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Student checklist 50+ tips to stretch your student loan

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picture of piggybank with mortar boardWhatever your means, there's no need to fall into the cash-strapped, debt-ridden student stereotype. Use these core tips to help your student loan go further - without a baked bean in sight.

We've put together a Student MoneySaving checklist with over 50 quick tips to get you through university or college without a serious debt hangover. Got a tip not mentioned below? Email us. We've put the best in Your Tips.

Student MoneySaving Checklist


Get student council tax discounts

    In April 2013, local authorities took control of council tax support. Now each one decides what support to offer its residents. Contact your local authority to ask what discounts and benefits are available in your area.

  • Only live with students? If you're a full-time student living alone or with other students you don't need to pay council tax, whether there's two, three or even 10 of you living together.
  • picture of abacusLive with a non-student? If a student lives with a non-student, the student is disregarded, so council tax could be reduced as if only a single person lives there, meaning a potential 25% reduction. But this poses a moral dilemma.

    Is it fair for the non-student to pay the entire 75% due, or should the student contribute?

    From the student's perspective, they wouldn't pay anything if their housemate was also a student. From the non-student perspective they’d only pay 50% of the bill if their housemate was also a non-student.

    Our suggestion is to split the 25% difference between the two, so the non-student pays 62.5% and the student 12.5%.
  • Live with more than one non-student? Here, while the student again is exempt, because there are two non-students the house has to pay the full 100% charge. So again, it gets complex. The student hasn’t added to the council tax bill, but nor has their presence resulted in a discount.

    So again, you'll need to decide if and how you want to split it, though the legal stance is that full-time students aren't liable for the bill if non-students can't or don't pay. See Council Tax Discounts.

You need to apply to your local council for the discount, as it isn't deducted automatically. To apply, visit


Nab free cash to study

Whether you're studying full or part-time, there may be a grant or a free course to help. They're dependent on your circumstances so it may not be easy to get one, but there's certainly no harm in trying.

Here are the main ones to get you started; see the Education Grants guide for more.

  • Educational Grants Advisory Service: This offers students, especially disadvantaged ones, guidance and advice to help secure funding for education and training. Its site, part of Family Action, has a searchable database of over 30 educational trusts.
  • Scholarship search: There are some nifty search tools on the Scholarship Search and Student Cash Point websites, including bursaries, scholarships and award funding for students. You'll be surprised at what's available! Some are very specific - aimed at specific religions, locations, parental occupations and many more.

Don't get the 'spend it before it goes' bug

picture of wallet in padlockWhen loan cash arrives, it's all too easy to celebrate with a big blow-out. It may be tempting, but don't do it. The time for this is the end of term, when you've managed your money and know you've got some spare, not the beginning, leaving you short and struggling for months.

To help you budget, use the free interactive Student Calculator tool from education charity Brightside, and read the budgeting tips box below.


Get the biggest 0% overdraft student account

Big banks love tempting students with 0% overdrafts and free stuff, then relying on their custom for decades to come. Use these five key points to help choose your student account:

  • Go for the biggest 0% overdraft deal possible. Most students will need an overdraft while at uni, so make sure you aren't charged for it. Aim to get the biggest amount that will last as long as possible.
  • picture of safeNever go over your overdraft limit. This is a lifelong rule. Go beyond your limit and charges shoot up, leaving you in a vicious cycle that's tough to escape.
  • Beware: you will be credit scored. When you apply for any debt product, including an account with an overdraft, the lender will credit score you to decide how desirable a customer you are. See the Credit Rating guide for more.
  • Don't base your choice on the closest branch or ATM. You can withdraw cash free of charge from any bank's ATM and almost every bank offers online access. So which branch is nearest has little relevance for most able-bodied students. To compare, just examine what's on offer and go for the best deal.
  • Don't just go for the one with the best freebie. Calculate the value of the freebie, and then compare that account's overdraft with the best on offer. Would the interest charged on the difference be more than the cost of the freebie?
  • You'll need to apply for any overdraft increases. Students must apply for overdraft increases on certain accounts, even where the guaranteed max rises each term or year. See the MSE News story for full info.

