Stretching hard-earned summer wages across an academic year is standard practice for students, yet how to save money at uni is a different proposition altogether.

Lower income, less paid work and higher outgoings mean that it’s a juggling act, especially when you first get to university. You’ll be meeting new people and nights out are, quite literally, every night. It can be very easy to let the situation get away from you and spiral out of control. This may be the case if it’s your first time away from home and the bright lights of “sale” signs drag you in-store at every opportunity.

To have the best time at university, it’s vital to get your finances under control. Less stress, more fun. Below are 15 of our top tips on how to save money at uni.


Work out your budget in advance

A person working on their laptop.
Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

This is critical if you’re asking how to save money at uni. 

If you don’t know your incomings and outgoings, you’re lost without a map. You can begin this process early, as soon as you know your loan amount and cost of accommodation rent. By taking your income (loans, grants etc) and subtracting your regular expenditure (rent, travel, phone bill, Netflix, Spotify etc), it allows you to work out the disposable income you’ll have left over.

From here, it’s good to then work out a weekly shopping budget (up to you, but £30/£40 is by far enough per person). Once done, you’ve got an accurate reading of where you’re at with spare money per week. 

It could be that it’s actually in the negative, and you’ll need a part-time role to supplement your student loan, but at least you’ve recognised this early before you go on 24 nights out in the first 7 days.


An overdraft is a safety buffer, not ‘your’ money

Use your overdraft as a lifesaver if something goes wrong

But don’t fall into the trap of thinking it’s your money; it’s not. The bank wants it back, and even if you’ve got overdraft terms that allow you to not pay it back for a while, avoid it if you can. 

There’s nothing worse than knowing money is going into your account and when it does you’re barely over £0 because the rest has gone on paying the overdraft.


If possible, avoid credit cards

A person using a credit card at a payment machine.
Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Like above, only use this function if there’s no other way.

Yes, it can provide ways of funding and allow you to manage cash flow, but it’s also very easy to rack up interest charges and debt, so be wary. 

If avoiding it means you have to get a few extra part-time hours a week, do it if possible.


Only take cash on a night out

An age-old university tip. 

There’s little worse than waking up than to see 10x £12 purchases from various bars from the night before. It can make a bad hangover a horrific one. Know your disposable budget for the night and take that out in cash

Once it’s gone, it’s gone, so you’ll learn to make it work.


Use pre-drinks

A selection of beers in a crate.
Photo by Stella de Smit on Unsplash

This needs very little explanation.

A cheap crate or bottle of wine for £7 will go much further than spending £7 on one drink in a club.

But responsibly, of course.


Get to the Freshers fairs

Free stuff galore.

From stationary to Dominos vouchers, there are enough random bonuses for you to make the hungover trip to your local SU. 

If you’re looking at how to save money at uni, especially at the beginning, then the Freshers Fair is the ultimate tool to do so.


Get student deals and use your student card

A student discount sale sign on a store front.
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Once you finish university, you’ll miss the benefits that your student card gives

Reduced gym prices, half-price food, and two for drinks are a few of the bonuses you’ll get when you wave it out. If you’re unsure if somewhere offers a student discount, ask at the till. So many people pay full price when they don’t have to because they’ve been too embarrassed to ask a simple question. 

Most places do offer a student discount, and it’s there to help you, so use it.


Evening food shops for the reduced labels

It’s all about the yellow label reduced section. 

There’s nothing better than something random, like a £6 lamb shank down to 80p. Who cares if it’s a Tuesday, that’s a whopping dinner sorted.


Make a list before shopping (and don’t shop hungry)

Two shopping bags with food.
Photo by Maria Lin Kim on Unsplash

Impulse purchases are the killer. 

You’ll be shopping at Aldi for the basics, hoping to spend no more than a tenner. Then, next thing you know, it’s come to £46 because you’ve bought pink gin, Ferrero Rocher and something unnecessary from the middle aisle. 

Think about what you need, write it down, and (try to) stick to it.


Stick to your weekly food shops

You might be craving chocolate midweek, and although it’s fine to treat yourself here and there, try and stick to one shop a week. 

It allows you to follow your budget better, as seven extra trips to the local shop add up.


‘No spend’ days

A cup of tea on a bed side table.
Photo by David Mao on Unsplash

If you work out on average what you have per day based on your disposable income, it gives you a good guide to follow. 

So for the maths geniuses amongst you, you’ll realise that if you have a day or two off, miraculously, your daily average will go up. 


Rainy day savings fund

If you’re in the privileged position of having a little extra income, don’t take it for granted that such cash flow will always come in. 

The Covid-19 scenario has shown how ‘regular’ can be disrupted in an instant, so if you can put away a few quid a week, try to do so.


Choose public transport over having your own car

A student going to university on the bus.
Photo by Ant Rozetsky on Unsplash

Owning a car is a very expensive habit to have. 

Cutting a car out of your budget will save you a mini fortune in the long run, which you can replace with a railcard (a third off rail travel) and a student bus pass. 

Public transport is also better for the environment as you’re taking another polluter off the road, so if you’re not thinking about your wallet, think about the forests.


Packed lunches

Taking your eating habits back to the ‘primary school ways’ is the way to go. 

You can make a plentiful lunch for less than a couple of quid, in comparison to £6 a day at Costas (yes, we still love the coffee as well but that’s not the point).


Off-peak everything

Credit: Unsplash.

Cinema? Off-peak. Travel? Definitely not peak. Fitness? You guessed it. Your routine and body clock is no doubt messed up anyway so you’ll be fine, embrace off-peak.


If you follow some of the above tips on how to save money at uni, you’ll begin your university life on the right balance. Setting that balance is much easier to do in the beginning, as if you get into a bad routine, it will set in as a bad habit. 

Plan and watch your spending, and you’ll then be able to squeeze the most out of your university budget, and university life.


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