and have leftovers for a packed lunch. Great recipes to learn are -
- spag bol  – which you can adapt into chilli, burritos, tacos and lasagna with a few small changes.
- a basic veggie curry – play around with spices and serve with rice, pittas or cous cous.
-  soups – start with basic tomato soup and work your way through cheap seasonal vegetables.

3. Make use of your university city
Whilst it is really easy to get into the swing of the student lifestyle it can be great to step outside of the same cycle and try spots elsewhere in the city in order to save some money.
- Sign up and utlise the local library. Whilst that very much needed book may be out of stock in your uni library save your cash, you don’t have to buy it, it may well be available in the local or main city library.
- Buy from local markets, especially when it comes to food. You’ll find great seasonal basics and you can even try a cheeky haggle.
- Take advantage of the free museums, galleries and parks if you’re looking for entertainment. The local museums and galleries in my university city often hosted free evening events, sometimes they even had free wine.

4. Walk or cycle
Getting into lectures can eat up a big chunk of your budget. Public transport isn’t cheap and cars come with more costs than I can name. Walk or cycle to your lectures, it is great free excersise and a bit of head space from hangovers and lecture notes. Sure, everyone may be catching the bus or train but just keep in mind how much money you’ll be saving.
If you don’t have a bike try eBay or even Freecycle.

5. Make friends with Excel
This sounds so damn boring but if I’m honest nothing else has helped me deal with my finances better than noting down everything I spend. It is pretty simple. Open up Excel and have a column for incoming money and one for outgoing and make sure you update it every single time you spend or recieve money. Students have a reputation for being irresponsible but why live up to it? A quick update of your excel sheet takes less than 30 seconds can keep you on track so you don’t end up drowning in the debt the day you finally get your degree.

This post is written as part of the Student Survival Guide with Vouchercodes.co.uk

TTFN,
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P.S. If you have any basic tips which will help students now that they are firmly back into the swing of things they do feel free to leave them down below in the comments. And students – do have a read of the comments because my readers have some genius tricks and tips.

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Comments

  1. I actually dropped out of university before term started last month because I realised how ridiculous the situation could be in four years time if I’m unable to find a job and end up with around £70,000+ worth of debt!

    • Thats a shame, I graduated this year, although with lower fee’s, I had a full loan, grant and bursary. I agree that you shouldn’t see your loan as free money, and this isn’t essentially the point, but there’s a strong chance you won’t ever pay it back or much of it. After a certain period of time, (I can’t exactly remember how long).

      The fear of owing money shouldn’t put people off of going to University. I never went mad with my spending and needed every penny I was given including extra from my student overdraft and and loaned money from my parents, studying media is one of the most expensive subjects with all of the equipment and resources that you need.

      University should be a life experience, not something to living in worry or fear about, you do it and move on. There of course is every chance that you won’t find you perfect life changing job opportunity as soon as you step outside graduation, but I think it puts you in such good stead and gives you the confidence and life skills to think, actually it doesn’t matter, I’m passionate about my subject, I can achieve whatever I want with or without the debt, because to be honest, there probably aren’t many people who don’t have some degree of debt, small or large.

      I hope however that you do or have found something worthwhile that you want to do instead if it’s not University, and one day you have that job that would have led you to be able to hypothetically pay that debt back! :)

    • Thats a shame, I graduated this year, although with lower fee’s, I had a full loan, grant and bursary. I agree that you shouldn’t see your loan as free money, and this isn’t essentially the point, but there’s a strong chance you won’t ever pay it back or much of it. After a certain period of time, (I can’t exactly remember how long).

      The fear of owing money shouldn’t put people off of going to University. I never went mad with my spending and needed every penny I was given including extra from my student overdraft and and loaned money from my parents, studying media is one of the most expensive subjects with all of the equipment and resources that you need.

      University should be a life experience, not something to living in worry or fear about, you do it and move on. There of course is every chance that you won’t find you perfect life changing job opportunity as soon as you step outside graduation, but I think it puts you in such good stead and gives you the confidence and life skills to think, actually it doesn’t matter, I’m passionate about my subject, I can achieve whatever I want with or without the debt, because to be honest, there probably aren’t many people who don’t have some degree of debt, small or large.

