A penny saved is a penny made. Follow our favourite tips and tricks to save yourself £100s every year!
Looking to sniff out top-dollar money saving? You’ve come to the right place. Discover how to cut the price of everything, from rent reductions to cash back on your commute. We’ve organised our tips by greatest savings potential.
Big Money Savings (£££)
1. Think beyond dorms to save on rent
Don’t assume uni accommodation is always your cheapest option. If you’re prepared to get creative, you could save a ton – like the students who lived on a yacht for a quid a day or camped out to cut costs.
If that’s a bit too bushcraft for you, you could save around £394 a month by living at home. Or use Rightmove to filter areas and private accommodation that fits your budget.
Remember: wherever you live, students do not have to pay council tax. Discover more ways to save on digs.
2. Get student funding
There’s heaps of cash tucked away in bursaries, scholarships and grants – the trick is to hit as many angles as you can (location, dependants, gender, subjects studied). Your uni will have some schemes, but there are private scholarships, sponsorships, grants and emergency funds floating out there too.
Disabled Students Allowance is worth checking if you have a disability or learning disadvantage (e.g. dyslexia), with cash available for computers and specialist kit. See if there’s anything you’re eligible for.
3. Go abroad for grad study
Finland, Norway, Germany and Austria are tops for free or low-cost study, even for international students, which could save you thousands each year. On the downside, living costs can be pricey, and you may need to know the local language to get a place (or a job). Start saving, look for funding, and learn the lingo ahead of time.
4. Stop smoking (or doing drugs)
If you’re a smoker, you could be burning two grand a year or more to fuel your habit. You can get a quitting kit (patches, gum, sprays and medication) for much less on the NHS, and e-cigs could help stop you frying your lungs while you cut back.
Lots of ex-smokers swear by Allen Carr’s book – check the library to read it for free. But it’s not just smoking that costs – recreational drugs and legal highs can be just as pricey, a whole lot riskier, and often get you spending more cash on munchies, impulse buys or digging yourself out of a hole.
5. Have at least one ‘no-spend’ day each week
Having a no-spend day is both incredibly simple and surprisingly difficult. When you stop to think about it, you probably spend money on at least one thing every day, even if it’s as small as a bus fare or a small snack while you’re out and about.
Exercise some self-restraint and try to have at least one no-spend day each week (we’ll let you pay for travel if it’s absolutely necessary – otherwise, walk!). It’ll take some forward planning (like buying food in a weekly shop), but the psychological impact of learning not to spend money should mean you become a lot more careful with it in the long term!
Impressive Cost Cutters (££)
6.Look twice for cheap flights
It can be a costly rookie mistake to assume the first get-away deals you find are actually the cheapest, especially as prices can change in minutes. Set up price alerts with momondo if you have a destination in mind, or use Skyscanner’s ‘Everywhere’ tool to find bargain-bucket seats on flights to anywhere!
Complete holiday packages can sometimes (not always) work out cheaper overall, so compare your prices with sites like lastminute.com.
And don’t dust off your mankini until you’ve read our specific tips to getting airborne for less.
7. Know your discounts
Get yourself a discount card to hoover up any student savings going. You’ll need to pay for the NUS Extra card (the three-year card is the best value), but you could recoup your costs in as little as one spend with 50% off Spotify, 10% off ASOS or even £10 off at Amazon.co.uk.
Like to eat out? It’s also worth adding a tastecard to your arsenal to knock 50% off at thousands of restaurants.
If you don’t want to pay for your discounts, you can still use your student ID instead at a range of places, from clubs to cinemas – check out our full student discount directory.
Oh, and don’t worry if you’ve already finished uni – find out how you can get an NUS card when you’ve graduated!
8. Earn money from your student loan
Whenever (if ever) you have a lump-sum of cash that you don’t need straight away, stick it in a high-interest cash ISA.
If you’ve got other funds to live on (income from a job or a student start-up), you’ll earn more tax-free interest by leaving your savings alone to accumulate.
If not, work out your living costs and siphon off what you need each month – you’ll still earn interest, and making your money last for the whole term is a lesson in discipline.
9. Speak to the Cancellations Department
Got a phone, broadband or TV subscription due for renewal? Tell your provider you’re taking your business elsewhere unless they beat the cheapest alternative.
This one works especially well with mobile phone companies – try to cancel your contract and you can expect to be directed to their loyalty team who have the power to offer substantial discounts to retain customers. Get your poker face on!
It’s also worth noting that this works with more than just cancellations. If you’ve had a poor experience with any company, get in touch with their customer services team and make it clear that you’re unhappy – they’ll probably offer you something to make sure you use their services again!
Just don’t go too hard on the poor person handling your query – this probably wasn’t their fault!
10. Slash your bills in an evening
Spend just one evening comparing the cost of your gas or leccy and you could save hundreds by moving to a better deal. Switching is simple and free – just make sure you’re not tied into a contract with exit fees (although the savings can still outweigh them).
Quickly find out what you can save right now at EnergyHelpine.com.
11. Get cash back on almost anything you buy
Every time you buy online, get some of your money back by learning how to use cashback sites.
Topcashback and Quidco are both worth joining, and they cover almost every online retailer between them. You’ll be amazed at just how much you get back!
12. Haggle on your rent (or anything else)
You’ve got nothing to lose by asking for a rent reduction – if you can show you’ve been a top tenant, the odds are in your favour, as it’s usually cheaper and less hassle for your landlord if you stay on.
Other tactics to try include paying in advance, or knocking off a month or two from 12-month contracts to account for non-term time.
But don’t stop at haggling on your rent – anything and everything can be cut down with a bit of persuasion, as we explain in our guide to haggling.
13. Use the ‘skimming’ trick
When you experience the thrill of money inbound – Student Loan, birthday cash, wages or anything else – skim 10% off the top and whack it in a savings account (set up a standing order to shuffle the cash over automatically when it lands in your current account).
If you can manage just £20 a month you’ll be £240 better off at the end of the year (more if you stick it in a top-paying savings account).
14. Think about phone insurance
Not only are two-thirds of you likely to damage or break your phone at uni, but phone theft is so rampant that there’s even a national crime unit dedicated to stopping it.
Insurance obviously costs money, but can save you the expense of a new phone or pricey repairs. So if you’re a butter fingers, have a pricey handset or are locked into a lengthy contract, getting insured is often worth doing.
Don’t just go with the policy that’s bundled with your gadget – you can get cover for pennies.
15. Turn your old phone into a sat nav
Obviously you can use your current phone as a sat nav too, but that’ll just drain your battery and put out the fire flowing through the aux cord.
Your phone’s GPS can work without a SIM card, so the super money-saving option here is to go to whatever app you’re using and download the route (over WiFi) for offline use. But if you want live traffic updates, alternate route options and all that jazz, the next best thing is to get a cheap-as-chips SIM and use the data on that.
Don’t need a sat nav? Our price comparison tool will tell you which companies will give you the most money for your old phone.
16. Ride the bus for less
If you catch the bus every day, a student bus pass usually works out cheaper (if you’re entitled to disability support, you may be able to get free travel, or funds to help you pay for a pass). Check if there are free metro bus services in your area, too.
17. Swerve premium rate numbers
If there’s one thing more torturous than most companies’ choice of hold music, it’s the rip-off rates you pay for calling their pricey 084 and 087 numbers in the first place. Even on an inclusive call plan, they can cost up to 60p a minute.
If you can’t avoid nasty numbers, find a cheaper alternative at saynoto0870 or download WeQ4U which will also call you back once you’re connected. No more epic calls, or paying to stay on hold!
18. Don’t pay for top-selling apps & games
Most tablet, phone and PC platforms offer free or freemium games, but Amazon’s gone one further and banked a load of premium apps in its Underground service, which offers them all for free.
That means you can get your hands on Monument Valley (£2.49), OfficeSuite Professional (£9.99) and the inexplicably popular Goat Simulator (£3.99) for no cost whatsoever. The trade-off is that you’ll need to allow Amazon access to your app usage stats to actually run any free downloads.
20. Get 2for1 cinema tickets for a year for less than £2
How we miss Orange Wednesdays. If you were on the network, your trips to the cinema would never cost full price. And if you weren’t, you’d almost certainly have memorised a list of all your friends and family who could give you their code.
