EMERGENCY APPEAL. UK poverty is rising. We urgently need your help to reach everyone.
Act now

How to save money at university

Two students sit on the grass in front of a redbrick building. Both have takeaway coffees and are smiling.
Claire Wong

Digital Content Producer

Top tips for students to handle your finances 

Going to university, whether you’re a first year or finalist, is a great stage of life. But it’s also, for many students, a time when you have to quickly learn how to manage your own money away from home. Don’t panic: we’re here to help you make sure the student loans and overdraft don’t turn into a massive headache. Have a read of these ways to save money at university, and then you’ll have more headspace for enjoying your time as a student.

1. Keep tabs on your student loan

This may be second nature if you’ve been at uni for a few years now, but if you’ve taken out a student loan, whether for your tuition fees or living costs, make sure you know when and where this is being paid.

Your tuition fee loan (if this applies to you) will be paid directly to your university or college, so once you’ve applied for it, you don’t need to think about it. Your maintenance loan, which is for you to spend on living costs like rent, bills and food, will be paid to your bank account. You’ll want to make sure that you’ve provided the right bank account details and that you’ve registered/​enrolled on your course, so that there are no delays in the first loan payment being sent to you.

Check when your big payments like rent for accommodation are due to be paid. If you know your student loan is being paid to you at the start of term, but you don’t need to pay your rent until the end of term, make sure you’ve set that money aside so that you don’t accidentally spend it on something else in the meantime. You might find it helpful to have two separate bank accounts, to set apart money for bills from your weekly spending money.

Did you know that for new students in England, there have been some recent changes that affect how much you’ll pay back on your student loan and when that’s due?

2. Find out if there’s any other income you’re entitled to access

Beyond student loans or grants and any income you may have raised yourself, you might be able to apply for other funding to support your studies.

First there are the government schemes. 

Next, each university or college will have its own array of grants, bursaries and scholarships. These can cover all kinds of criteria, so it’s really worth seeing what’s available.

3. Become brilliant at budgeting!

It’s so important to have a budget to manage your money at university. Between expensive textbooks and impromptu nights out with friends, the cost of being a student can creep up if you don’t keep an eye on where you’re spending your money. A good budget can save you from maxing out your overdraft and spiralling into debt.

If this is the first time you’ve ever needed to build a budget, don’t worry. We’ve got a step-by-step guide to help you. It doesn’t matter whether you use a spreadsheet, a budgeting app on your phone, or write everything down the old-fashioned way. The key thing is to know what money you have coming in and going out. Make a list of what you expect to spend your money on in a typical month, like food, socialising, stationery and travel. Now keep a record of what you spend in each category and see if there are any surprises.

4. Save money on your outgoings

If you find you’re spending more money than you have coming in, it’s time to look at where you can make some savings.

When it comes to meals, planning ahead is a great way to cut your costs. Plan your meals in advance, pay attention to the difference in price between brands, decide how often you’re going to eat takeaways v cook for yourself, and never ever go shopping when you’re hungry! (From experience, you’ll come home with a ton of snacks and next to no proper food.) We’ve got more ways to cut down your food expenses here.

5. Claim those student discounts, but use them wisely!

One of the great benefits of being a student is that there are so many discounts and special offers available to you! From takeaway pizza vouchers to 10% off stationery when you show your student card, there are plenty of ways to save money as a student.

At some universities, nearby shops and restaurants will accept a TOTUM card (the new name for the NUS extra card) as proof that you’re a student. In other towns, your university library card may be the accepted form of student ID, so make sure you know what you need to access these deals. Students in Scotland aged 11–26 can also use the Young Scot card for discounts and free bus travel up to the age of 22.

A word of caution here, though. Ultimately, those special offers and discounts are designed to encourage you to spend more with the companies offering them. And you don’t want to get lured in to paying for something you didn’t want, just because it sounded like a good deal. A good rule here is: if you wanted to buy it anyway, it’s a special offer; if you didn’t need it, leave it on the shelf.

Nobody wants to spend their time at university stressing about money, but with this guide you’ll be well on your way to handling your student finances like a pro. 

Want more support? CAP offers free money coaching, run through local churches across the UK.

Find out if there’s a money coaching workshop near you

Find money coaching workshops
Ruth holding a sign that reads 'There is so much need. I'm at my limit.'
‘Rising poverty is pushing churches like mine to their limit,’ says Ruth. ‘Please help us meet the growing need.’

We urgently need your support to reach every person in poverty.

Ruth holding a sign that reads 'There is so much need. I'm at my limit.'