University on a budget


Ava Edmunds

Going to university can be an exciting time in your life. It's the beginning of a new chapter in which you're going to meet new friends, face new challenges and learn new things. It is also a time where you'll have to learn how to manage your finances as student life comes with many expenses. Some of these expenses may include food, accommodation, books, transport, internet plus the occasional wild night out! They may seem like very basic expenses, but they can easily burn a hole in your pocket. If you don't want to find yourself with a cash hole every month, it might be a good idea to learn how to set a budget and stick to it. To address this, we've compiled a list of ways that you can go to university on a budget.

Set a budget

Learning to budget while in university is a great life skill to acquire. Not only will it prepare you better to manage university life, but it will also prepare you for life after you finish your education. Budgeting is about assessing your finances as thoroughly as possible and ensuring you're not spending more than you're making. It might be a good idea to start by getting a piece of paper or an Excel sheet and penning down all of your monthly expenditures. In the same respect, list all of your income and see how much you have left over after subtracting your outgoings. If you find that you're spending more than you're making, then you may have an issue that you need to address. Check what you can do to reduce your expenditure and save more for rainy days. If you're stuck on ideas of how you can save, we've listed some that you may find useful below.

Learn how to cook

Food is a basic necessity, but it also happens to be one that can easily rack up quite a bill. It's so easy to get stuck on living off fast food while trying to keep up with classes, studying and exams. It may seem as though cooking takes up a lot of time, but it will save you tons of money. If you organise yourself and incorporate cooking into your daily routine, it might not be as bad as you think. There are quick meals you could consider such as salads, pasta, stir-fry and rice dishes which can be prepared within thirty minutes. You could also think about doing meal preps and storing the ingredients. By doing this, you'll save time as you'd only need to throw the ingredients together when you're ready to cook.

Girl studying at desk

If you don't already know how to cook, a few online tutorials should help you get on track. Alternatively, perhaps ask a friend to help you learn which you might find effective as its more hands on. When grocery shopping try and avoid overspending by writing a list before hitting the store to avoid impulse buys.

Use your student discount

Being a student has many perks, and one of them includes all of the discounts you're able to get. Some areas in which you can save include entertainment, accommodation, travel, electronics, and software to mention a few. The percentage you'll get off of your purchases varies so do your research before purchasing anything to see if you'll get a discount and how much it will be. Be sure to take your student card everywhere you go as most places won't give you the discount without it.

Top uni expenditure

  • Textbooks
  • Train tickets and railcards
  • Going out
  • IT equipment
  • Printer
  • Toastie press


The internet is an essential part of learning in this era. Without it, it's almost impossible to do any work. If you happen to be in private renting think about how you can get the best deals seeing as you'll need to pay for your own broadband. Try and ensure you take the time to do your research so that you get the cheapest deal possible. If you're living on university grounds, it's more likely wi-fi is already available for little or no cost.

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Phone bills can be a killer to your finances, so choose your plan wisely. Going over your bill can lead to extra charges and payday lenders at the end of the month. To avoid this, try using instant messaging more and calling less. Consider using free apps to call out as well as by doing this, you're less likely to go over your bill. Remember, it is not compulsory that you have a phone contract. You might be able to get something affordable and suitable to your needs by sticking with pay-as-you-go.


Basic items you need for upkeep can't be avoided on your list of expenses. You should make use of your student discount when buying them as previously mentioned so that you can save. Try waiting until sale periods to buy them in bulk or take advantage of major discounts that are on offer. Hunting for coupons is also a good idea as a means of saving in this department.

University buildings


Looking good is often a major part of student life, but there are ways you can do so on a budget. Make use of your student discount when you go shopping and perhaps wait until the huge seasonal sales to go on your shopping sprees. Try and avoid shopping when you don't need to. Also, look for quality clothes for less as they'll last longer than cheap buys will. Try and buy items that can be mixed and matched so that you can achieve different looks without having to buy a whole bunch of clothes you don't need. Another tip is to use cash-back sites when shopping so that you actually make some money while you're spending.

