Tips and tricks to living on a budget in the UK

Studying in the UK can be one of the most exciting experiences of your life, but at the same time, but unfortunately it is not cheap. International students often find their bank accounts stretched thin, so you need to know some useful tricks that don’t empty your pockets. Follow this guide to having a fulfilling student life without breaking the bank.

1. Budgeting

When you live in a city where the average sandwich costs more than your entire daily allowance, it can be really helpful to set your budget for everything. These are the absolute basics that you need to include in your budget:

  • Rent:
    You have to straight away deduct a fixed amount from your monthly budget for your rented accommodation.
  • Groceries:
    Whether meals are provided at your student accommodation or you buy groceries, you should set a spending limit per week for food.
  • Bills:
    If you live in student accommodation, this most won’t apply to you , but otherwise, bills such as electricity, gas, water, internet are other fixed costs to account for in your budget.
  • Social activities:
    Student life involves having some fun, so factor in social and recreation activities to your monthly spend.
  • Shopping:
    Trends change, and so will your fashion requirements. Wait for the sales both online and instore and stick to your budgeted amount.
  • Health:
    Unfortunately you may fall sick or need a trip to the Dentist for a tooth ache. Keep an amount put aside for unexpected health emergencies.
  • Miscellaneous:
    Always have an estimated miscellaneous amount for things that you weren’t expecting.

Add up all of these to know how much you will need to spend per month at the minimum. Adjust as necessary!

2. Use debit not credit

Once you’ve worked out how much you have to spend each week, ensure stick to your budgeted amount. Always use a debit card, so you are aware of how much money you have left, and don’t spend money you do not have.

3. Split your cash

A great way to not go over budget is to split your monthly allowance into different accounts. These can be categorized for the different areas of your budget like food, travel, and socializing.

4. Recycle

Remember what they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, so don’t pass up the opportunity to make some easy cash by throwing away things that are still in good condition. Recycle your clothes and other accessories online for some extra cash or at the local flea market. Online selling platforms such as Amazon, eBay, or Gumtree are an easy way to make some money back on your old stuff. You can even swap second-hand clothing on sites such as Vinted to keep your wardrobe fresh.

5. Make stuff from scratch

Pick up a hobby and save some serious cash! Try knitting, crocheting, or drawing to make the most of your talents and get paid. You can sell anything, from greeting cards and candles to bath bombs and jewelry. Moreover, you can even make a few fashion pieces for yourself instead of buying everything. This can be a unique and cost-effective way of revamping your wardrobe.

6. Switch bank accounts

Banks in the UK offer great deals, and it will be worth your time to keep an eye out for any deals or cash incentives. Some will even give you a cash incentive to switch over, and others offer better deals on overdrafts and interest rates for students, so do your homework.

7. Save on travel

The UK offers great discounts for students on public transport, so make sure to get your student ID set up to reap the benefits. You can get a 16-25 Railcard to save a third on rail fares. There is an app for that so download before you arrive!

Depending on where you live and how you like to get around, you can get various discounts. Use the yLink card in Northern Ireland, the Student Oyster card in London, and travel via coach with the Young Persons Coachcard.

8. Find out what you can get for free

When you are a student, there are a number of things you don’t have to pay for. You can get medical prescriptions for free in Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales. In England, students aged 16-18 don’t have to pay, and once you hit 19, you might be eligible to apply to the NHS Low Income Scheme. The same process applies to dental treatment and sight tests.

9. Be a savvy food shopper

Another place to use student discounts is when you do your weekly food shopping. Supermarkets in the UK have several offers and discounts that can be particularly useful when you’re on a student budget. Your lunch / dinner can be inspired from what was on sale at the grocery store. This is an easy way to change your cuisine often and to experiment in the kitchen.

10. Stay insured

Nobody is safe from unfortunate and unplanned events, so try to prepare for these kinds of events by taking on an insurance policy. Make sure you have a student gadget cover so that you at least get some money back.

If you still find yourself struggling to make ends meet after employing these tips, there are more solutions available. Most universities have hardship funds, opportunity awards, and other options available if you require financial support. Make sure you speak to the concerned person on campus who will be able to help you out.

Another way to stay afloat is to get a part-time job. This will allow you a little extra spending money and gives you a cushion for when you go over budget. Finally, talk to your peers and faculty members who care about you and want to help. Even if they’re unable to help financially, they might be able to offer some useful advice on how to save money or make money.

To learn more about studying abroad and living in the UK, start a co-design conversation with a Gradstar Dream Maker today.

Date Published: Aug-04-2022

Our Dream Makers are expert listeners, educators, career consultants and student supporters. They co-design your study abroad experience with you to empower you to reach for the stars. Because dreams deserve a helping hand.

About the author

Anupama Kumar is a content writer based in Bangalore, India. She writes blogs, stories, articles and social media content and has a passion for helping people and connecting with them through her writing. A professional writer by day and a creative one by night, her own stories, musings, quotes and poems inspired by her travels are also published on various platforms.