30 Money Saving Tips For Students In The UK
If you’re studying in the UK, you may be wondering how you can make ends meet while you’re at uni. After all, the UK can be an expensive place to live, especially if you’re studying in London.
As a student, this may be the first time you’ve had to properly manage your own finances. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to reduce your spend and make that maintenance loan go further.
Here are our 30 top uni money saving tips for students.
1. Use the library
Both your university library and local libraries are full of great learning resources, including the textbooks you need, other books for further reading, and online journals. So it’s well worth getting a free library card so you can access all these great resources.
But that’s not the only reason to join the library. In the winter months, you can keep your home energy bills down by heading out and studying at the library.
2. Get a 16-25 railcard
UK train travel is notoriously pricey. But with a railcard, you can cut costs by up to a third. So if you’re planning to travel by train a lot over the course of your studies, investing in a 16-25 railcard is a great way to save money as a student.
The 16-25 railcard costs £30 for a year, or £70 for three years. If you buy a three-year railcard a few days before your 24th birthday, you’ll be able to use it up until just before your 27th birthday — giving you discounted train travel for even longer.
3. Check your insurance cover
Contents insurance is important for students, especially if you have expensive items like a bike, laptop, or games console. But it might not be necessary to take out your own policy.
If your parents or guardians have home insurance, and their home is your main permanent address, you might be automatically covered by their policy.
To be on the safe side, you (or your parents) might consider taking out individual insurance for specific high-value items.
4. Make a budget
A good budget can help you make the most of your income, and ensure you have enough money to buy everything you need. You might even be able to squirrel away some savings.
First, work out your monthly income. Include your maintenance loan, any bursaries or grants, your wages, and any money from your parents. Bear in mind that your maintenance loan is paid each semester, so you’ll need to split this up into months.
Next, write down your outgoings. Start with the essentials: rent, bills, travel, food, must-have items. Next, budget for the non-essentials, such as nights out.
Deduct your expenses from your income, and if there’s any cash left over, you’re free to spend or save it however you like.
5. Claim your student council tax discount
If everyone in your household is a full-time student, you don’t need to pay council tax. You can apply for an exemption if you need to.
6. Learn to cook
Knowing how to knock up simple meals is an extremely valuable skill. Not only will your wallet thank you, but you’ll also be able to eat more healthy, nutritious meals than if you rely on multiple takeaways a week.
Not sure where to start? Check out these simple student recipes for some tasty budget-friendly ideas.
7. Make a meal plan (and don’t shop on an empty stomach)
Meal planning will help you buy only the food you need, so you’re not wasting money on groceries that will end up in the bin later.
At the start of the week, plan which meals you’re going to make each day. Figure out which ingredients you need and add them to your shopping list (apps like Whisk make this super easy).
Try not to shop when you’re hungry. This can lead to impulse buying, which will bump up the cost of your food shop.
8. Use your freezer
Batch cooking is a great way to save time and money. Cook enough food for two, three, or even four meals, then freeze portions to eat later in the week. So even when you don’t feel like cooking, you don’t need to reach for the Deliveroo app.
9. Make a packed lunch
Like batch cooking, making your own lunches can save you a lot of cash. Instead of buying lunch every day, get up ten minutes earlier and make yourself some sandwiches to eat between lectures.
10. Do your food shop in the evening
From around 6pm, supermarkets start to reduce some of their prices. This is so they can sell off any food that’s approaching its best before or use by dates. So you might find some bargains if you leave your food shop til later in the day.
11. Buy own-brand products
Don’t splash out on premium brands. In a lot of cases, supermarket own-brand products are much cheaper than premium products, and just as tasty. You can massively reduce your food shop costs by switching to own-brand items.
12. Cut back on meat
Meat is one of the more expensive food products in the UK, so going veggie a few days a week is a surefire way to keep food costs down (and it’s great for the environment, too).
13. Use free loyalty cards
Most UK supermarkets have loyalty cards you can use to get discounts and offers when you shop. For example, Tesco Clubcard, Morrisons More, and Lidl Plus allow you to get lower prices on certain items. Pharmacies like Boots and Superdrug also have similar schemes.
You may also be able to collect points that will reduce costs on later purchases.
14. Join student discount schemes
Both sites are free — all you need to do is sign up and verify your student status. You’ll get a discount card you can use in store, and codes to use online.
