Another fantastic guest blog from one of our young followers! Ollie is about to return to Leeds Uni as a second year economics student. We can’t thank him enough for these tips on managing your money at uni. We always think it’s good to hear from young people whose knowledge is up-to-the-minute, and Ollie’s advice is all absolutely spot on.
Before you go:
One of the most important things to sort out before moving to university is your student bank account. There are many offers out there with different perks – ranging from ASOS vouchers to railcards to Uber Eats vouchers. And you will soon become very familiar with Uber Eats…
Comparisons websites such as Moneysupermarket.com are good places to look to find all the perks each bank is willing to offer. I would argue the student bank accounts that offer a free railcard are the best to go for. It makes train travel all over the country significantly cheaper, meaning it is easier to see friends at different universities. Most importantly, it makes it cheaper to go home for a home cooked meal!
Similarly, another easy way save money is to set up a Unidays account with your new student details. This gives you discounts on a variety of websites from clothing to takeaway food. I can’t emphasise enough how important takeaway meals are!
Both of the above will make keeping to your student loan budget that little bit easier.
Budgeting your student loan:
Use apps to help
It is very easy to spend far too much money at university, especially after that day in late September when the student loan is dumped into your bank account and Freshers’ Week is just about to begin. The best advice I can offer is to get a separate banking app like Monzo, or better yet Revolut, in addition to your main student bank account. This way, each week you can transfer your weekly allowance from your new student bank account to Revolut so there is no danger you’ll overspend.
If you don’t trust yourself to not swap cards on Apple Pay on a night out and use the account where your whole loan is, you can remove that card from Apple Pay so that only the Revolut card is on your phone. Another benefit of Revolut is that it gives you instant statements, so you can see exactly what you spend money on and at what time – rather than monthly statements like many of the traditional banks.
It also has money-saving features like the ‘Cashback’ page where you can get up to 30% cash back if you pay with your Revolut card on businesses like Amazon, Nike and Deliveroo. Lastly, the best money-saving feature of Revolut is called the ‘vault’. It rounds up each payment on the card to the next pound, putting the difference into a saving account – this can help you save a decent amount each term for when you really need it.
Aside from apps, but keeping on the theme of food and money, finding your nearest Aldi or Lidl can be beneficial, especially when doing a weekly shop. If there isn’t one within a reasonable distance, the next best thing you can do is get a Tesco Clubcard or equivalent. Although you may not save fortunes each time you shop, little by little it does add up, allowing you to get more involved in university life. At the very least it will keep Tesco’s meal deals at the £3 price point, which I found to be a good snack between lectures.
Society membership fees
A big part of university life is the societies. It can be hard to budget all of these into a week’s money as typically you join all these societies at the start of semester one. Although the upfront fees may take you over budget, the subscriptions last a year – 24 weeks – so you can view it as a small weekly payment. Furthermore, towards the end of the year, you will find you fall far below your budget as exams kick in and the workload increases (or starts for those who enjoy a night out!).
The best way to overcome these subscription fees is to make sure you budget to have roughly £100 left in your main student bank account (i.e. not the Revolut account) before working out your weekly allowance amount, in order to cover these fees and any other unexpected costs.
I would strongly recommend joining a society, particularly a sports one, as it gives you a new group of friends. And Wednesday sports nights are widely considered the best night out of the week, well in Leeds anyway, as it gives you ticket codes to clubs that sell out a semester in advance. Even if you don’t consider yourself a competitive athlete you can pay a lesser fee and join the sports society as a social member.
What to avoid:
I would strongly recommend avoiding buying a Fresher wristband, no matter how good it looks. All the clubs/events on these wristbands sell individual tickets for the events which you can buy up until the point the event starts eg. 10pm on the night. This way you can be flexible and go out with the people you meet when arriving at university. Many people I met would buy a ticket for a different club despite having a wristband, meaning they essentially paid entry twice per night.
In terms of buying individual tickets, I found it’s best to avoid buying them through links on Snapchat/Whatsapp group chats unless you know the person. Many seniors join fresher groupchats pretending to be a fresher and post their rep link so they make a commission, and you end up with a ticket to what could be a bad event. Always buy tickets through the official apps like Fatsoma or Fixr, this way you can see all the information about the event, particularly that the club is in the right place. In one of my less proud Fresher moments, I bought a ticket through a link for Pryzm Liverpool instead of Pryzm Leeds – that’s one way to ruin your weekly budget! That is why I would recommend going on the proper app and reading about the event.
General tips for Freshers’ Week and university life:
The Fresher Fair
A crucial part of Rreshers’ Week, aside from the nights out, is the Fresher Fair. It is a great place to get into societies you never knew existed and make new groups of friends. Moreover, there are many stalls which offer freebies to new students.
The most important of these freebies for us was free bus passes. It takes a couple of minutes to fill out a survey and in return, you get a 100% discounted travel ticket. For those of you who love a bargain you can fill out as many surveys as you would like. One of my close friends, Eve, spent a chunk of time each day filling out surveys and got 250 free bus tickets. This meant she didn’t pay for a single bus ticket all year. But it also meant she got the mick taken out of her all year… Ultimately, she had free travel all over Leeds, which I was very jealous of!
Student nights & discounts
Another way to save money is to make sure you familiarise yourself with which pubs do students discounts on which days. And make sure you ask for the discount! For instance, many pubs in Leeds have a 20% student discount on their chosen student night but will only apply the discount if you ask for it at the till, saving you roughly £1 per pint. This will rack up quickly, particularly in the first term.
Finally, a tip for making money rather than saving money. Apply to become a club rep for the main clubs in your university/city. I know this seems slightly hypocritical given my earlier rant from when I stupidly bought tickets for the wrong city – silly fresher! Many clubs offer a £1.50 commission per ticket sold, as well as a free £20-30 bar tab for the rep who sells the most tickets for that event. It takes almost none of your time to do and on big event nights – Christmas and Halloween – my friends have made up to £45 commission by selling tickets to their friends.
Additionally, free tickets are often given to reps who sell a single ticket, which again saves the entrance fee. Sometimes travel is also paid for, which can be as much as £30 if it is an event in a different city like the Invades horse racing day events.
Finally, a tip that isn’t money related but might come in very handy. In Freshers’ Week, you meet so many new faces, most of them on nights out. It can be hard to remember names and faces in the morning, particularly after a strong night out. The best way to overcome this is to ask for a person’s Instagram rather than Snapchat or number. Yet if you do add someone on Snapchat make sure you change it to a memorable name. For instance, I met a Matty on the first night out and changed his name to “Matty downside Liverpool”, as he was a Scouser from downstairs. Creative, I know, but it helped me remember him and now we are living together next year!
Many thanks, Ollie, for this excellent advice on managing your money at uni. If you’re getting ready for Freshers’ Week – good luck and enjoy! And if you’ve found this useful, you might also like to read our blogs on what to expect at university, surviving Freshers’ Week, and essentials you might forget when packing for uni.
Louise & Anna x
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