5 Sept 2012

university life: ways to save money

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to tell you what to do to save money. I thought I'd just do a post on how I saved money at university myself. Having just spent three years in London (arguably the most expensive place to live in the UK - but only after Bristol apparently!), I had to figure out, through trial and error, ways to minimise unnecessary spending.

Having now graduated, and with my plans now uncertain (I think I know where I am going but I don't want to broadcast it just yet until it materialises!), I have to continue this frugal living. To an extent, I still do quite a few of these tips as money saved means a possible new Filofax organiser, right?

So, here are my tips. Some are well-known and I don't claim for them to be my own, but some of these are things I figured out for myself :)

1) Only take £20 or £30 for your weekly shop - and only in CASH. And before you head out for your shop, write down the stuff you will buy and stick to this list. Planning your meals helps with this as it ensures you only buy what you need.

2) After your weekly shop, put any £1 and £2 coins you get into a tub, box, whatever. From my experience, these coins come in very useful for laundry and if you don't use them for that, they can be a very good surprise at the end of the year. I accumulated quite a lot at the end of my third year (though some did go towards laundry). Alternatively, they can be option if you run out of money or if you have reached your overdraft limit.

A small sample of the coins I had accumulated!
3) Continuing the topic of supermarket shopping, if you know what time the supermarket reduces food, this can be a good time to get cheap meat and then freeze them for future use. As cheap as it may sound, this actually saved me a lot of money. Most of time, I happened to do my shop at the same time as reductions (usually in the evening) and have in the past had success. An example is two lamb chops for 10p! Yes, you read that right, 10p!

4) On the subject of food again (you can see what my life centred around at university!), bulk cooking food is also a cheap way to eat. It also guarantees that on those lazy nights, you won't resort to buying expensive (and unhealthy) pre-made meals from the supermarket. Just add rice (easy if you're Oriental like me and possess a rice cooker) or pasta, or if you're feeling particularly lazy, a slice of bread.

5) Survey sites. This is a good way to save money on material goods. Here are some vouchers I have accumulated in the past twelve months:

The free Tropicana was actually from the Facebook group. I regularly scout out freebies on Money Saving Expert and in the end, shampoo, toothpaste, beauty product samples meant that at the end of term, when I unexpectedly ran out of toiletries, I wasn't stuck as I had these samples.

Basically, if you answer surveys, say a handful of times a month, you can find yourself in possession of vouchers for clothes stores and the like so clothes become a lot cheaper or even free if you have enough of these vouchers!

6) Stock up on things that can keep. Examples include shampoo, feminine hygiene products, toothpaste, other toiletries, toilet roll, etc. Here is my stash:

When I was at university, I loved to use Aussie shampoo and stocked up whenever I saw the 'two for £5' deal. Now, it is more like two for £6 or £7 so I've stopped using it since. However, I still have the stash above. I won't be buying toiletries for a long time I don't think! I probably won't be stocking up again until I have about two months' supply left (that gives time to look for a preferred shampoo brand that is on offer).

7) If you have to buy something, look out for discount codes or vouchers online. Hotdeals UK and a company's Facebook page can be good sources for active codes, as can Money Saving Expert too.

8) Not always possible, but not drinking (booze!) or smoking really saves money. I don't smoke and I rarely drink and at uni, if I did drink, it was only because it was free! People didn't buy me drinks (that's not what I'm hinting at!) but if my halls of residence had an event where there was free booze, I'd have one (never more). This also ensured that I kept any weight gain to the minimum and also kept up a somewhat healthy lifestyle.

9) Fairs! Fresher's, careers', etc. A good place to get free tumblers, pens, paper, sticky notes, etc. And every student needs those! My university had about five or six fairs in total each year and I took each as an opportunity to talk to companies, but also to stock up on things I used on a daily basis. Sneaky? Nah, I call it clever ;)

10) This applies to everyone, not just students, but try and keep basic costs to a minimum. Try and pay as little as possible for your mobile phone contract - but make sure you have enough included minutes, texts and data first! Same with internet contracts - do you need that phone line? If not, an internet-only contract may be better for you, such as Virgin Media. For me (in my second year), it was cheaper for me to get a phone and internet contract though.

Obviously, there are the usual tips, like walk everywhere instead of taking public transport; or do free things instead of going out.


  1. Loved this post. I write a money saving blog and although I didn't go to uni, a lot of these are things I stick to. These are great for anyone looking to cut their spending (apart from the fairs obviously!) Great post.


    1. Thanks! I wish I knew half of these things when I started uni three years ago. I've got a few other tips which I neglected to mention so a follow up post is likely :) x

  2. thanks for this post, i found some great ideas ^^

  3. Great post (I do a lot of things like you!) - I looked for online surveys like you mentioned, but couldn't find what you described. Maybe I am blind! Where do you go to find current surveys with offers/vouchers attached? x

    1. Hi Nina,

      This link is good place to start if you want to see which are the recommended sites for surveys :) x

    2. Aaah thanks :D
      P.s. I like your frequent blogging - it has become a daily read! Nina x

  4. What great tips, Angela. I wish I'd sorted these things out when I first moved out. (I went to uni in NYC so stayed at home -- itself a cost-savings, I suppose, but it's quite difficult in its way.) To be honest, I'm still trying to get the hang of food shopping and cooking, that's a constant challenge in our household.

    1. I wish I had known these when I first left home to go to uni too! Took me three years to learn and actually do these tips but now that I do, I feel set for life (at least, in the financial sense!) x