15. Switch to a student bank account
Lots of banks offer great incentives for you to switch to a student bank account. And in most cases, it’s well worth doing. Many student bank accounts come with long 0% overdrafts, which can be helpful if you’re running low on funds at the end of the month.
It's tough, but try not to overrely on your overdraft, as it can be hard to get back out once you’ve dipped into it.
16. Get free software using your uni email address
Software can be a massive expense if you pay full price. But lots of software developers let students use their services for free, including Microsoft Office, VLC player, and Audacity.
Check out this UCAS guide to getting free software as a student to learn more.
17. Leave your card at home
Heading on a night out? If you’re really serious about sticking to your budget, withdraw the cash you want to spend and leave your bank card at home. This will ensure you don’t overspend, even after a few beers.
Make sure to include cash for a taxi home (and a post-night out takeaway).
18. Get into nature on the weekends
Heading out into nature is a great way to clear your head after a week of lectures. The UK has some stunning green spaces just a train journey away from most major cities. So getting out of town and into the countryside can be a great, cheap way to spend the weekend.
Make yourself a packed lunch and take a trip to the beach, mountains, lakes, or woodland on the weekend.
19. Put your money in a high-interest ISA
Your maintenance loan is paid into your bank account three times a year. To avoid spending it all at once, you could put the money you’re not using in a high-interest savings account.
Not only will this help you keep your money separate, it can also generate interest. While interest rates are relatively high, this can be a good way to generate a little extra cash.
20. Consider living at home
Living at home is one of the best ways to save money as a student. It might not be possible for everyone, but if your parents live within commuting distance of your university, you could save money on rent and bills while you study.
21. Research bursaries, grants, and scholarships
All universities offer financial support to students who qualify for certain bursaries, grants, and scholarships. Unlike your student loan, you won’t need to pay back any of the money from these.
Find out about scholarships and funding via the British Council, and ask your student support team about any bursaries and grants that may apply to you.
22. Shop around for cheap utility bills
Energy prices are pretty high across the board at the moment, so you may not be able to save much on these. But other bills — such as broadband and TV subscriptions — are much more negotiable.
Often, you can get a discount by asking your provider to price match the cheapest quotes from their competitors.
Sites like USwitch can also help you find cheaper deals.
23. Switch off the lights
Even if your energy tariff is high, you can control how much energy you use on a day-to-day basis. Make a conscious effort to switch off any appliances and energy-sapping sources you’re not using, including lights, TVs, and games consoles.
24. Get on your bike
Getting a bike is a great way to get around campus for free. If you don’t have the funds to buy a brand new bike, there are plenty of second-hand bikes available on online marketplaces.
Take your bike to Halfords for a free bike health check to make sure it’s ready for the road. And invest in a good bike lock if you’re planning to leave your bike unattended outside.
25. Make your phone last longer
You don’t need to upgrade your mobile phone just because you’ve reached the end of your contract. Keeping your handset and switching to a SIM only contract can help you save money every month.
26. Sell your old clothes and tech
If you’re holding on to clothes, consoles, and other valuable items you don’t use any more, consider selling them on to someone who can use them. Sites like Vinted, eBay, Facebook Marketplace, and Asos Marketplace can all help you rehome your unwanted items (and make some cash while you’re at it).
27. Check out birthday freebies
Lots of brands offer free birthday treats on your big day, including Krispy Kreme, Hotel Chocolat, and Zizzi. Check out this list of birthday freebies compiled by Money Saving Expert.
28. Avoid payday loans
Payday loans are often marketed as a quick fix for your money problems. But they can actually make the problem worse if you don’t have the funds to pay the loan off quickly.
As a result, it’s a good idea to avoid payday loans as a student. These debts can quickly spiral out of control, so try to stick to your budget as closely as possible. If you do need some extra cash, see if you can dip into your 0% overdraft or borrow from a parent.
29. Claim back your tax
If you work part-time, you may be able to claim back any income tax you’ve been charged. This only applies if you’ve earned less than the tax-free threshold for the current financial year (for 2023/24, the tax-free threshold is £12,570).
30. Start a money club
A money club — also known as a pardner, or kameti — is a great way to pool funds with your uni friends. You each contribute an agreed amount of money each month, with each member receiving a monthly payout. This continues until everyone in the group has received their payout.
Learn how to start a money club with your friends.
Learn more about studying in the UK
Find out more about UK student finance and going to uni in the UK in our resources: