It’s a truth universally acknowledged that the average student is pretty broke. Unless you have daddy’s trust fund to play with, there’s a reason most Uni students survive on pot noodles. Members of the older generation, that grew up in a time where buying a house was just a given, seem to think that Netflix and coffee are the reason recent graduates can’t afford to buy assets, but the reality is a bit bleaker.
The cost of living has gone up scarily high, with things like rent and travel costs going through the roof, while salaries have seen little improvement, with jobs demanding an obscene amount of additional experience that very often only comes in the form of unpaid internships or work experience. While our American cousins have taken steps to eradicate such exploitation of doe-eyed younglings, the UK has yet to catch up.
Our student days are often referred to as the best time of our lives and while there’s plenty of fun to be had, all too soon, doomsday finally comes. You groggily awaken from 3-4 years of drinking and no sleep and realise that you’re left with nought but a piece of paper that won’t be enough to get you a decent salary job and tens of thousands of pounds in racked up debt.
The fun-loving ways of the student experience tend to keep the average person in utter denial about the realities that will hit them once their education is over. So it’s not the worst thing to go into college or University with a bit of forethought and make a few good habits a routine, so you at least don’t make your financial situation even worse – and maybe even save a few pennies.
So what can you – the poor starving student – do to save some money and not enter the real world completely skint.
Don’t be proud
This bit of advice covers a lot of ground. For starters, get a part-time job. You’re at that age where it’s perfectly normal for you to wait tables, bartend, do mindless admin stuff or be a babysitter. Make sure it’s not something that will negatively impact your studies, but you’re going to want that extra revenue stream.
Yes there might be a stupid uniform involved or you’re self-conscious about serving people who might know you – but in all honesty, they’ll be the ones pre-drinking on Tesco Value wine and calling mummy for handouts, while you’ll actually have funds in your account. There’s nothing more humiliating or morale killing than getting your card declined and don’t even get us started on the cost of your reading list. A few shifts here and there will make your uni life a lot easier, so take whatever job you can get.
Don’t get fooled by the banks
Let’s just be clear – banks are evil. Despite all their pamphlets with beautiful 20 somethings holding a puppy and brand new car keys, a bank’s sole purpose is to make as much money off you as possible and eager-eyed students are easy prey. Do not, we repeat do NOT get an overdraft. While they’ll suck you in with interest-free promises of happy days and paying back at your convenience, the second you and your BA leave campus, the daily overdraft fees will start guzzling away at your essence and charge you obscene extras, because you had the gall to be poor.
You’re better off revisiting that pride issue and in fact calling mummy and daddy for help than stepping into this inescapable vortex of doom. The same goes for a credit card. Get one when you have a steady job and can easily pay back your monthly fees – and not a second before. A few drunken nights out or an ill-advised trip to Ikea could continue to haunt you for years to come.
Take advantage of student resources
Luckily for you, banks aren’t the only people who are clued into a student’s meagre lifestyle. And just because you’re a student, doesn’t mean that you need to look and feel like a glorified bum. You can easily eat and dress well by making use of countless student offers available from hundreds of suppliers. Whether you want organic fruit and veg or save on designer footwear, take some time to scour the internet for every possible student discount and loyalty card in existence and use it as much as possible.
The world is only understanding to students and pensioners. That lengthy in-between stage called “most of your life”, you’ll be cannon fodder for the exquisite dream of capitalism, so make the most of the opportunities your frivolous youth has to offer. And a Nando’s whole chicken reward can feed you for a week, plus you can turn the carcass into broth. Wherever you can – milk. that. discount. cow.
Share the wealth
Student life is also when, on average, you don’t live alone. You’re thrust into a whole new world of strangers and learn to form new friendships quickly. So whether you’re in a dorm or a houseshare, don’t just share the obvious things like utility bills and rent. Share video streaming subscriptions, share Ubers or parking fees or carpool, share laundry detergents and dryer space.
Try to be a bit strategic with whom you choose as your roomies – fellow coursemates means you can spread the cost of books, living with people who have the same dietary requirements such as vegan or gluten-free means you can share certain kitchen staples and cook together, so there’s less food waste.
Use special occasions to your advantage
Christmas, Chinese New Year and Birthdays should take on a new meaning to you while you’re at uni – survival. Yes, it’s lovely to get fancy tea or the latest Xbox games, but you should request gifts that will actually be useful to you. Winter is coming and you’re wearing a 4-year-old outdated polyester one-way ticket to catching the flu, with matching plastic footwear that smells like a science experiment. Request well made, lasting garments that will keep you alive. Sick days off school are no longer a fun treat – uni is a good time to start learning that time is money and you can’t afford to be ill.
Ask for vouchers for Amazon, pharmacies or supermarkets so that even when you’re destitute you can still eat and buy essentials. Tech can be the most pricey – you can’t go through uni without a functioning laptop or phone. So if you’ve dropped your phone one too many times while capturing your latest TikTok masterpiece or your PC is fried because you visited some unsavoury sites while lonely and depressed – pool every special occasion into one expensive gift that you will desperately need. And Uni is definitely not the time to indulge in Apple products – your focus should be functional.
Do all that and you can get away with the occasional Starbucks to make yourself feel like a caffeinated grown-up. Once you actually are one, you’ll still realise that life is expensive and terrible but at least this way you’ll make that realisation wearing a nice pair of shoes, with a cute little Cash ISA.