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How to save money at university

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Published: 28 August 2019

A recent National Student Money Survey revealed that 78% of students worry about making ends meet, while UCAS’ latest applicant decisions survey showed that 45% of students worry about managing money at university. It’s no secret that it can be difficult to manage your money as a student, so to help you, we explore some ways for you to save money while at university.

Transport

The best way to save money is to use public transport; cars are expensive since you have to pay for things like tax, fuel, and insurance. Here at the University of Sunderland, we offer free travel for students on the 700/701 service that connects City Campus and Sir Tom Cowie at St Peter’s Campus, as well as stopping at our Clanny House accommodation and not too far from our Panns Bank and Scotia Quay residences.

Bus transport for students

If you travel by train, it could be a good idea to buy a 16-25 Railcard that costs just £30 a year to get a third off your rail fares. If you're more of a bus person then the National Express Young Persons Coachcard might be for you. For £12.50 a year, you get a third off coach fares with National Express. You can save even more money if you plan ahead and book your trips in advance if possible.

Don't forget the University also offers new students free travel across Tyne and Wear for a year, with the Get There Scholarship

Utilities

Some accommodation contracts may include utility bills, but if you rent privately be aware of gas, electricity and water bills. They may be included in your rent, but if they aren't, agree how you are going to divide the cost with your housemates. The best and cheapest way to do it is to set up a direct debit which spreads the cost. If you think you are paying too much, don’t be shy and explore some other options if your tenancy agreements allow you to. Websites like uSwitch, Moneysupermarket and Comparethemarket can help you with comparing prices for things like electricity, gas and even mobile phone deals.

Entertainment

When going out, one of the best way to save money is to only take cash with you so you can limit your spending. You can also have drinks at home with your friends before going out, and therefore drink less while you're out, but don’t overdo it. Even nights in with your housemates can be cheap.

Students having fun in the city centre

If you're into cinema trips, your student status can get you discounted tickets in some cinemas. Student-specific discount websites such as TOTUM (also known as NUS Extra), Student Beans or UNiDAYS offer a range of deals for activities and/or eating out.

Food and drinks

The best thing you can do is cook for yourself. If you don’t know how, maybe it’s time to learn. There are plenty of websites and videos that will give you step-by-step instructions on how to cook simple meals; Tasty App is just one of many. If cooking still isn't for you, there are lots of other ways to save money.

Anything that you buy, always look at the price per 100g or kilogramme to be sure that you get the best price. Branded goods will always cost more, but that doesn’t mean their quality is worth the price, especially if you can buy the same thing for less money (even if it’s not branded, it can still be good). Also, take your lunch with you whenever you can so you don’t waste money buying it somewhere else when you have enough food at home already.

Students drinking beer at the studio

If you get thirsty during your lectures, you should carry a flask filled with tap water rather than spending money on bottled water. For coffee lovers, the best advice is to bring your own reusable cup as many places offer up to 50p discount if you do.

Internet and phone contracts

Another cost that is almost always covered in halls of residence is the internet. If you’re in private housing, you will have to find the best deal for yourself. Be aware that you may have to sign a contract for either 12 or 18 months and there could be additional costs such as a setup fee. Again, the websites mentioned above are the easiest way to find the best deal.

Buying flagship phones today is a luxury since contracts last for 24 months and you pay around £40 for something that you might not use as often as you think. If you already own a decent phone, ask yourself if it's worth it to be tied to a two-year contract. It might be better to save for a slightly older or non flagship phone that costs around £200, then commit to a 12-month SIM only contract that could be as cheap as £6 per month for a package that contains enough data and minutes.

Scholarships

You may be eligible for grants, bursaries or scholarships which, unlike loans, don’t have to be paid back. For example, if you have a disability or dependants who rely on you, you should check your eligibility for additional support on our Scholarships, discounts and specialised grants page. Or use our Scholarships Calculator

Students listening to advice

The University of Sunderland's Student Financial Guidance team provides expert financial guidance to students and prospective students on a wide range of issues – so you can get expert help before you even apply for University. The service is free, confidential, impartial and non-judgemental.

Available services include:

  • Advice on available loans, grants, bursaries and scholarships
  • Help with applying for financial support
  • Advice on banking and budgeting
  • Information on the student support system

Guidance is available by appointment, on a 'drop-in' basis and by phone and email.

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