Welcome to university: how not to blow the bank

The Saint's money editor David Hallengren gives some helpful tips.


Through a combination of over-enthusiasm for the shaken parental yoke and a lack of familiarity with our mildly ritzy town, those new to St Andrews have an awful tendency of blowing through their maintenance loans in a few short weeks. What follows is some well-meaning advice to help avoid an all-ramen diet by week five.

Getting your booze on

It’s freshers week, so let’s not be coy; you’re probably going to drink. A lot.

The problem with drinking on a budget is that you lose any sense of your budget once you’re a few drinks in, and drinks can be expensive.

The most important piece of advice you’re going to find in this article is to never go drinking with your credit or debit card in your pocket. Many a fresher has discovered the spirit of generosity on their second pablo, started buying rounds, and woken up £80 worse of with a splitting headache. When going on a night out, bring cash, only cash, and only as much as you’re willing to spend (a smart approach, by the way, for a number of budgeting concerns).

What’s more, don’t discount the value of pre-ing at home. Chip in with your flatmates for a bottle of vodka and some mixers to start on before you head out to the Union or the Vic. You’ll make it to the club a lot cheerier, and you’ll be able to maintain that cheer for comparatively little.

Where to shop for groceries

For a small town, St Andrews by no means lacks for grocers. Our town has no less than five grocery stores reachable on foot from the centre.

In the centre, Tesco and Sainsbury’s lie at opposite ends of Market Street. Sainsbury’s, the smaller of the two, is right around the corner from the Buchanan Building, and is well placed for grabbing a snack between classes. Tesco is better suited to proper shopping and tends to be a tad cheaper than its rival.

For larger, full-range supermarkets, you’ll have to head away from town; from Market Street, continue straight past the Student Union, take a left onto A915 Largo Road at the roundabout, and then hunker down for a 15-20 minute walk.

Aldi is the cheapest supermarket you’ll find in St Andrews, and, for those unfamiliar with the chain, it’s a big-box store. It’s a great choice for stocking up on staples. Right across the street, in contrast, is the Marks & Spencer, which is the most expensive supermarket in town and the go-to for posh foodstuffs. Continue down the street another five minutes to reach Morrisons, the largest supermarket in town, comparable in price to Tesco. If you can’t find what you’re looking for between here and Marks & Spencer, you’re probably going to have to order it online.

As you move from supermarket to supermarket, be sure to pick up loyalty cards. They don’t give you much — Tesco’s Clubcard, for example, gives you 1% back in the form of vouchers, rounded down to the nearest 50p — but every little bit counts, and some will help you keep track of what you’re spending on groceries.

The green grocers in town are great for farm-fresh vegetables, but be aware that you’re going to come out of one with a much lighter wallet.

Textbooks: to buy or not to buy?

There’s something pretty galling about paying for a textbook you’ll never use, but you equally don’t want to be caught without a key text and fall behind while you scramble to find a copy.

Perhaps the best way to get an idea of whether you’ll need a book, aside from asking someone who has already taken the course, is looking at the reading list on SAULCAT. If the same source shows up in reading after reading, that might be a good indication that you should invest in it. If you only see it a couple times, you might try relying on the library’s copies.

In any case, if you’re in doubt about the need to buy a textbook, the first lecture of most courses is devoted to going over the syllabus and answering questions.

Your best bet for getting a used textbook on the cheap is one of the various charity shops around town (clustered around Market and South Streets) or Amazon. Note that, if you’re looking to buy textbooks from the charity shops, you should shop early; decent copies, especially for popular classes, are snapped up quickly.

If you want a shiny new copy, head to Blackwell’s, in the Student Union. They have free delivery online and a price-match guarantee for Amazon (in-store, and not for third-party vendors), so there’s little reason not to support a proper bookseller. The other bookshops in town, while generally superb, are unlikely to carry your assigned textbooks.

Lunching in town

St Andrews is flush with lunch options, but it can be hard to eat downtown consistently without ending up a pauper.

First and foremost, if you’re in a catered residence, get in the habit of eating there. Your meals are already paid for, so if you’re eating out, you’re indulging. The food, it must be admitted, can be grim, so some enterprising students bring hot sauce or sriracha to make it more tolerable.

Students who don’t have catered lunches (notably DRA residents) can always head to a hall of residence in the town centre and pay for a meal (pay online beforehand). At £4.25, these are the cheapest proper lunches you’re going to find in town, and include drinks, coffee, and dessert. Breakfasts and dinners are offered, too.

Also consider a student lunch deal at the local Indian restaurants, starting at about £6 without drinks (so choose tap water).

For a faster lunch, consider the chain coffee shops, Costa and Starbucks, which offer sandwiches and toasties from around the £4 mark and up. A fancy coffee can quickly double the cost of your lunch, so buy your drinks elsewhere. Subway’s prices are comparable.

A cup of soup at Pret a Manger is a good budget choice for a lighter lunch, and comes with a roll of bread and butter. Cheapest and fastest of all is a sandwich from Tesco or Sainsbury. A sandwich, a snack, and a drink will run you about £3.



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