See the Student Accounts guide for the full list of top bank accounts, plus masses of tips to help you choose.

Nerdy tipInterest-ing: Arm yourself with knowledge of how interest works with the Interest Rates: Everything You Wanted To Know But Were Afraid To Ask guide. Get your head around the basics so you aren't stung in the future.


Don't overpay tax on summer jobs

If you work over the summer to keep you afloat between uni terms, make sure you're paying the right amount of income tax. If you earn less than £9,440 a year, you shouldn't pay any tax.

However, students are now taxed through the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) scheme - so if you're only working during holidays and you do pay tax, you may need to reclaim it at the end of the year.

If your total earnings for the tax year come to less than £9,440, and you paid tax, see the HMRC website for how to apply for a refund.

Nerdy tipCheck yours: To see what you should be paying if you earn over the threshold, use the Income Tax Checker. It's also handy for working out what your take home pay will be after you graduate. See full 2013/14 Tax Rates.


Grab a student discount card

Picture of £5 note

An NUS Extra card costs £12, but it'll get you discounts online and in store with over 160 retailers for a year.

Plus it now includes 10% off Co-op groceries at over 3,600 participating stores, handy if you'd usually shop there. So if you'd spend £120 a year or more there, it's a winner.

Other discounts vary, but are generally about 10-20% (some are as high as 50%), and include Asos, McDonalds, Odeon, Amazon, 16-25 Railcard, Superdrug and many more.

To get an NUS Extra card, apply online on the NUS website. Check the full list of NUS Extra discounts first to make sure you'll use it, and check individual offer terms before you go. Cards are valid for 12 months from date of purchase.

Nerdy tipDo the maths. It's worth doing some quick sums to see if it's worth it for you. Eg, if you only used discounts worth 10%, you'd need to spend £120 or more over the year at relevant retailers for the card to be worth it.


Get a TV licence refund for summer hols

Picture of TVA colour TV licence is £145.50 for a year (or £49 if lucky enough to have a black 'n' white set). But if you've a full three months left on your licence at the end of the academic year and won't use it before it expires, you can get a refund for this.

To apply, complete the online application form on the TV Licensing website. Don't forget to update your address if you move house.

  • Do students need a TV licence? In most cases, yes. Your parents' TV licence won't cover you unless your permanent registered address is with them, and you don't have your receiving equipment plugged into an aerial or a mains socket to receive the picture. Even if you're only watching TV on your laptop, you'll need one.
  • Any exceptions? If you're ONLY watching via BBC's iPlayer or other internet broadcast systems which aren't being transmitted live, you don't need a licence. But if watching live broadcasts you'll need a licence as normal. You don't need one if you're only watching DVDs or gaming, but you need to fill in an online form for this.
  • What if in shared accommodation? If in halls of residence you'll probably be covered for communal areas, but not your room; do check though. If in a shared house and with a joint tenancy agreement, you'll only need one licence for the household. But if you've separate agreements, you'll need one for your room.

Watching TV without a licence is against the law.
Fee dodgers face prosecution and a fine of up to £1,000.
See the TV Licences guide.


