How to manage your money as a student

MSc Data Science and Analytics Aishwarya Sunderrajan shares her tips for managing your money.

Worried about your money? Understanding your money, how to budget, how to make more of your money and knowing what to do if things are going wrong are essential skills for life. Here are links and guides to help keep your finances on track.

Three students walk through Leeds city centre, past bars and restaurants
There are lots of offers and deals available to students in Leeds.

Are you tired of your friends and family constantly questioning your money management skills? Are you tired of eating nothing but cold gloopy beans at the end of each month? If only there were a blog with pointers on how to manage money as a student in Leeds…

Expenses fall between £150–250 a week if you’re a student. This estimate includes the cost of:

Accommodation rent is one constant expenditure every month, the rest varies depending on your spending habits. Read ahead for tips on saving money.

What can your student status get you?

Flash your student ID card at any store and you’re bound to get at least 10% off on your purchases. Additionally, you can download the UNiDAYS app to receive discounts on everything from IT services to skincare. A quick Google search can also give you voucher codes which can be used while shopping online. Amazon offers a student Prime membership, absolutely free for the first six months and then 3.99/month. There are a ton of free software that you can use as listed here. The University of Leeds offers AppsAnywhere to students, through which you can use paid software, free of cost. You can also avail a bunch of courses online as long as you have your student login details.

Pssssst, you can also get a ton of freebies online and on campus, so be on the lookout!

A double decker bus drives down Kirkgate in Leeds city centre.
If you use public transport, it’s worth exploring what student deals are on offer.

Don’t overpay for transport

University of Leeds is well located with numerous public transport links which means you’ll get a bang for your buck using student discounts and travel passes. If you plan on exploring the UK then invest in a rail-card. Students usually opt for a 16–25 or 26–30 rail-card, both cost £30 a year and save 1/3rd on all tickets booked. Longer train journeys and split ticketing is usually much cheaper than normal train tickets, especially during off-peak hours. Booking tickets well in advance results in huge savings too. Buses are another cheap way to get around the city and have student discounts on bus passes. Discounted single fare tickets cost £1.20. Always research different travel options instead of picking the first one that pops up. All said and done, walking is probably the most cost effective way to get around. You save money and increase your step count at the same time.

Second hand items

If you want to save money on textbooks, then be prepared to visit the Library… oh the horror. Inevitably, even the library can run out of copies, physical and online. In dark times like these, it would be wise to resort to second-hand book markets or exchange books with students who studied the same course. Facebook marketplace and apps like Olio are great places to check out, they post furniture, kitchen items and food at cheaper prices and sometimes for free. Thrift stores and charity shops sell essentials like crockery, clothes and books for a fraction of the original price and have amazing finds (I bought a book worth £25 for only £1!). Not only is this wayyyy cheaper but also much better for the environment.

Shoppers browse the stalls under a glazed roof in Leeds’ Kirkgate market.
It’s worth visiting discount stores and markets to get the best deals on your groceries.

Grocery shopping without mum

Grocery shopping for yourself is a glorious activity but it can ‘eat’ into your budget. It could be beneficial to plan your weekly meals and use a shopping list to avoid buying unnecessary items. Consequently, you’ll save money on takeout (trust me, takeout in the UK is expensive) and be less inclined to let food go to waste. Try shopping at the end of the day when most perishables are sold at discounted prices. Ditch brand names and shop own-label goods from stores like Aldi or Lidl instead (they taste the same). Buying in bulk and cooking with your flat-mates could cut costs. Freezing leftovers and foods like bread, milk and pasta gives you cheaper and healthier alternatives and won’t burn a hole in your pocket. Opt for club cards at supermarket chains such as Tesco, which offer points that can be used as coupons every time you spend at the store (signing up for club-cards are free!).

Take up side hustles

If your course allows it, working a job or two is a great way to earn some extra cash. The Leeds University Union offers a recruitment agency called Joblink for part time work and is highly rated among students. There is also an abundance of openings for retail staff, waiting staff, bar staff, baristas and many more in Leeds. Try to get a job at a retail store you often shop at to avail employee discounts. Online jobs such as tutoring (this pays really well), student brand ambassador opportunities, virtual assistants and so on are also worth looking into.

Be the boss of your budget

Formulating a budget and sticking to it is a foolproof way to keep track of your expenses and not overspend. You can begin by working out your income and loans/grants and then noting down all your expenses in an excel sheet for every month. And when I say all your expenses, I mean ALL your expenses, including the cheeky Snickers you bought on the way back from the gym. Alternatively you could also download a budgeting app if you’re not a control freak and let it do all the hard work for you.

Bank accounts, overdrafts and credit cards

Enough of fun and games, let’s discuss boring bank stuff now. Opt for a student bank account and take advantage of your overdraft (the bank won’t charge you interest if you overspend). Feel free to switch and compare accounts to make use of all the deals they have to offer. Having an overdraft on a tight budget and low income is convenient but at the same time I cannot stress on how important it is to stick to overdraft limits and repay money borrowed on time. Same goes for credit cards, the only way to benefit from them is to stick to terms and conditions. It might be easier to keep track of money by having separate bank accounts for income and expenses. Also, consider using online banks such as Monzo, Revolut or Starling, many of the services they offer are much cheaper than mainstream banks (no fees on international spending).

Other obvious ways to save money would be to not go out too often, pay bills on time, not leave electrical appliances running when not in use and so on. If you need further assistance in managing your money, please do seek advice from advisors at the LUU or the university (it’s free of charge, just saying).

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