Generally, students don’t have much money. There’s no confusion about that. If anything, we’ve become even less well-off over the years. While our parents’ generation received grants and free tuition, our tuition fees and student loans continue to increase, and our lifestyle is not getting any cheaper. We have to stay on a tight budget.
As the festive season comes to a close and we find that our bank accounts are empty, I am going to propose a series of tips I have learnt on how to save a few quid while studying at university, without compromising your lifestyle.
A basic but essential part of living cheap is setting yourself a weekly budget. You can calculate this by dividing your total ‘income’ by the number of weeks you wish to budget for. This may well be the 10 weeks in a Warwick term.
By only buying what you need, you will save time and money and prevent food waste
You can then subdivide this into a budget for each category. How much is that £4 Ben and Jerry’s really worth to you? You might want to factor it in to your budget. By working out what your priorities are, you’ll also be able to work out what you can afford.
A key facet to living within your means, is planning. This means planning what you’re going to buy, when you’re going to buy it, and where. Hopefully this will prevent the inevitable splurge at Rootes Grocery store (I don’t judge, we have all been there).
It will help to create a simple, yet classic, meal plan. By only buying what you need, you will save time and money and prevent food waste. It’s not only good for your pocket, but the environment too!
Sharing and alternating cooking meals with flatmates is a great way to socialise
You might also want to make meals with similar ingredients. For example, the vegetables used in a spaghetti Bolognese could also be used for a curry! Or, if you prefer variation in your menu, a great thing to do is to buy individual pieces of veg. This will save you from the overwhelming feeling of inundation that a 3kg bag can cause. I’ve learnt this the hard way, having had to spend three hours of my time in first year making onion bhajis to get through it. And it will also save you money and avoid single use plastics!
Beyond this, planning how much to cook is a truly frugal tactic. Cooking in bulk will save you time when you inevitably find yourself in stressful situations in the future (future you can thank me later). And you’re also able to make more food without wasting ingredients. I think it’s time to grab a Tupperware and load that freezer!
Alternatively, sharing and alternating cooking meals with flatmates is a great way to socialise, try new things and keep cost-per-meal low.
Ordering online is a great alternative. It allows you to see and compare prices more easily, and avoid the temptation of offers
Now onto another question: when should you shop? It’s a good idea to shop for cheap food at the end of the day when many items are reduced if they are near their best before dates. However, what most people don’t realise is that if these are frozen or cooked shortly after buying, they’re as good as fresh!
This can also provide some late-night essay procrastination and well-needed fresh air, and you’re allowed a treat if it’s reduced! However, if you prefer the certainty of a meal plan, ordering online is a great alternative. It allows you to see and compare prices more easily, and avoid the temptation of offers.
It’s about the people you spend time with, not how or where
Although the focus of this article so far may not suggest this, student living is not just about food. We also have to balance our social life, which can be more difficult to compromise on, without missing out on experiences. But it doesn’t have to be this way. If you like going for meals with friends, use student discount or host a dinner party where everyone cooks something. If you like a bit of group retail therapy, you can save some serious coin by going charity shopping. With a huge selection of charity shops in Leamington alone, you can help the environment as well as your bank account.
Clubbing obsessed, but can’t afford queue jumps? Host a house party, or drink in your flat. With free entry, cheaper drinks and no cold journey home, it’s a win for all parties. After all, it’s about the people you spend time with, not how or where.