The basics
THE UK: Essentials - Must read

Essentials: Saving money in the UK

Read our guide to saving money in the UK, including what banking options are available, supermarkets to take advantage of (and ones to avoid) and other everyday savings...

Saving money in the UK

While it’s important to have fun while you at university in Britain, make sure you manage to do it while sticking to a budget and not letting your expenditures spiral out of control. You’ll want to avoid those frantic calls and emails to home, asking for an emergency bank transfer.

Luckily there are a number of ways to save money while studying in the UK, even in an expensive city like London. Read our tips and advice to saving money in Britain...


Your bank account

The first thing you ought to do is make sure that you shop around for the best deal on your student bank account. Many bank accounts will offer free incentives and gifts with student accounts such as a free 16-25 railcard (NatWest), a free NUS card (Lloyds) or a discount on home and contents insurance (Barclays). Instead of looking at what unnecessary extras come free with an account, you would be better suited to looking at the interest-free overdraft facilities available in case of emergencies. However, make sure you fully understand the terms of your account from the beginning, such as the consequences of exceeding your overdraft limit (usually this will result in a charge, which can impact your future credit rating).

It is important that while you study you keep a close eye on your bank account, because it is all too easy to get yourself in debt. Ideally when you open an account, you should register for online banking and download their app, which will allow you to access your financial information from the comfort of your own home or while on-the-go; this way you’re more likely to keep tabs on your balance and less likely to receive a nasty surprise. This facility will also allow you to make bank transfers, so you can pay household bills as and when you receive them.


Keeping in touch

When you’re studying away from home, it is important to keep in touch with family and friends. While it is always advantageous to have a mobile phone, there are many other ways to keep in touch that don’t involve spending a lot of money on phone bills.

Skype is the most popular way to talk to friends and family via audio or video call. It’s free to install though you may have to pay for credit to call different countries. It’s simple to use too! We don’t know how international students survived before Skype!

Thanks to the advancement of smartphones, tablets and apps, staying in touch with loved ones at home has never been easier. As well as Skyping from a mobile device, you can also use apps like Whatsapp, Facetime as well as Facebook Messenger and Google Hangouts to continue long messages.

If you’re going to purchase a mobile phone, it is advisable that you do so within the UK once you arrive, as charges from foreign networks will be considerably higher if purchased in your own country. Similarly, if you’re living in private residential accommodation with other people, then you may be able to get a broadband deal that includes landline rental (though most students find it easier to just have their mobile phone). Shop around for the best deals, and compare offers using a price comparison site such as USwitch.

Read our guide to staying in touch with loved ones at home


Tax and working hour entitlements

As a student living in the UK, you’re entitled to discounts on living costs, like council tax costs. The way in which this is worked out is complicated; but legally, a full-time student has no responsibility towards the bill if it remains unpaid. However the moral implications are different. If you are living with a house full of students, then the entire household is exempt from paying council tax. However, if you are living with another non-student the non-student will be entitled to a 25% single persons discount on the entire bill. If you’re living with more than one non-student the overall household will be expected to pay 100% of the bill, but how this is split can be decided between residents.

If you do decide to live off-campus with non-students it is important to discuss what you will be expected to contribute towards council tax (if anything at all).

Many students opt to work during their studies as a means of subsidising their lifestyle while at university. This is also the case for foreign students although there are some limitations placed upon their working life in the UK. International students are allowed to work a maximum of 10 hours a week during the academic year, which could equate to an extra £60 per week for a student working on UK minimum wage – this could come in very handy for books or an evening out! The minimum wage in the UK is £6.50 per hour for those over 21 years old, and £5.03 if you are 18-20 years old. If you are working in London, many companies will honour the London Living Wage of £8.80 an hour, although they are not legally obliged to do so. You may also work more hours during official university vacations or when undertaking a paid placement as part of your degree.

If you do decide to take on part-time work, staff discounts will be a perk of the job. If you’re a fashion-lover, then you may want to try and get a job working within a fashion retail shop, whereas if you’re doing a course in a subject such as IT or graphics it may be more beneficial to work in a technology store such as PC World. Alternatively, many students opt to wait tables because not only are the tips good but most restaurants will feed their staff while on their shift.

Read our full guides to visa conditions for working while studying in the UK and working as a student in the UK.


Everyday savings

There are a number of small things you can do to save money on a day-to-day basis and make your finances stretch further. One of these is to buy an NUS discount card for £10. This will offer you a 20% discount at a range of restaurants and retailers such as Top Shop and Pizza Express.

Similarly, before buying anything, you should check online discount sites in order to see where the best deals are using sites like GroupOn and KGB. Similarly Amazon is usually much cheaper than buying from an actual shop, especially if you’re happy to buy a used product.

If you’re living with a large group of people, you may also want to consider shopping in bulk to reduce the price of food and household necessities. When it comes to supermarkets, avoid Marks & Spencers and Waitrose which are expensive; instead choose Lidl, Poundland, Asda and Tescos (though avoid the Express stores). Many supermarkets offer buy-one-get-one-free offers on a variety of fresh food products; so if you’re planning on going shopping, take a friend with you and split the bill. Additionally independent fruit & veg stalls and meat & fish markets are havens for a good deal (plus you can be content that you’re helping an independent business). Cooking with fresh fruit and vegetables is not only healthier but in the long run, the cost per meal is considerably lower than microwave alternatives.

Read our guide to living costs in the UK



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About Author

Saving money in the UK

Paul Ellett is the editor for Hotcourses Abroad. His role is to plan, produce and share editorial, videos, infographics, eBooks and any other content to inform prospective and current international students about their study abroad experience. When he's not thinking about student visas in Sweden and application deadlines, Paul is an avid fan of comedy podcasts and Nicolas Cage films.


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