      I hope however that you do or have found something worthwhile that you want to do instead if it’s not University, and one day you have that job that would have led you to be able to hypothetically pay that debt back! :)

    • Thats a real shame, I’ve just finished my degree and consider it to be the best life experience being young and someone who didn’t exactly know what they wanted to do. Despite my degree costing approx £3,000 a year, I had about £9,000 loan £9,000 grant and £2,000 in bursary plus a £1,500 student overdraft. I have maximised every aspect as I needed every penny studying media. I was never under any illusion that I would fall out of uni into my life changing perfect job and pay my debt of in a couple of years. That is why they only take a small percentage. With no interest, I don’t consider it a problem. There are people in this world who have as much or more debt for whatever reason, be it buying a car or a house. I wouldn’t let the fear of debt put me off doing something I felt passionate enough about.

      I have met some of the best people at uni including the love of my life, and had some of the best experiences and met some amazingly talented people and industry professionals as well as having my work exhibited in a top London gallery. Had I not gone to uni, I have absolutely no idea what I’d be doing now or what I would have done for the past 3 years. I hated doing a stupid saturday job and my bar job, as it was not something I could ever see myself doing long term. Though I haven’t got myself my dream job yet, (having only graduated last month) I have every hope that I will find something perfect for me and am confident that I have the right skills to do it well.
      I do hope that you have found something that you want to do instead though and don’t regret your decision.

    • You may never have to pay back all that debt. You only start paying back when you earn over a certain threshold, and after a number of years it gets wiped. So many people get hysterical about a debt they will probably never have to repay in full. So much so, graduates leaving university get a low paid job and immediately start trying to pay off their debts.

      It’s madness! I have debts and the chances are I will never have to repay the full loan. It’s the cheapest form of debt you’ll ever have. Don’t drive yourself into the arms of the banks and a more expensive debt!

  2. This was a helpful post, thank you! I just worked out my weekly budget and am trying to be super careful with money at the moment. It’s boring, but necessary. :( xo

  3. I’m doing an english lit course and our humanties department recenty set up a 2nd hand book shop in which older year’s pass down there used books for a discount of the price. Brillant idea! . Also I found that last year on a REALLY tight budget, I was buying proper food but not the best quality. Stores like Aldi do great veg and fruit bargains each week and my housemates just bulk buy together now!. Also it’s nice to pop in and check the bargain shelfs of the bigger supermarket if you have a substantial freezer. My question about student life is , well being a non drinker. Everyone is very acceptable of my choice not to drink but uni life is really sociable around drink and with the new craze of pre drinking , it’s even worse for me. I fond myself just not going out now because I end of being a minder / left standing in a club by myself .

  4. fantastic tips, two years after graduating and I have absolutely nothing to show for the thousands I had in student overdraft and student money. I’ve just cleared my student overdraft now which crippled me, wish I’d have been more wise at the time x

    http://www.staceykane1988.blogspot.co.uk

  5. I write a blog on university life and I’ve posted a few tips in the past of how to be a ‘good student’ my university blog roll is: http://thediaryofapoorgirl.blogspot.co.uk/p/university-advice.html

  6. Thank you for this post. :)

  7. As a student watching her money, I always withdraw my weekly money and then hide my card away – especially on nights out! It makes it much easier to keep an eye on your spending with physical cash, rather than a magical card xx

  8. The pound shop is your friend! Most household and bathroom products are way cheaper and they do some good food offers too – big bags of pasta, eggs, milk etc.

    Roast a chicken – great value, you can get a couple of meals out it and some sandwiches! You can also use the carcass for a soup. Soup is really easy, cheap and healthy too – just boil things for a long time lol

  9. My tip (which I used at Uni and use it now) is to plan out what you are going to eat for dinner everyday and write a shopping list based on that. It keeps your shopping focused and you have enough food for every meal that week (or at Uni I did enough for 2 weeks). x

  10. This is so useful! I’ll keep this on my mind!! xx

    http://www.ajumpinmargaretslife.blogspot.com

  11. My advice to students is wait to go to university until you have decided what to do. It’s better to take any job in a bar, shop, on a farm, in a factory with your A levels and go to college later when you know what you’re aiming for. You may want to be a journalist now but change your mind later. If you are going to pay best part of £30K for a degree then make sure it’s in something that will get you a job. If there’s a shortage of doctors then do that, if the shortage is shoe makers, do that. I waited until I was 33 and had any old job before that and have worked at degree level since. There are too many people with non specific degrees, such as history who have studied a subject they like but without a specific purpose. Or, just consider not going to university at all – do an apprenticeship – they want bright students for that – learn a trade.

