Figures from the National Union of Students (NUS) in 2022 found that a third of students were left with less than £50 each month after paying rent and bills and 96% of students were cutting back on spending as a result of the cost of living crisis. With maintenance loans failing to keep pace with spiralling inflation, many students are looking for ways to save money as the cost of living crisis worsens.
In this article, we share some practical money-saving tips for students as well as how you can make your money go further. We also provide some advice on what help is available if you are overwhelmed by debt and struggling financially.
Money-saving tips for students
Below, we provide our top money-saving tips for students to help save money on accommodation, travel, study, banking, food and general spending.
How to save money on accommodation
There are a number of things you can do as a student to try and reduce the amount of rent you pay. By living with multiple housemates you should be able to bring down the cost of your monthly rent, however, be mindful that you'll likely need to make some compromises in terms of your living conditions and personal space.
Next, try and haggle on the price and use any minor faults or flaws with the property to your advantage. Highlight areas that are less than perfect and use those to negotiate a better price. Also, if you intend to go back home for the summer ask if you can reduce your rent for the summer months. Many landlords are likely to agree to this although few will highlight it as an option.
Make sure you are receiving all the help that you are entitled to when it comes to paying your energy bills. We explain how energy bills are calculated and how you can reduce your energy bills in our article, 'How to save money on your energy bills'.
If you live in a household where everyone is a student you are exempt from paying council tax. Make sure you are not being charged council tax, either as part of your rent via your landlord or directly by the council. Find out more about council tax and how it works in our article, 'Council Tax explained'.
While you are required to have a TV licence if you watch TV in your student accommodation, you can claim a refund on any months you didn't use it, so long as you live in your accommodation for less than 12 months. So, if you return home for the summer, make sure you claim for the months that you were not living there.
There are a number of discounts on mobile phone contracts for students so make sure that you check these out before committing to an expensive fixed-term contract. Also, consider whether you actually require a fixed-term contract as you may be better off on a pay-as-you-go deal, especially if you can easily access the internet via WiFi. Check out our article 'How to save money on your mobile phone bill' for more information.
How to save money on travel
If you regularly travel by train, consider getting a 16-25 railcard. The card costs £30 per year or £70 for 3 years and it will get you a third off of train travel across the UK.
If you are happy to travel by coach, then check out the Young Persons Coachcard from National Express. It costs £15.00 per year, or £35 for 3 years and will get you a third off all standard fares, including peak time fares. Additionally, train and coach companies will often release heavily discounted fares in order to fill unsold seats. Fares can go on sale for as little as £1 each way so make sure that you do your research.
Car sharing is a great way to save money on travel so before getting the train or bus home at the end of term, ask around to see if anyone else is going your way to split the cost. Similarly, if you have a spare space in your car, ask if anyone needs a lift to share the cost of travel. Liftshare is a popular car-sharing website that can put you in touch with people happy to share their ride. If you own a car then you can also advertise your journey to share the cost of your own travel.
The cost of petrol can also be expensive and there are a number of ways that you can cut back on fuel costs and consumption. We share more in our article, 'How to save money on fuel'.
How to save money on study materials
With study textbooks costing up to £50 each you can make a huge saving by purchasing second-hand study materials. Check places like Facebook Marketplace or eBay and it may be worth looking in charity shops, especially those that are local to your chosen college or university.
Rather than buying expensive textbooks, consider an online subscription where you can get unlimited access for a fraction of the cost. Sites like Perlego provide access to thousands of study materials online from as little as £12 per month and you can cancel at any time.
Look for free tools and software
Don't pay for expensive tools and software when there are cheaper or even free alternatives available. The LibreOffice software is free and available for PC, Mac and Linux. It provides a suite of tools including a word processor, spreadsheet and presentation package and it is compatible with most Microsoft documents. You can also use free, open-source audio editing software programmes such as Audacity and for video hosting and editing, use a free service such as YouTube.
Save money with your bank account
There are a number of banking products that are specifically designed for students, helping you to save money on overdraft fees and even credit card interest. They can also provide additional perks and benefits such as free travel and cashback, so make sure that you check what is available. For a summary of the Best student bank accounts, check out our article. If you are considering getting a credit card then a student credit card could be a good option. You'll be offered a lower limit than on a standard credit card but if it is your first credit card then you are more likely to be accepted and it is a good way to start building a good credit history.
How to save money on food
Saving money on food is key to making your money go further as a student and we provide lots of practical money-saving tips in our article '12 ways to save money on your food shop'. Our tips provide help with budgeting, meal planning and batch cooking as well as the help that is available if you are struggling to afford food. It is also worth checking out our article on the '5 apps to save money on your food bill'.
General spending money-saving tips
Make sure you always check for student discounts because they are widely available, even if not very well advertised. Even local shops and businesses are likely to offer a discount if you ask. Some may ask to see proof of ID and so it is worth considering the TOTUM student discount card. The card is approved by NUS and provides proof of ID as well as access to thousands of discounts and offers on everything from food to fashion. There are three cards to choose from, however, the best value option is the 3-year membership that includes a free Tastecard for just £24.99. For more help on saving money, check out our 25 money-saving tips.
What to do if you’re struggling financially as a student
Firstly, if you are worried about your student debt, check out our article Student debt: What you need to know about repaying your student loans. The article explains how tuition fee loans and maintenance loans work as well as the rules relating to repayment.
If you are experiencing financial hardship as a student, you may be eligible for extra help via a University or College Hardship fund. You'll need to contact the student services department at your university or college and they will decide if you qualify.
If you are still struggling to make ends meet and feel overwhelmed by debt there are a number of debt charities and websites that offer free help and advice. We list some below but more information can be found in our article, 'Where to get free debt advice'.
Websites and charities to get free debt help and advice: