Money saving ideas, food budget and tips to help make the most of student life…

Pauline van Brakel, Chief Product Officer at Yolt, comments: “Whether you’re fresh on the scene or returning back for another year at university or college, making those student budgets stretch the year can always feel like a struggle. It might not be something you want to think about when you’re keen to get stuck in but budgeting early can be key to making the most of your experience.

“Saving money whilst studying can seem hard for everyone, especially after a year of lockdowns when you want to make the most of the new freedoms available. Still, there are some simple steps you can take to make it easier:

  1. Note your yearly budget, setting smaller budgets by category

Start by getting a list of your incomings (loans, savings, wage etc.) and minus your outgoings (rent, utilities, food, and travel costs) to see how much you have left to spend. Being precise about your spending can be a pain, but it’s a great way to see a clear picture of your everyday costs.

Once you know your overall budget for each month, you can break that down into manageable mini budgets for all your major spending categories. Some things are going to need more budget than others, so think about how best to distribute it across everything, from essentials to treats.

If you’re not sure how to calculate your student budgets, there are many resources online, for example check out MoneyHelper’s free money planner.

  1. Make your food budget last

Grocery spending is often one of the biggest expenses. To keep to your food budget, try to make a shopping list to prevent you from impulse buying once you’re at the supermarket.

With the right planning you can batch cook your food and freeze some for later, wasting less and having meals on hand for those evenings when you’re tempted to spend a week’s worth of food budget on a takeaway.

Try to also search for cheaper supermarket options. Our recent research* revealed almost a fifth (19%) of 18–19-year-olds never do so. There’s no need to spend extra money on brand-name products when supermarket-own are usually the same for less.

  1. Stay one step ahead and spend less on supplies

It may seem tricky to keep those course-related costs down, but there are ways to cut back and budget even on the essentials. Find out at the beginning of the course what financial obligations you’ll have throughout the year and factor them into your budget. For example, if you’re studying a language there might be a trip abroad.

There might also be ways to keep costs down on expensive university books. Consider buying them second hand or from a textbook swapping site. Check if they are available at the library or if you can split the costs with a friend.

  1. Spend smart on your socialising budget

Socialising is one of the biggest parts of university life after studying so it makes sense that a big portion of your budget is going to be spent on meeting new people and having fun. Before you spend everything at once, set yourself some budgets so you can keep on track and enjoy the fun all year long as even small expenses can quickly add up.

Peer pressure is real, but you’re not the only one feeling it – we found out that two thirds (66%) of 18–19-year-olds say they spend more than they otherwise would due to social pressures. Suggesting a night in, or a low-cost activity might be just the perfect balance.

  1. Look out for accounts with perks

Find out about the potential money-saving perks that are available to you. Yolt users, for instance, can earn cashback rewards of up to 4% on purchases made with a wide range of retailers, including Nike, ASOS, Wickes, Waterstones and John Lewis.

Some banks offer new students incentives like gift cards, travel passes, or a fee-free overdraft. However, try and keep your overdraft usage strictly for emergencies and leave it out of the equation when you’re calculating budgets. Unlike your student loan, you might need to pay it back quickly after you graduate, and those free interest rates can start to creep up. If you can’t avoid dipping into your overdraft, make sure you’re clued up on all those T&Cs.

“Ultimately managing your money is, like cooking, a new skill that you’ll learn the more you practice. No matter what your money experience is, Yolt makes it easy to manage your money – all in one clear place. You can set up budgets across your major spends like food, socialising and school supplies; transfer money to your housemates to pay for bills; and keep an eye on any upcoming payments, all within the app.”