    • History is an interchangeable subject, like English, there’s a lot you can do with that, but I see what you’re saying. It’s not something to rush into. My brother is 16 and he’s not going to university, he’s at college studying carpentry. But I don’t believe that university is just about what job you get at the end of it, for me it was a life experience, I met the best people and gained so much confidence. Before I went to uni, I was shy and timid, now I have so much more confidence and every belief that I can get a job in which I am fully qualified for.

  12. i’ve a feeling that as soon as i go to uni, this website will become a bible of sorts to me, these type of posts are so useful!
    http://cloudsandcuticleoil.blogspot.co.uk/
    xx

  13. I really agree with using excel. I used that and it really helped me realised how much I was spending and to budget etc.

    I’ve been sending mine to my friends and stuff to use as a template – though, firstly explaining to them that they don’t have to be as fastidious as I have been!

  14. Definitely agree with learning how to cook properly – I saved so much money when I went into second year and forced myself to learn how to cook. Plus it’s way healthier too – unlike the oven chips and cheese toasties I lived off in my first year!

    Sam x
    Griffblog.co.uk

  15. I do everything on this list :)

  16. Great post, i’ve already made a massive spag bol, had leftovers the next day and freezed loads!

    Sophierosehearts x

  17. Why diddn’t I read this in 2000??

  18. So true – fantastic tips!! And equally true for recent graduates. One thing I found a challenge is that I wanted to cook for myself but didn’t really know how. My mother got me a ‘student’ cookbook but all the recipes called for organic chicken breast, extra virgin olive oil, fresh herbs, food processors etc. But at least the experience meant I was able to give my mum very specific advice when my sister went to uni – ‘you want a recipe book that is basically twenty things to do with sausages and twelve variations on scrambled eggs etc’.

  19. One thing I might add is that investing money in some good quality items isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A good sturdy pair of shoes, a really comfy pair of trousers, a good winter coat. May seem like a lot of money at the time, but it’s cheaper than replacing these items every year when the time of year rolls round they are required, and it’s better than impulse buying all the clothes. Charity shops are worth hunting for these kind of things too though, and it’s awesome when you get lucky (Dr Marten’s for £7 was was of my awesome wins :D 5 years and they’re still going strong!).

  20. Invest in a slow cooker! you can make soup, stews, casseroles and roast meat joints in it. Throw a load of ingredients in it in the morning and when you come home from uni you’ll have a lovely hot meal. Leftovers can be used for next’s day’s lunch or frozen for later in the week.

    This morning i put two chopped two leeks, four chopped potatos, a chopped onion, some butter, chicken stock and seasoning in mine and tonight i’ll blend it and add some single cream for a lovely leek and potato soup for my dinner.

  21. Oh Mrs Thrifty you are a goddess with your helpful wisdom! I’m not a student, however, this information and advice is really helpful for someone like me who is on the minimum wage for a 20 year old and having to scrape together all my finances to be able to pay my rent, for the running of my car and all those other essentials. So thank you ever so much :) xx

  22. English students, definitely check out local bookshops before you hit Amazon for your set texts. I found a cracking bookshop locally, who used to reward me for buying a pile of books at the beginning of term with a very generous student discount, and chucking in the odd freebie. They even used to put books aside for me that they thought I’d like. I miss that shop.

    Make sensible investments for your food. Things like a slow cooker or a good blender (soup!) will be really useful and you can take them with you when you go.

  23. go food shopping with a friend so that you can make the most of bogof deals as they are far more common than half price offers!

  24. These are really good tips :) I’ve started a student savings section on my blog if anyone wants to check it out? It’s in the early stages, but hopefully I’ll get it off the ground soon :)
    xxx

  25. After a disastrous financial first year at uni, I set up a separate bank account to my student one. I let all my summer earnings, loans etc sit in my student ac, and let all my direct debits come out of it, but transferred my month budget to my other (bog standard, free) current account, and only took that debit card out and about. Knowing I only had a certain amount of money in the account really made me think about purchases even when using my card, and when I first started the system, I stopped all my online banking (and this was before mobile banking apps) so I couldn’t ‘just’ transfer some extra to the account- I had to go into town and into the bank in opening hours to do so. If you’re not certain about yourself and spending this can be a great way to break into budgeting.

  26. Anonymous says:

    These are some great tips. In particular the eating out tip- I’d hedge a bet that students spend hundreds on eating out unnecessarily. Plus, making your own soups with cheap, season vegetables is so much healthier!
    Not sure I would ever be motivated enough to track ALL my spending on EXCEL though.
    Really great blog, I love the header too!

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