Friday, 22 April 2016

Five Ways to Stay Financially Fit at University


University can be expensive. Actually, who am I kidding? University is unbelievably expensive, no matter where you are in the world. I'm currently in my second year of university and I'm definitely feeling the strain of piling expenses from all around. With tuition fees tripling, rent being higher than ever and books/study resources adding to it all, being financially fit is a skill any student needs to have. With April being Financial Literacy Month, there couldn't be a better time to share some money management tricks which I've found seriously helpful when dealing with the growing costs of being in full time education! So, without further ado, let's get to it:

1. Make a spreadsheet.
This is something I didn't do in my first year, but picked up in my second and it makes such a difference. I tot up my loans, savings and any extra income (e.g. - jobs etc.) to work out exactly how much is coming in, and the same for any expenses. If you do this for a while, you'll see how much your spending every month and where it is going. By having everything on a spreadsheet, it's really easy to spot where all the money is going (trust me, I've often found myself wondering where it all went and this solves that problem!). Not only that but you'll be able to allocate an appropriate budget for your needs every month. For example, I have a certain allowance which I've given myself for groceries based on my average spend. The same goes for textbooks, social activities, clothes etc. This way you have a budget and you'll stick to it. The spreadsheet will hold you accountable. 

2. Use your student card.
I flash mine pretty much everywhere that offers a student discount. You'd be surprised at how much you can save. Look out for the times that stores offer more student discount and plan to buy your essentials then if you can. Unidays is a great website which is well worth signing up to for notifications of when these days are. They also give you codes for online discounts as well (which I use on my seasonal ASOS sprees), so very useful if you're more of an online shopper like me! Remember, student cards are good for saving on food too - so if you like eating out, remember to check to see if the restaurant offers it. A lot of places do, so it's worth asking!

3. Learn to cook.
This is so important. Learning to cook some affordable meals that you love will save you a ton of money in the long run (and probably save your health too, if you're more inclined to order in!). Use the summer holidays to learn some of you favourite recipes, maybe look for some good student cookery books in second hand book shops where they'll be cheaper. Also, it's good to learn what foods to eat when - buying fruit in season is cheaper than when it's out of season, just like buying frozen fruit is cheaper than fresh fruit (and also much better in smoothies!). Just because you're looking for cheaper alternatives, it doesn't mean you have to rely on unhealthy options. There are lots of fresh and healthy ingredients out there which don't cost a lot if you know how to put them together to make a tasty meal! 

4. Look for a part time job.
There will definitely be a few hours that you will have to spare, particularly in your first year, and a job would be a great way to use that time. If you're going to a city university, there's bound to be a lot of retail jobs around but often, the university itself has lots of jobs and paid internships which will give you experience as well as a little bit of cash. Sign up to your university career zone for their emails with new job vacancies and apply to any that take your fancy. My advice would be to not be too picky though - any experience is useful at this stage, particularly if it's your first job! I would recommend looking for a job in retail as customer service experience is a skill which will really shine on your CV too.

5. Buy second hand.
This is especially true for textbooks - I remember buying all my fresh new books in the first term of uni and being nearly £150 out of pocket because of it. What's more, when I checked sites such as eBay and Amazon, sellers were offering the same books for less than half the price I had paid for a book in nearly the same condition. Ever since then, I vowed to myself that I'd never buy a new textbook. It does mean that you have to look for your textbooks way in advance because other students will be doing this too - but it's well worth it. I managed to bag a nearly new £40 textbook for £5 from a seller on Amazon earlier this year. Needless to say, I was very happy with the amount I had managed to save just by choosing to buy second hand!

What are your favourite tips for staying financially fit at university (or even after!)?

Ambar x
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