Avoid fines

It is so easy to incur fines when going through university as you may not yet be accustomed to managing your finances and paying your bills. There are several things which you should look out for such as library fines. When you borrow books, try your best to return them on time as what seems like a minor fine can turn into a huge one. There are also overdrafts, store cards, mobile bills and other forms of credit to consider. If you have any of the following, perhaps set up a direct debit so that your bills are paid on time. Try and remember to ensure there's enough money in your account on the days that the direct debits come out to avoid bank charges. You can do this by writing all of the dates down or setting reminders on your phone or other devices.

Get a printer

You may find that while you're in university, you end up needing to print, photocopy and scan more things than you would imagine. If you calculate the cost of doing this over the duration of three years or however long your course is, you might find a printer with a scanner is a good investment. Search for an affordable and reliable one online or check in a local store during sale periods.

Entertainment for less

Entertainment is a fun part of university life, especially if you're quite the social butterfly. There are ways you can have fun without going over your budget such as going out for drinks during happy hour for one. Also, consider attending university parties as opposed to the ones outside as they may be free and sell cheaper drinks. You can also save on cinemas by using your student discount or deciding to watch a movie at home with friends instead. Not only will you save on tickets and food if you choose to do the latter, but you'll also feel less guilty if you happen to fall asleep.

Cut costs on books

University books are sometimes expensive to buy, but it's an unavoidable cost at times. There are, however, ways that you can cut corners when it comes to books so don't always be in a hurry to buy the first ones that you see. Here are some suggestions on how you can ditch the direct payday lenders and save on books.

In a bid to be super organised, you may be tempted to buy all of your books before you start your classes. This, however, may not be the best idea if you want to save. You may find that by waiting until you attend your first class, your lecturer has suggestions on how you can save on books. Some lecturers will let you know that you'll only need particular chapters so perhaps you can photocopy the section you need from a library book or a friend with the book. Others may offer cheaper or free alternatives that you can take advantage of.

When looking for ways to save on books, consider borrowing from a friend who has the book and isn't using it. This could be someone who is taking the same course but is a year ahead or someone who has already graduated. By doing this, you should save money as you get the book for free. Remember to try and ensure you keep it neat and intact. If you aren't able to borrow the book for as long as you need it, consider photocopying it, although this will come at a relatively small cost.

Another savvy idea to consider is checking the library to see if they've got any of the books you need. It might be difficult to find as many students may be looking for the same books at the same time. In this case, it's a matter of first come, first serve so try and look for the book as early in the semester as possible. If you can't find the book in your university library, check if it's available in other libraries by checking online or calling.

If you would like to buy the book, try looking to see if you can find a cheaper alternative such as a used copy. You can search for this online on bookselling marketplaces or at a charity shop and it should cost significantly less.

E-books are becoming increasingly popular as they're easy to carry around and access in this technologically advanced day and age. Some authors, therefore, present their books in both hard and e-copies. This may also be the case for your textbooks, so it's worth checking online to see if you can find any. They may be free or they might come at a cost, but it should be cheaper than the hard copy.

Renting books online is becoming an increasingly popular trend. You may be able to find e-copies or hard copies of the textbooks you need at a cheaper rate. Ensure that if you do get a hard copy, you return it in its original form to avoid charges.

Ultimately, if you have no alternative but to buy the books you need for your classes brand new, you could try and make some of your money back by reselling them. You may want to do this before the newer edition comes out though.


University has many highs and lows, but financial stress shouldn't have to be a part of the package. Learning how to manage your money will help you focus on more important things like passing with flying colours and enjoying the experience to the fullest. By sticking to a budget and learning how to cut costs by hunting for bargains, you should have a lot more money in your pocket. Being a student has several perks when it comes to discounts so try and ensure you use it as often as you can. Hopefully what we've mentioned in this guide will result in you saving more money than you spend by the time that you graduate.

Get in touch on any of our social media pages and let us know any of your hints and tips on attending uni for less. For further reading on uni spending, visit this site.