Find the cheapest gas & elec to save £100s

If you aren't living in halls, it's likely you'll have to pay for gas and electricity on top of rent. It's possible to make hefty savings simply by switching provider:

  • You've a right to switch and save on energy - even when renting. When renting, you're free to switch if you pay the energy company directly (rather than your landlord). Also check your tenancy agreement - yet even if your contract bans switching, challenge it as it may be unfair. See Renting Tips for full help.
  • Grab cashback or wine on top. If on a standard tariff, it's possible to save over £200 a year on your annual bill by switching, and even grab cashback or a free case of wine on top. For a full how-to, see the Cheap Gas & Elec guide.Picture of laptop
  • You don't need to know how much your bill will be. Even if you haven't a clue what you'll be paying, you can still enter your house size on some of the comparison sites and they'll estimate for you.
  • Watch out for exit fees. If you're on a longer fixed tariff or thinking of signing up to one, be aware that suppliers can charge exit fees if you leave before your contract term, typically about £25 per fuel. So always check and factor this in.
  • On a prepay meter? You definitely haven't got the cheapest deal. To save, first try switching to a credit meter. If you can’t, do a comparison to find the cheapest prepay provider (again, comparison sites will often be able to estimate your usage if you're unsure) and you could save £100s. See the Prepaid Gas & Elec guide.

Ensure parents pay their share

Your parents may decide to give you money to help while you're at uni, if they can afford it. But for most, the amount of maintenance loan you get depends on their parents' income; those who come from wealthier homes get a smaller loan.picture of puppy with empty food bowl

This is because your parents are expected to contribute. If you don't get the full loan, while there's no way to force them to pay, and they're not legally required to give you money, it's well worth having the conversation with them in advance about whether they'll contribute.

Nerdy tipShow this to your parents: This can be a thorny area, yet their contribution can make a big difference while you're studying. Broach the subject sooner rather than later, and feel free to show them this tip if it helps.


Bag free office software

If you're kitting out a laptop, PC or Mac for uni, you can save on software by downloading the legit free equivalents. There are loads of different options available, but here are a few to get you started:Picture of computer

  • For typing, spreadsheets and presentations: The LibreOffice software suite includes a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, database and design package. Handily, it's compatible with many Microsoft documents, and is available for PC, Mac and Linux.
  • For image editing: If you're after something for basic cropping and editing, is easy to use and is PC compatible. For a more advanced photoshop equivalent, The Gimp is a powerful tool with free add-ons and is compatible with PC, Mac and Linux, while Inkscape is handy for scalable vector graphics and is available for PC and Linux.
  • For music and videos: One of the most widely compatible media players available, VLC Player can cope with pretty much any music or video format you throw at it. For recording, Audacity lets you add effects and create soundscapes from scratch. Again, both are available for PC, Mac and Linux.

Always check any software you put on your computer is suitable and compatible with your existing set-up first. For full info and loads more, and how to get student discounts on paid software, see the Free Office Software and Free Antivirus Software guides.


Free eBay tool uncovers hidden local bargains

If you're kitting out your student digs with larger items, eg, a sofa for an unfurnished lounge or a TV for your new room, pick-up only items on eBay are often cheaper as there are fewer bids.eBay bargain finder picture

To help uncover 'em, we've built a Local eBay Deals Mapper tool. Just pop in your postcode, tell it how far you're willing to schlep, and it instantly trawls eBay* for local hidden gems.

Always double-check the seller's location, and stay safe when collecting. Go with a friend, or if this isn't possible, tell someone where you're going and arrange to contact them afterwards. Take a mobile phone, and stay on the doorstep if you can. See full safety tips.


Learn to haggle

Many places will give you a discount if you flash your student or NUS Extra card. Yet even if they don't offer a student discount, why not ask for one? Many places will help you out if you haggle. It's chutzpah time never buy without a try!picture of piggy bank on calculator

Even if you weren't born with the gift of the gab, it's easier than you think. See the How to haggle successfully guide for tips, and give it a go. After all:

What's the worst that can happen? They say no. They won't chuck you out of the shop or punch you in the face!


Hunt for hidden student discounts

picture of magnifying glassAlways ask for student discounts when you're out and about. These often aren't advertised, but several places still offer them even if you don't have an NUS Extra card.

You'll usually need to show another form of student ID, so it's worth bringing a card that has your name, date of birth and uni along when you're out. Share your finds in the Student discounts discussion.

