How I survived my first year at uni

Studying full time brings some financial challenges with it, and it can take time to get used to juggling all your new financial commitments after moving away from home. Student Writer Taz shares her tips for making your money go further during your first year at uni and beyond.

If there’s one thing my first year at uni taught me, it’s that money definitely doesn’t grow on trees- or from Student Finance for that matter. Yes, applying for a student loan is very advisable, but in more cases than not it is not a pool of money that you can wholly rely on to get you through each week.

Unlike living at home, living at university comes with many added costs including food shopping, travel, and socialising. And it’s up to you how you decide to budget your spending. With all things considered, I’ve come up with a few helpful tips which are guaranteed to give you more control over your weekly outgoings.

Food shopping

We’re all human beings and we’ve all got to eat. How sensible you are when it comes to buying food, however, is up to you. One of the most important ways to save money on your food shop is to sign up to student discount and loyalty schemes. For example, having a Co-op membership card as well as a TOTUM Card will save you 20% on your shop at Co-op (a bonus considering we have one on campus!). At the same time, small things such as remembering to take your own carrier bags and going with a pre-written shopping list will save you those few extra pennies and ensure that you don’t get tempted to overspend. Planning your meals for the next week before your shop can also be beneficial when it comes to not wasting your food. It’s a great idea to plan what meals you could cook in bulk (curry, spag bol, chilli) so you can buy enough ingredients. This will save both time and effort during the week. You might also want to consider buying the shop’s own brand ingredients. Your mum might buy Dolmio and Uncle Ben’s brands, but as far as the student life goes, this really isn’t necessary!

Travel

At Reading, we’re lucky that our campus is within walking distance of pretty much all student accommodation. However, there will be times when you’ll want to travel into town, to work, or to even go home. To help reduce the cost of these journeys, ensure you make use of the Reading buses ‘Boost’ scheme (reduced prices for students) and get yourself a 16-25 railcard for the train. The railcard is only £30 for a year and saves you 30% off the price of your rail ticket each time (it has saved me hundreds over the years!). Equally, if travelling home from town after a night out, remember that (if you can get it safely), the buses run 24 hours. Sharing taxis or using the Uber app can also save you money.

Socialising

It’s an undeniable fact that on top of your basic spending, you’re also going to want some money to spend on fun stuff too. If it’s Wednesday or Saturday Union you’re after, the University offer a reduced entry price for TOTUM card holders; another reason why having this card is so beneficial. Additionally, the drinks sold across campus bars are genuinely quite affordable (as long as you know how much you can afford to spend). Similarly, there are many bars (particularly Spoons) in town that offer Happy Hour offers and student prices.

There are also plenty of other student offers for things non-clubbing related across town. These include student offers for Bowling (at Wokingham Superbowl) and ticket discounts at the Vue and Showcase cinemas.

Eating Out

Thanks to the Oracle’s lovely food court, and the hundreds of takeaway branches around uni, there are plenty of opportunities for a tasty treat every so often. To help you out with these costs, the Unidays and TOTUM apps are ideal. Likewise, many takeaways also offer student meal deals and discounts so it’s always worth checking.

Alternatively, if it’s takeaway coffee you’re after to get you through a 9am lecture, there are also plenty of subsidised prices on campus. Many of the uni’s cafes also offer discount when using pre-loaded Campus Cards to pay.

Budgeting Advice Elsewhere

Whilst these tips are from experience (and hopefully very helpful to you), there are also professional sources of advice which are there for you to make use of. These include the Money Saving Expert’s tips and the University’s Student Financial Support Team. At the same time, if you haven’t already considered it, securing a part-time job will help to relieve any money stress by a huge amount. To search uni-based job openings, visit Campus Jobs. 

Happy Budgeting!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: