This post was written by an external contributor. Sarah Wilson talks us through the best ways to spend less and save money when at university.
I don’t know about you, but the first time my student loan dropped into my account, I went a little overboard. Dinners out, rounds of jagerbombs and ASOS sprees (damn you premier delivery) were all suddenly – if you’ll excuse the pun – very much on the cards. When it got to the end of first term, I had to pick my jaw up off the floor when I totted up how much I’d managed to blow.
In all seriousness, students are given very little preparation for budgeting or knowledge of how to save money at uni. Finding yourself suddenly in possession of a large amount of money can be a daunting experience – especially with bills, rent, and the actual business of uni work to think about. It’s much easier to just keep tapping your contactless card away than actually sit down and think about a budget, but if you want to be living on more than tins of beans at the end of term, then trust me, it’s worth it.
I’m not saying you necessarily have to sit down and rigorously map out each coffee, bus ride or night out – though this can be helpful if you’re really stretched. There are a number of low-effort tricks you can implement into your everyday routines to alter your spending habits and wind up spending less overall – and hey, you may even be able to save money in the long haul.
Real, physical cash
We might be heading for a cashless society, but until we do, the psychological effect of using real cash can be a powerful way of curbing unnecessary spending. Whatever your budget, the beauty of a student loan is that, by and large, you always know how much is due into your account each term. With this information, you can sit down and work out what a realistic weekly budget looks like for you.
Once you’ve done this, head to your nearest cash point at the start of the week and take out your weekly budget in cash. Put it somewhere safe, and try to stick out the week using only that money. Having it in your hand when you’re about to buy something impresses the value of what you’re buying much more tangibly than a contactless debit card allows. It might make you stop and think before heading to the till in Primark laden with stuff you definitely didn’t come in intending to buy…
What’s more, if you find yourself needing to go over this budget by using card, you’ll know immediately that the budget you set isn’t quite working for whatever reason. When you’re only spending on card, this realisation often comes much later on, when it’s too late to change your habits.
Another great psychological trick you can use to con yourself into better spending habits is to set up a savings account that’s separate from the main account which your student loan or other income comes into. You can often do this with the same bank you’re already set up with, meaning little extra hassle and ease in transferring money between the two accounts.
If taking out cash each week feels like a little too much effort, try moving your weekly budget across from your savings into your main account this week – if you haven’t got an overdraft, this’ll make you stop and think before overspending. If you do, you’ll be able to see how much you overspent by how far in you’ve dipped.
To state the glaringly obvious, saving accounts are for, well, saving. If you know you’ve got big costs ahead like train tickets, hotels or holidays, put aside that money as early as you possibly can. That way, you’ll avoid accidentally dipping into it without realising, as well as an inevitable panic later down the line that you might have to cancel on big plans.
Spread the cost
Weekly budgets are all well and good, but there are, of course, occasions where you’ll have to break the bank. Another way to deal with high cost items or spends which you know are coming up in the future is to sit down and spread the cost across the coming weeks by weaving it into your budget. It’ll leave you feeling a lot less destitute when the time comes to pay up.
It all sounds pretty sensible (and even a little dull), but with minimal effort you’ll find your relationship with money slowly improving, meaning less worry – and more fun – in the long run. Oh, and however much you’re tempted, do try not to abuse that overdraft…