  • Yo! Sushi offers students 25% off everything from Tue-Fri and on Sundays. To get it, join its Love Club on the Yo! Sushi student offer page, then either print the voucher or show it on your phone or laptop with valid student ID. The offer's ongoing; you can use it as many times as you like. See its offer page for full terms.
  • McDonald's offers a free McFlurry original, hamburger or cheeseburger when you buy an Extra Value Meal and show valid student ID. The offer's valid till 31 Aug 2014. There's one offer per person, per card, per visit. Full terms on McDonald's site.
  • New Look gives 10% off in-store when you show valid student ID, or online when you enter your student number at the checkout. It's valid on full-price items (excludes Limited Edition), and is currently ongoing. See the New Look site for more.
  • Foyles gives students 10% off in-store, or 5% off already-discounted items online. To get the store discount, sign up in-store with valid student ID to get a Foyles Student Card. For the online discount, email with your name, course and uni to get a code. Valid until 31 Aug 2014. See Foyles for terms.

For more student discounts that don't need an NUS Extra card, forumites recommend MyUniDays. It's free to register on, and once it's verified your student status, gives codes for a range of ongoing online students discounts via its site, including 15% off Dorothy Perkins, 10% off Waterstones and more.


Student fees shake-up only hits those who started in or after Sept 2012

If you're confused as to how the 2012 changes to the student loans system affect you, don't panic. Firstly, changes only hit new undergrads who started in or after September 2012, so students who started before then stay on the previous system.

picture of piggy bank on calculatorUni tuition fees are £3,465-a-year max (2013/14 rate) for students who started in 2011/12, though it'll go up with inflation in future years.

But for people starting a course now, all institutions have been allowed to charge up to £6,000 and many will charge up to £9,000, providing they make extra provisions for bursaries for poorer students. See the Student Loans Mythbusting guide for more.


Do a proper budget

This is where you match up money coming in with what's going out. It's incredibly important, or you may have a great first week splashing the cash, but spend the rest of term struggling to survive.

picture of abacusKnowing how much income you'll have is essential. Most will come from maintenance loans, grants, any bursaries or scholarships, part-time work pay and parents' contributions. But no matter where the money comes from, the golden rule is to NEVER spend more than your income.

Of course, right now it's tough to work out exactly what you'll spend on books, transport, course equipment and partying. Once you know your situation, try the free interactive Student Calculator tool from education charity Brightside.

Don't forget other costs, like a TV licence or toilet roll. They aren't fun to buy, but are even less fun if caught without 'em.

Nerdy tipTreat yourself to a makeover: Nope, we're not talking face packs and cucumber slices. For the biggest savings, give yourself a full Money Makeover. This overhauls your finances, from mobile bills to contact lenses. It'll take time to work through, but it's time well invested.

Don't miss out on updates to this guide Get MoneySavingExpert's free, spam-free weekly email full of guides & loopholes


A company's job is to make money from you

picture of coins

As the year goes on, the costs of starting higher education quickly add up: tuition fees, books, transport, living expenses and, of course, socialising. So before you shell out on extras, don't forget: a company's job is to make money from you.

Don't swallow companies' promises and marketing. Always remember they want your cash and look with a sceptical eye; you'll make better decisions.


Get free cash to study in Europe

picture of globe and booksIf you want to study part of your degree in one of 33 participating European countries, grants are available from the British Council as part of the Erasmus scheme.

If you've got the travelling bug, this is a handy way to continue studying and go globetrotting at the same time. Countries to choose from include Austria, France, Italy, Portugal and Spain. See Erasmus for the full list.

Nerdy tipC'est gratuit: There are masses of online resources to help you learn a language for free if you know where to look, including BBC Languages and the OU LabSpace. See Learn A Language Free for the full list.


Use less energy

It isn't just which company you pay, but how much you use. Cutting energy costs is a mix of big and little things. A few small changes will help bring your bill down.Picture of sauna thermometer

Turn down the thermostat and dig out that knitted jumper from your gran. Switch off lights when leaving a room, use energy saving lightbulbs, defrost the fridge and check it isn't on too high, and don't leave electricals on standby.

For more info, read the Energy Saving Hunt and see the Energy Saving Trust website. One MoneySaver suggests:

"A good tip for students studying this winter who are finding gas bills a struggle: study at your local library."


Don't forget water bills

Picture of laptopAgain, if you aren't in halls, check with your landlord to see if your water bill is included in your rent. If not, remember to budget for it (see the budget tips box).

If you aren't sure how much to set aside for your first bill, see the table in the Water Bills guide for a rough indication of how much to expect.


Don't assume student insurers are cheaper

Home contents insurance for a student house isn’t always easy to get. This is often because most policies like to cover the house, not the person, making it tricky if you've flatmates. Yet there are a few tricks to get round this:

  • Check parents' cover. If your parents have home insurance, it may automatically cover you under the 'temporarily removed from the home' section while you're a student. The cover only applies while in your accommodation though; ask them to do a quick check.picture of student in chicken costume

    If you need cover for any mobiles or laptops, or items you normally wear or carry away from your home, your parents could also add the ‘all-risks’ or 'unspecified personal possessions' section to their policy, which specifically covers your stuff while it's out of their home.

    Handily, many policies allow this, and it's worth checking if your parents' insurance already includes this.
  • Don't assume student policies are cheaper. Alternatively, if you need to get your own cover, don’t automatically think specialist student policies are cheapest. Always check elsewhere too.

    Start by comparing prices of student policies with standard policies. Student home providers to try include Barclays, HSBC, RBS, NatWest and Home Protect. Benchmark the best price, then compare it to the best buys in the Home Insurance guide to help you find the cheapest for your needs.

    One advantage of specialist student policies is that they give wider cover, but they tend to be pricier than standard policies.
  • Lock your doors. If you're in shared accommodation, your insurance won't cover you for theft unless there's been a violent or forced entry. So always make sure you lock your room's door when you leave, even if you're just popping out briefly.
  • Check if your bike's included. If you're bringing a bike, your contents insurance may cover it. Always check though, and find out how much extra it is to add if not.

Slash car insurance costs

Finding affordable car insurance can be a nightmare – the average for a 17-22 year old is £1,211. The Young Drivers' Car Insurance guide has a step-by-step system to slice off every spare penny.

  • Do you really need it? Bringing an unused car to uni can be an expensive and unnecessary hindrance, so consider the alternatives. See the public transport box.
  • Pay when or how you drive. Specialist 'pay when you drive' and 'pay how you drive' schemes are well worth checking to see if they undercut comparison site quotes. With these, a GPS or tracking device is fitted to your car, so what you pay depends on your mileage and time or driving style.
  • picture of miniSpecific young driver brokers. While comparison sites are very good for those with normal situations, for others they can underperform, so check specific young driver brokers separately (full listings in the guide).
  • Learner driver insurance. If you're a learner, it often means being added to parents' or friends' car insurance as an additional driver which can up the cost, and put no-claims bonuses at risk. Yet you can get specific policies just for provisional drivers. Find full info on all these and more in the guide.
  • Don't forget to update your address. You can usually keep your parents' address for correspondence if you want, but you need to tell your insurer where the vehicle's usually kept.
  • If you have a part-time job, tell 'em. If you forget to declare it – even if you don't use the car to get to work – it could invalidate future claims.
  • If your car's uninsured while at uni, SORN it. All cars need to be insured unless you declare it's off road. The only way out's to apply for a SORN (Statutory Off Road Notification) declaring your car won't ever be driven - but you must park it on private land, not on the street. See

Never get someone, such as one of your parents, to add their name as main driver on your car instead of you. This is called 'fronting' and is fraud, and can lead to prosecution.
Don't do it.


