Money Saving Tips for London Students
London is one of the most exciting places in the world to live, but students often worry about the cost of living and studying in London. Luckily, there are many ways for students to save money. Here are some tips that will help to make your money last longer, so you can get the best out of living in London.
Shopping and eating out
When you enroll at a university in the UK, you will receive a card from the National Union of Students,
called an NUS student card. Whenever you go out in London, or anywhere in the UK, make sure you have your NUS
student card with you. You will be able to get many discounts with it, for example in popular clothes stores,
restaurants and tourist attractions. Always ask the staff about their student deals. You could get at least
10% off your new outfit, or money off your food bill! Sign up to student websites such as StudentMoney Saver,
StudentBeans and UniDays to receive offers via email, so you never miss a discount.
You can also pay for an NUS extra card, which will get you even more discounts and special offers, including on Amazon and Spotify. It costs just £12 for one year, which you can quickly make back in savings on your favourite clothes and products.
London is packed with cinemas, theatres and other cultural hotspots, and as a student you can save money on entertainment. Students can get free or discounted entry at many museums and galleries and look out for ‘pay-what-you-can’ nights at theatres to secure cheap tickets for fantastic plays. The famous National Theatre often releases reduced-price tickets for £15 to students. Most cinemas also offer student-friendly prices.
One of the best things about going to university in London is that you can easily travel around the city and visit other parts of the UK at discounted prices. Students in London can sign up for a Student Oyster Card which entitles you to a 30% discount on the tube, trams and buses. You can easily explore other parts of the country by hopping on a train from London. Sign up for a 16-25 railcard to save 1/3 on all train tickets. Book in advance for an even cheaper journey, and enjoy exploring Great Britain!
Be Smart with your food and shopping
Food will be one of your biggest costs, so it's worth finding ways to reduce your bills. Buying supermarket
value products rather than well-known brands, and shopping at the end of the day when many items are
discounted, are some of the simplest ways to save money.
Where it's possible, you might look into cooking with your housemates or planning your meals in advance. Either way, you'll be able to do a cost-effective 'big shop' at the start of each week and avoid the need for too many expensive takeaways, working on your culinary skills at the same time. You'll also be saving money by making your own packed lunches rather than buying a sandwich or going to a coffee shop every day.
Buy course books second-hand
Course textbooks can be expensive, but luckily there's no need to purchase every item on your reading lists.
You can usually borrow set texts from the library whenever you need them. Only buy the most important books,
and even then, you'll be able to find cheap second-hand copies online or through your university. Sell them on
when you're finished with them to recoup some of the costs.
Books aren't the only course essential you can save on. Depending on how much your university charges for printing, it might be more cost-effective to buy your own printer.
Pay your bills on time
When you're living in halls of residence utility bills will usually be included in your rent, making budgeting a little easier. However, if you're sharing a student house you'll normally be responsible for paying for your gas, electricity, water and internet. Use comparison websites to ensure you get the best deal and keep costs down by saving energy. Put an extra jumper on instead of turning the heating up a notch, and don't use the tumble dryer every day if you've got one.
Setting up direct debits for your regular bills, so that they are paid automatically each month, will make them easier to keep on top of. You may even receive a discount for doing so, and you'll avoid any charges for late payment.
Sharing bills among housemates can be effective (one pays the electricity, another pays the gas, etc.) as long as it is managed carefully. If you pay a bill on behalf of your housemates, make sure they give you their share promptly. Similarly, if a housemate pays a bill for you, repay them as quickly as possible. This way, you'll avoid any unnecessary tensions developing should anybody consistently fail to pay their share.
Ensure you pay the right taxes
If you work part time while studying, you pay income tax in the same way as anybody else. This means that if you earn less than £11,000 a year, you shouldn't have to pay any taxes. Depending on how you're paid, you may be wrongly charged income tax - in this case, you can claim a refund through HMRC.
Meanwhile, recent changes to licensing laws mean you need to buy a TV licence even if you only use catch-up services on BBC iPlayer. You can claim a partial refund if you have three months left on the licence when you leave university at the end of the academic year - find out more at TV Licensing.
Keep track of your spending
It might not be the most exciting job but keeping track of your finances is the best way to make sure you don't overspend and land yourself in trouble. As a starting point, you could create a spreadsheet showing your income from student loans, scholarships and bursaries, parents and any part-time job you have, and note down regular outgoings such as your rent and mobile phone contract. You'll then be able to see exactly how much you have available to spend each month. Sticking to your limits has never been easier, now you can check your balance at any time using your mobile banking app. If you do go overboard, the interest-free overdraft offered with the majority of student bank accounts will help tide you over. Try not to spend too much of your student loan once it comes in - as tempting as it may seem, you don't want to be left penniless for the rest of term.