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Student finance survival guide

Spending less

This sounds terrible I know but you may be able to save a considerable amount of money by cutting back on the big boring things you have to spend money on, such as rent and bills. We will deal with these 'big things' now and worry about the little things later.

boring big things

Rent

Decide on a rent budget and stick to it. If you are renting then it is often worth shopping around at different letting agents as agency/admin fees can vary from nothing to several hundred pounds. A little known fact is that you can haggle rent prices down! This is often more successful if you are dealing with private landlord but it's always worth a try. For more information on rent, see the 'shared accommodation survival guide'.

You rent contract may well be fixed for your next academic year, but rent will probably be your biggest single expenditure each month and if you're struggling for money, you may wish to consider cheaper rent in the future.

Gas and Electricity Bills

You gas and electricity supplier (N Power, Scottish Power, British Gas etc) will probably be arranged by your landlord. However, prices for gas and electricity vary between suppliers and if you think it will be financially beneficial for you to switch to another supplier you should ask your landlord. For the cheapest current energy supplier and advice on switching suppliers, please see this Money Saving Expert article.

If you cannot change to the cheapest supplier, there are plenty of other ways to reduce your energy bills, unsurprisingly, these involve using less energy! Below are my top tips on using less energy:

Seriously, all of these tips will make a big difference. In one of my (many) student houses we were really strict with using gas an electricity and managed to cut my bill down from £35 a month to £7 a month!

Water Bills

There is not much you can do about this one I'm afraid, unless you have a meter in which case, use less water!

Insurance Bills

Use comparison sites to find your cheapest quote and then call the cheapest insurer and barter for an even better price.

TV/Internet/phone packages

Shop around for the best deal and if you live in a student house, make sure you get unlimited downloads or you could end up paying a fortune. For updates on the best deals, see this Money Saving Expert article.

Mobile phones

Recommended Further Reading

Again, it is worth shopping around. Work out how many text and minutes you use - you should over estimate as going over your 'free' minutes will cost a lot of money. Have a look at deals on the internet and either pick the best on of these or use these as bartering ammunition in a mobile phone shop.

A mobile phone salesman once told me that they get more commission if they sell you a bad deal than if they sell you a good deal, therefore they will try to sell you the worst deal that they can! Never, ever, ever accept the first deal that they offer you! Barter like a trooper until said salesman is on his knees begging you take his best deal just so that you will leave him alone.

Oh, and another point, mobile phone insurance, in my experience this is a big waste of money. If your phone is worth £100 and you are paying £10 a month to insure your phone, that's £120 a year, which is more than your phone is worth. Therefore, if you are planning on losing your phone more than once a year, it may be worth getting insurance, if you are only going to lose it once, or not at all, the insurance isn't worth it - you can save the insurance money and just buy a new phone. Unbelievably, some phone insurance companies don't cover loss or damage, they will only reimburse you if your phone is 'taken from you by force'! You should also check you contents insurance as you may be able to add your phone to this for free.


Here is a top tip, if you have an expensive phone handset and are concerned that you will lose you when you go out for a beverage or two, invest in a cheap pay-as-you-go handset, (you can pick these up for about a tenner,) put your sim card in it and use this for the night instead of your swanky new iphone/blueberry/blackberry/elderberry. Then when you drop said cheap handset in a pint of beer/the toilet/under the wheels of a passing taxi, you won't be too upset!


Right, that's all the big bad boring things dealt with, hopefully you will have managed to free up some spare cash by cutting down on major outgoings. If you are still struggling with money and need to tighten the purse strings further, below are some ideas on how to save money on the little things in life. Remember, pennies make pounds!

little things

Coffee, lunch and magazines

Yes, Starbucks, Pret and Costa are all very nice, and I know you need a moch-choca-frappe-latte to keep you awake in lectures; but if you spend £2.50 on a coffee every day, that's £900 a year! Which is a lot of money if you're skint!

The same goes for bought lunches, magazines and other non-essentials, So make your own coffee, take your lunch to uni with you and steal your housemate's Heat magazine!

Top tip!

If you truly cannot live without your frothy coffee, but yourself the cheapest mini caffetiere you can find, heat some milk in the microwave, pour the milk into the caffetiere, up-down-up-down with the plungy bit for a couple of minutes and you will have lovely frothy milk! Add this to instant of filtered coffee and you will have a cappuccino!

Clothes

Yes we all need clothes, you uni tutor probably wouldn't that impressed if you turned up to a seminar in the buff. And I also know that image is important, and that it's not fair that Tarquin Henry Whiffale-Whaffle who lives a the end of your corridor bought his 17th pair of gucci shoes this week, but when you're on a student budget there may be times when you need to prioritise rent and bills over clothes and other fun things.

A good way to control you clothes spending is to set yourself a budget per month or per week that you can spend on clothes. For example, if you allow yourself to spend £30 a month on clothes, you may have to more selective about what you buy but you will not blow your tuition fee money on that £60 mohair jumper that you thought you couldn't live without.

Cheap shops like Primark and H and M and a God-send for students, and it is worth checking out good charity shops and markets for bargains and fancy dress. Buy a few staple items and then accessorise to change your style instead of multiple new outfits. And remember, when you graduate you will hopefully get a well paid job and you can then buy all the shoes and mo-hair jumpers you like!

Food

Supermarket are designed to make you spend more money but there are several ways to avoid this. In order to do this, it is important to understand how food is organised in the supermarket. You have:

Now, here is obviously a vast price difference between 9p and £3.99 and there is probably quite a difference in taste and quality as well. However, you need to know what your budget is and stick to it. It has been estimated that if you drop down one level of product (e.g. From a Pot Noodle to a Tesco noodle snack) on all of your purchases, you will cut your food bill by 30%.

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