Student's guide to saving money
Free TV, the myth of 'out of date' food and how to manage your budget
With soaring course costs, a troubled economy and a clamp-down on cheap booze, it’s an expensive time to be a student. Fortunately, Kirsty Headden is here to help. Follow her five golden rules to stretch that student loan further
Rule One: Sponge off your parents
Sure, you’ve already thought of this, but did you know there are more ways to milk your parents dry than just demanding their hard-earned cash? Take contents insurance, for example. Many insurers will let your parents include your stuff on their policy at no extra cost. And that computer you just insured? If mum and dad have Sky, you could get Sky Go on your laptop, giving free access to dozens of channels. You won’t even need a TV licence if it’s on-demand. Of course, you might have to visit home occasionally to say thanks, but that’s ok: bring a load of washing and save on electricity. Bonus.
Rule Two: Don’t pour money down the drain (literally)
Stop right there! Before you throw that old milk away, perform a highly scientific sniff test. The key is to pour it into a clean glass first; often the bottleneck smells less than fresh, but the milk itself is absolutely fine. Of course, we’re not suggesting you eat food that’s off – that’s probably taking it a step too far – but when it comes to the contents of your kitchen cupboards, learn the difference between ‘Use By’ and ‘Best Before’. The latter is just a suggested date for optimum tastiness, so if it looks edible, don’t be afraid to get stuck in.
Rule Three: Cheap is good …
One quick way to save a ton of cash is to break your brand habit. From plasters to painkillers and crackers to coffee, we’re conditioned to believe branded products are superior. In reality, they’re often exactly the same as their non-branded counterparts – you’re essentially paying extra for the slick advertising. Try switching to own-brand products for a month, and see if you notice the difference. If you’re not ready to give up the prestige of the top brands (or you’re worried your flatmates will judge your cheapo cheddar), just keep the posh packaging and fill it with the budget version. We won’t tell.
Rule Four: … but free is better
You’ll be amazed what people will give away for nothing. Need to kit out your bedroom? Hit up your local Freecycle group whose noticeboards are full of posts from fellow students desperate to ditch gently used desks, bookshelves, printers and plasma screen TVs (hey, you can dream). Feeling bored? Forgive us for blowing our own trumpet, but The List’s online events listings can be filtered to only show free events. Genius. Most of Scotland’s major museums and galleries, like Kelvingrove in Glasgow and the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, are free to visit too, and actually a lot less dull than you might think.
Rule Five: Pace yourself
I don’t mean at the pub. Mind you, that’s not a bad idea – swapping a pint for a soft drink every couple of rounds will save cash, and also save you from embarrassing yourself in front of that hottie at the bar. But we’re really talking about spreading your spending. You only get that loan once, so if you blow it all at the start of term you’ll spend the rest of the year playing catch-up. Far better to plan your budget ahead of time, whether using a free budgeting app or trusty pen and paper. That way, you’ll have enough left to celebrate when those dreaded exams are finally over. We’ll drink to that.