The good news is that the 2for1 baton has been passed to Compare the Market’s Meerkat Movies scheme, and all you have to do is make an eligible purchase with them. The best part? It includes travel insurance, which you can get for under £2!
19. Or just go to the cinema for free!
There’s only one thing better than a discount, and that’s getting something for free. Whether you plop for free preview screenings, or sign up to E4’s Slackers Club (or both!), there are a ton of ways to get your Hollywood on without spending a penny.
Check out our cinema hacks for more details on how to secure your free or discounted tickets.
21. Get a 3-year railcard when you’re 24
Buy or renew a 3-year 16–25 railcard before your 24th birthday to get a third off rail fares until you’re 27!
If you miss the window and turn 24, you can still buy a 1-year card right up until the day before you turn 26.
22. Lose your TV licence
If you’ve got top-speed unlimited broadband and use streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, you could save a bundle by ditching your TV licence.
But if you ever do watch live TV, legally you need to cough up for a TV licence, and you now also need a licence to watch iPlayer and 4OD (unless you use this loophole)!
However, you can get a refund to cover the summer months you’re not at uni.
23. Run from overpriced gym membership
Opt for any of the big fancy fitness chains and you can expect to pay anything up to £80 a month. Whilst that may incentivise you to actually go, there are lots of ways to lose a few pounds for fewer pounds (sorry).
Your university is likely to offer most facilities for a fraction of the cost, with no lengthy contract. Or you could check out PayAsUGym for hundreds of pay-as-you-go or no-frills gyms popping up all over the country.
Not enough for you? See all the ways you can save a packet on fitness.
24. Save on postage costs with Amazon Prime
Amazon’s student Prime trial gives you 6 months of free one-day delivery with no minimum spend, and thereafter 50% off the usual yearly membership fee.
Oh, and you also get access to the full Prime Instant Video catalogue along with other exclusive Prime offers 😉
25. Get your tax back
Most students won’t earn more than the personal allowance each year, so shouldn’t be taxed on any of it. If your employer has you on an emergency or incorrect tax code, or if your bank knocks tax off your savings’ interest, you’re entitled to reclaim it.
If you run a student business, you can also claim for allowable expenses – meaning there’s less tax to pay on profits.
26. past ‘Before Before’ dates
The bottom line on best before dates (not use by dates!) is that they’re about food quality, not safety. The Approved Food website can help you cash in on that – they sell stuff close to or past its best before date that’s still safe to eat. We slashed £60 off one shop, so there are top savings to be had.
27. Get free money every month
Instead of varying interest, the Halifax Reward Current Account pays you £3 for every month you stay in credit (and sometimes a bonus for opening the account, too).
You’ll need to pay in at least £750 and pay out two direct debits each month, but you may be able to transfer in (and out) the same cash each time, and set up the smallest direct debit to qualify – even a quid to a charity would do.
If you’re one of the many students without a student account (and you don’t need a 0% overdraft), it’s worth a look.
28. Get everything for five pounds
Some company names leave you scratching your head, wondering what on earth they actually do. Not so with Everything5pounds.
Everything5pounds sells clothes, homeware and toys for – you guessed it – £5. Now, before you turn your nose up at the idea of buying clothes for £5, a lot of their stock is high-street quality.
Sometimes it literally is high-street quality, with the site buying unsold stock in bulk from the likes of Topshop and River Island, and selling it to you for a fiver a pop.
29. Check Amazon’s secret warehouse deals
You can get almost anything for less at Amazon Warehouse, although what’s actually on offer varies at any given time. These heavily discounted goods are typically returns, but you’ll still get the same guarantees about stuff working properly (or your money back if not).
30. Food shop in the evenings
If you’re prepared to shop around (around 6pm, that is), lots of supermarkets mark-down items they need to shift or ditch by the end of the day.
Still make a list, but if you’re flexible on brands and flavours you could bag tinned or fresh produce that’s still plenty good to eat, but for pennies. Just don’t shop on an empty stomach! Read more tips for food shopping on the cheap.