I’m the first to admit it: saving sucks.
Sticking to a student budget and sacrificing those little extravagances is really no fun. However, sometimes it just has to be done, and the reward almost always outweighs the cost. I’ve been saving for travel on and off since I was 17, so I’ve had a fair bit of practice at it now – and it has definitely paid off! I’ve managed to put aside enough money each year to fund some sort of big trip every summer, and sometimes more besides.
It’s not exactly easy as a student, but it is definitely possible – and hopefully these tips will give you some idea about how to start!
Make a budget
The dreaded b-word. I hate budgeting with a passion, and I’m not very good at it – but it’s the best way to approach saving, especially if you’ve got a specific target in mind.
Luckily, there are lots of pre-made budgeting tools already online, so you don’t have to do battle with making a spreadsheet of your own. I use the Money Saving Expert one; it’s the most comprehensive and easily understandable one that I’ve found.
All you have to do is input your monthly income and outgoings, and voila – it will calculate for you how much you’ll have leftover. One good way of utilising budgeting tools is deciding on a monthly amount that you would like to save, and putting that down as an outgoing: that way you can figure out how much you’ll still be able to spend on food, clothes, going out and so on.
Get a job
It may be obvious, but it still needs to be said: having an income is realistically the only way that you are going to be able to save up enough to do anything really exciting. Relying on birthday and Christmas gifts is all well and good, and can be a great way of getting help with the cost of a holiday, but employment is the most consistent way of boosting your saving potential.
There are loads of opportunities for students to gain part time work; whether that’s working in a local bar or club, earning money working as a student librarian or for your students’ union, or working part time in a supermarket or café, there’ll definitely be some way for you to start accumulating that extra cash.
While I was at uni I had two jobs: I worked on the college bar, and was also a brand ambassador for STA Travel. Check out your university careers service if you’re struggling: they will have an extensive list of local part-time vacancies you can browse, and this may include opportunities like brand ambassador jobs which you might not be able to find by going round and handing out CVs.
Perseverance will pay off: don’t give up!
Be a bit boring (or at least, a bit inventive…)
It’s inevitable that if you want to save money, sometimes you’re just going to have to miss out on things. That is, if you are the person who goes out and spends £30+ on drinks every night, the likelihood is that your bank balance isn’t going to be your best friend. If you’re serious about saving up, you just can’t be that person. Cut down on nights out, or come up with alternatives. Instead of pints, buy half-pints, (my current favourite money-saving measure), or drink at home instead of buying drinks in clubs.
But don’t think that you have to sit alone in your house every night; there are plenty of ways to enjoy yourself without spending a tonne – get some snacks in and host a movie night, or throw dinner parties where the guests each bring a dish. Not every social occasion needs to burn a hole in your pocket, and it’s pretty likely that others will appreciate the savings as well.
Panic shopping and impulse buying have to go! Sorry to break it to you, but those habits just don’t work if you’re counting pennies. Wave goodbye to Topshop and M&S and say hello to the more student budget-friendly charity shops, Poundland and the reduced section in Tesco (my favourite three places). Buy local veg from the grocer’s (if you have one), and time your shops so that you can take full advantage of late-night bargains.
Using loyalty cards can be great too, as you will often get money off vouchers for things you buy regularly, or points to spend on other things. Ebay is another great place to head if you’re tight on budget: it’s easy to find yourself a steal, especially if you have something particular in mind (try using last minute auction for the best deals!). Also have a look at local Facebook buy-and-sell sites, and Freecycle – an awesome website where people advertise stuff they just want to get rid of!
… and question every purchase
A typical student habit is to just impulsively buy useless crap that you don’t need. This is especially likely if you’re hungover, or procrastinating from writing essays or revision.
Before you pick up that third set of beautiful shiny new felt-tip pens, ask yourself, ‘Do I really need this?’
If the answer is yes, is there some way that you could get it cheaper, or borrow it from someone? For one-off events like balls and formal dinners, it can be a great idea to borrow clothes from your friends (obviously this is mainly relevant to girls). Even for seemingly essential things like books for uni, you can often get them second-hand from the last cohort of students, borrow them from the library, or get a cheap copy from a charity shop.
There are ways round most expenditures, big and small – it just might require a bit more thought! And, as a general rule … don’t shop on a hangover.
Take advantage of that student discount
Being a student does have its advantages! There are lots of ways in which you can put your student card to good use: not only is there that coveted 10-20% discount in high street shops, there’s also discounts on eating out, on Spotify Premium (obviously essential), and more. Always make sure you ask about it when you’re purchasing something; you never know! And if you don’t already have one, you NEED to get yourself a 16-25 railcard (if you live in the UK): saving a third on rail travel means that it pays for itself within about two journeys.
These tips aren’t exhaustive, but they’re certainly a good start! And if you find yourself flagging on the savings front, spend a bit of time browsing Instagram for pictures of your preferred destination… that’ll soon get you motivated again.
It’s also worth noting that not everyone will have the capacity to save for travelling while at university – it does of course depend partly on how much your student loan is, whether you get any financial assistance from your parents, and how expensive your city is, among other things.
But even if you aren’t one of the lucky ones, these tips should still help your budget stretch further, and maybe in the future will allow you to save enough to go abroad!
Was this article helpful? Let me know in the comments below if you have any other tips!
Take a look at my next article, on ways to travel inexpensively while you’re a student. Even if you can’t save up for a big backpacking extravaganza, some of the trips I’ve taken while at uni have been subsidised, fundraised, or even free… and if that’s not an incentive to check back, then I don’t know what is!