20 Ways to Improve Your Student Financial Situation

Written for a student employment site, while working for Harmony Internet. The project was suspended indefinitely. Image on a CC license from Philip Taylor PT

Sometimes running out of money at the end of the month is less to do with your job, and more to do with what’s draining it. The less money you have, the more you need to get clever with your spending. Its more about ‘what can I afford to do’ than ‘how can I afford to do that’ thinking in tough times. Well, at least until your next student loan instalment.

1. Shop Together

The corner shop is really handy and all, but its actually expensive for what you get there on a regular basis. Team up with your housemates and do the weekly shop together – cook with each other, try not to buy expensive microwave meals. If you all go together, you can split the cost of a taxi back if it’s a distance, or chip in for someone’s fuel, and get a six pint bottle of milk rather than six single pints.

2. Change Your Supermarket

If you’re not already a regular or Lidl, Aldi and Netto, take a visit. You may find you can cut the cost of your shop for your favourite foods, even if it means walking a bit further, or not buying the branded goods every week.

3. Check Your Internet Usage

If you live in a student house and pay your own Internet bills, check the terms and conditions and your regular usage. If you’re paying for unlimited, are you actually using very much? Would it be cost effective to downgrade to a limited download package or change companies?

4. Share Your Internet with a Neighbour

Don’t install multiple phone lines and Internet unless you really don’t like or distrust your housemates. Share the cost of the Internet bill and line rental. Just be careful that you keep an eye on the amount downloaded and the terms of your contract, as if anything questionable is downloaded, it is the name on the contract who is responsible.

5. Payphone

If you have a landline and nobody else does, get beer money for people popping in to call 0800 numbers or call centre numbers off your landline instead of their mobile. Just don’t let them get put on hold too long, or call their mother.

It’s a good idea to register a landline with telephone preference, and be ex-directory to avoid unwanted calls, or anyone persistently calling for a housemate on the landline after collecting the number using 1471 or caller ID.

6. Skype for Long Distance

If you don’t want to run up a big phone bill or don’t have a super contract with free minutes you want to spend talking to your mother, set them up with Skype when you go home and teach them how to use it. The voice and video features of Skype make it great for pacifying your parent’s worries about whether you’re looking after yourself if they can see your face. Best of all, Skype is free to use and run to call computer to computer, and just requires webcam and microphone.

7. Direct Debits and Standing Order Discount

Companies you pay monthly may offer you a discount overall if you pay by direct debit or standing order. If you don’t know what these are, look them up and ask your bank how to set one up. If you can use Internet banking, it is easier to keep up on your bank balance and direct debits if you’re worried about your balance and overdraft. Stuploy tip – try to stagger direct debits if possible, and time them after any monthly pay goes into your account from your employer, and before you get too overjoyed with a healthy bank balance to ensure you don’t run into problems with bank charges.

8. Go Paper Free Billing

Banks and utilities may offer a slight discount each month if you go paper free billing. This means less post to worry about losing or not receiving, or redirecting, and you can check your bill online regularly. Win.

9. Switch Banks

If you’re serious about bank charges and switching your accounts, compare plenty of banks for their overdraft charges or sizes, and see if you could save money or stretch your overdraft further.

10. Save on Fuel

Keep an eye on petrol station prices in your area either with your own eyes and friends or by using a website. If you have a friend who shops at a supermarket but doesn’t own a car, ask them nicely if they can give you any fuel vouchers that the supermarket may automatically provide them.

11. Declutter

Sell your unwanted things on Ebay, such as last year’s course books, CDs you’ve stopped listening to, or dodgy Christmas presents from aunts who still think you’re seven. You end up with a lot of stuff as a student, which you’ll often need to get rid of before you leave. Just don’t try to sell the landlord’s furniture.

12. Cheaper Travel on Trains

If you use rail travel, it can be very expensive. A Young Person’s railcard is invaluable, despite the initial cost. Unconvinced? Use a journey planner website such as National Rail or The Train Line and compare a journey with and without a railcard.

Stuploy tip: if you do travel by train, try breaking your journey into different tickets as this sometimes works out cheaper (for instance, London to York, York to Scarborough as two tickets).

13. Cheaper Travel on Buses

Look out for weekly saver tickets if you use the bus a lot, or even pay as you go top up cards similar to Oyster cards. These can reduce the cost of your journeys overall than jumping on the bus and paying full price.

14. Share a Ride

If you know a student who has a similar timetable to you, arrange to share taxi rides, and costs, or if they have a car, get a lift. It’s only polite to pay them petrol money or buy them drinks in return, considering how much you might be saving.

15. Change Car Insurance

Perhaps you have your own transport? If so, don’t just blindly renew your car insurance. Compare different prices, use your own eyes as well as comparison websites, which may also charge a commission, and not include some of the better providers. Don’t opt for the cheapest, compare the perks and advantages of one to another, including legal cover, courtesy car and breakdown assistance.

16. Rent DVDs to Each Other

You can’t technically rent a DVD out for money to someone, but you can all save a bit of cash on renting films by borrowing from each other. You could always barter a drink if its not returned on time, or lost, of course.

University libraries may also have DVD collections to rent, though they’re really meant for media students, they can save you cash – as long as you return them on time. Fines can be hefty.

17. Get Store Loyalty Cards

Loyalty cards and tickets for shops and restaurants you use often can get you freebies with discounts or a free drink for every five or so you buy. Designed to encourage you to use their services, they’re actually quite handy if you do use them regularly by routine.

18. Student ID Card Discounts

Work out with shops and retail chains whether they accept only NUS cards to give you a discount or whether your plain student ID will work. Some retailers will have bought into the deal with the NUS (for which you must decide whether the card is worth purchasing and signing up for) but others will honour a discount with a valid student ID from your university.

19. Switch Energy Providers

If you are able to switch energy providers for your utilities of your student house, it could save you money. If you rent, you may have to check the technicalities with your landlord, and beware of long term contracts you can’t cancel.

20. Use Less Energy to Reduce Bills

Perhaps there’s no way to switch your provider and you’re stuck with a coin meter for your electricity and heating. If so, reduce your consumption by switching lights off, and switching bulbs to energy savers.

Throw an extra duvet on the bed, put your heater on a timer plug and wear warm socks. If your windows are single glazed, try some temporary double glazing from a hardware shop to keep out the draughts. Do a Blue Peter and make a draught excluder if you find your front door is particularly guilty of letting in cold air in winter.

At worst, learn the fine art of nursing a beer for a long time in your local and enjoy their heating instead!