Money matters for students abroad
There's no getting around it; studying in the UK can be pretty expensive. Your fees and your living expenses will take a big chunk out of your budget. But that doesn't have to mean you can't live life to the full and enjoy all that your new home has to offer. Keep reading for some helpful tips which could save you pennies and pounds...
Make a Budget
To make your cash go further it is a really good idea to write down all your sources of money (income) and all the things you expect to have to spend it on (outgoings or expenditures). There's the boring stuff; like food, travel and books for your course, but also the fun things like nights out and shopping. Being aware of how you spend your money will also show you the areas where you could make a saving, such as walking rather than using public transport, or making your own lunch.
Get a discount
There are loads of deals available that can help you to save money. You can sign up for all kinds of offers that will give you free DVD rental and discounts on cinema tickets. There are buy-one-get-one-free offers and even sites where you can swap things you don't need for things that you do. The NUS Extra card is accepted by most retailers and your NUS identity card will be enough to get you cheaper prices on the high street too. A little research could save you quite a bit of cash, so try not to impulse buy – national and regional offers can be found on student-focused discount websites like studentbeans and snapfax. Don't be tempted to buy something just because you get a discount though, or you won't end up saving any money at all!
Save on course books and equipment by borrowing from your university, college or town library. If this isn't possible, cheap or second-hand books are available though websites such as abebooks, jscampus and, of course, Amazon and eBay. Or, for an even cheaper option, see if you can get your books via a book-swapping website, such as Bookmooch or ReadItSwapIt. Google Books also allow you to view sections of books, which can be useful if you just need to look at small excerpts. Speak to students who are on the same course one year ahead of you and ask if you can buy their books when they've finished with them – a good reason to attend socials organised by your department. Remember that it pays to shop around: the first price you see in the campus bookshop is generally not the best price available.
Always budget for nights out, and then stick to it. One way of doing this is to take out the money you have allowed yourself in cash before you go, and then don't take any cards so that you can't spend more than you can afford. If you're not realistic about what you spend your money on, you'll find yourself falling into debt very quickly.
Of course, the best way to save money is to have a few nights in – a Netflix account is very reasonable for the vast library you have access to, and if split between housemates it's even less (also, with so much on offer, there won't be any arugments over to what to watch). If you already have a Netflix account in your home country, you'll find that you'll now have access to a whole new library of British shows. Other DVD rental websites such as Lovefilm and WOW HD offer free trials to new customers too. Take full advantage of these by hopping around from site to site, giving you months of free DVDs.
You don't have to spend a fortune on food. Eating out, takeaways and other convenience foods can be very expensive and will make a huge dent in your budget, so it pays to make your own. Check out YumYum.com for free recipes aimed at students. Make a list of ingredients you need before you shop, reducing pricey impulse purchases (similarly, don't shop when hungry as you're more likely to make these impulse buys of high-sugar and overpriced snacks). It may even be a good idea to plan your meals for the week ahead so you know exactly what you need to buy, when meat or produce may go bad by etc. There are a number of different supermarkets in the UK and they all compete on price, so shop around and you should find a good deal - Waitrose and Marks & Spencers are very high end, while Asda, Tesco and Spar are more affordable. You can also schedule an order which the supermarket delivers straight to your door, which removes the ordeal of carrying your shopping home.
Plan ahead when it comes to travelling. The earlier you book things like train tickets, the cheaper the fares will be. Similarly, while at university or college, bear in mind that you can usually get a cheap student season ticket on public transport. It's often better to use a train company website, such as NationalExpressEastCoast, rather than a ticket booking site such as the Trainline, as you save hefty transaction fees. And don't forget you can buy a railcard if you are 25 or under that will reduce your fares by a third.
Waste not, want not
Don't underestimate the value of your clutter. Sell the things you don't need anymore on eBay, Gumtree or Loot; not only will you feel more organised, you could pick up some easy cash too. If you need to kit out a room or flat, or have some unwanted stuff to get rid of, join your local Freecycle group and collect a whole load of goodies for free.
Many universities have a bank branch on campus and most of these will have student advisors; if in doubt, pop into your local branch. For advice about setting up a bank account, check out our article about student banking.