At the beginning of the semester it’s easy to be fooled by your shiny new four-figure bank balance, courtesy of the Student Loan Company. By week 10, however, it’s often a different story, and you’ll probably regret your previously profligate ways. By taking into account these tips you should find yourself less out of pocket and able to spend money on more important things, like balls, food and maybe even the odd alcoholic beverage.
1. Have a wardrobe clearout and sell your unwanted clothes on eBay. A good way to properly work out what you do and don’t wear is to put all your hangers facing one way, and when you put clothes back, turn the hangers around. Anything left facing the original way after six months should go. Anything with a recognisable brand (and it doesn’t have to be an expensive one) is pretty easy to shift on eBay, and setting up an account is simple.
2. Change your energy supplier. Although this takes a bit of effort to set up, once done it could save you hundreds of pounds a year. Just go to uswitch.com and type in your postcode, and they’ll then tell you who your cheapest supplier would be.
3. Do your online shopping through a site like Quidco or Top Cashback. By simply clicking through their website, you can earn cash back from retailers like Amazon, Asos and thetrainline. Cashback is normally around five per cent, and the websites are free to join.
4. Shop for groceries locally, rather than in Tesco. People are always waxing lyrical about the benefits of staying local for the quality of the produce, which is true, but it’s also good value for money. We are lucky in St Andrews to have access to a wide variety of greengrocers, a butcher, a cheese shop and bakery. If you just want one chicken breast, 200g of beef mince or ten green beans then you can get them, normally with a smiling shopkeeper and helpful tips on what to do with them. This is also hugely helpful in reducing waste, so it’s good for the environment as well as your bank balance.
6. If you don’t use the local shops, try shopping online for food instead. Doing an occasional big shop at Asda, for example, means that you can buy in bulk and not worry about dragging it all home, and you can take advantage of deals that are probably not available in our tiny Tesco Metro.
7. Make lunch in advance, rather than buying it. For just ten or 15 minutes the previous evening you can make a thrifty yet delicious meal for a tiny fraction of the cost in a café or restaurant. On a related note, don’t buy coffee out. Invest in a flask or a keep-cup from the library, and bring your own to lectures without throwing away at least £2 a time.
8. Know your value brands. It’s worth spending a bit of time engaging in some trial and error, working out which value food is just as good as its more expensive counterpart, and which should be left on the shelf. In Tesco, for example, it’s almost impossible to tell the difference between the value fruit, porridge oats and pasta and the more expensive brands. Cereals and teabags, however, are worth spending a bit more on.
9. Find low-cost recipes online. Jack Monroe, a food and politics blogger, has won fame with her super low- cost yet tasty meals, some of which only cost around 20p per head. Her website is agirlcalledjack.com.
10. Eat less meat. Yes, meat is tasty, but it’s also probably responsible for at least a third of your overall food expenditure. Vegetarian food needn’t be boring or lacking in protein; make sure you buy lots of cheap pulses, eggs and leafy vegetables. If you don’t want to get rid of meat, try less popular, cheaper cuts such as pork belly, lamb shanks, chicken thighs and offal.
11. Once you’ve bought your food in bulk, cook large and filling meals before the food goes off, such as shepherd’s or fish pie, lasagne and moussaka. These can then be frozen in small portions (and do remember the small portions, otherwise you’ll end up having to defrost the whole thing at once), and you’ll be able to come back from the library, tired and hungry, and be able to microwave yourself a tasty, cheap and easy meal.
12. Take part in psychology studies at the University. These are advertised on Wednesday memos, and there are usually at least one or two available every week. Most only pay around £3 but others, usually requiring more of your time, can pay up to £30. Although these require some effort on your part, just think about the time you spend watching TV – give up maybe 15 minutes, and you’ll have enough money for at least one drink. Easy.
13. Don’t join the gym unless you’re a real gym bunny and plan on going at least three times a week. Gym membership for one semester costs £66, but the one-off charge for going to a class or using the gym is £3.50. Do the maths: if you go once a week over the semester, paying for each visit, you’ll only spend £42. And you could even ditch the gym entirely and instead take advantage of our beautiful town – go for a run along Lade Braes, Canongate or West Sands for free.