Battle your mobile bill

If you regularly face a palpitation-inducing mobile phone bill, there's a mass of tips 'n' tricks to help:

  • Pick the right contract. Use your bills from the last few months to pinpoint your average usage for calls, texts and data. Then use this to find the cheapest tariff for your needs. Websites Billmonitor*, MobilePhoneChecker* and MoneySupermarket* let you compare quickly. See Mobile Phone Cost Cutting for the full step-by-step guide.
  • Haggle down contract costs. If you'd rather not change network, this can still yield big savings. When you're near the end of your contract, call 'em and ask for the best deal possible - not just on your network, but any out there. See the Mobile Phone Contracts guide for tips on how to give your haggle some chutzpah!
  • After an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy? These aren't MoneySaving, but you can pay less and get a shorter contract if you know where to look. To quickly compare tariffs, use the tools in the Cheapest iPhone and Cheapest Samsung Galaxy guides.

Split your train tickets

This is the big trick everyone should know. Instead of buying tickets for the whole journey, bizarrely, buying separate tickets for its constituent parts can slash the price – even though you're on exactly the same train.Picture of train tickets

It's perfectly allowed within the National Rail Conditions of Carriage, and has been confirmed by the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC). The only rule is that the train must call at the stations you buy tickets for.

Savings can be massive; it depends on how long your journey is, but we managed to shave over £200 off a return ticket from London to Durham using this method.

Free TicketySplit app to find split tickets

Our new split ticket tool uncovers hidden ticket combinations to cut the cost of walk-on single fares. Download the TicketySplit Lite iPhone app or bookmark the TicketySplit mobile site. Tell it your journey, and it'll tell you where to split and the saving.

This first incarnation doesn't cover advances or returns, only 'today' single tickets. Always check the price for a return too, and if buying the day before or earlier, advance tickets.

Once the tool’s told you what the cheapest tickets are, just go to the ticket office (not machines) and ask for the separate tickets featured in the results. There is no problem making this request – you can buy tickets for any route at any station. See Split Ticketing tips for a full how-to.


Taking a break? Work out what it'll cost

If you're currently studying, but are thinking of taking a year out, make sure you know how much it'll cost you.

picture of paperworkIf you're working part of your year out then you need to be aware that you may pay tax. Earn more than £787 in a month, and you'll be taxed. However, if you only work six months of the year, you won't reach the £9,440 tax allowance, so you'll need to apply to HMRC for a rebate.

If you're going overseas, budget for your trip - and don't forget travel insurance. Many insurers offer specific backpacker policies - take a look at Direct Travel*, Insure and Go*, Direct Line and Virgin Money*, which cover you for extended periods out of the UK, whether you're backpacking or living in luxury.

If you have plans to work abroad or take part part in skydiving, shark cage diving or other risky fun, check with the insurer that its policy will cover you.


Create your own Amazon bargain basement page

Picture of piggy bank in sunglassesAmazon often offers 75%-off and better reductions, but it directs people to other areas, sending them to higher profit margin products instead. Yet there's a geeky way to manipulate Amazon's links to show all heavily-reduced bargains.

All you need to do is fiddle with Amazon web addresses to bring up lists of knock-down prices, such as 75%+ off kitchenware* and 70%+ off beauty*.

As it's a faff to do this yourself, we've made the Amazon Discount Finder tool. It lets you creates your own super-specific sub-department pages in seconds, where you choose the discount and if you want free delivery.

Don't assume Amazon's always cheapest though. Use the MegaShopBot tool to quickly see if it's cheaper elsewhere. It trawls the internet to auto-search for the best price across a huge range of shopping comparison sites.

Nerdy tipStudents get 10% off clothing for a YEAR, 5% off music, books, etc. If you've an NUS Extra card, log onto the NUS website for a unique reusable Amazon code giving year-long discounts such as 10% off fashion or 5% off books, music, DVDs, beauty and more.


Quickly turn old mobiles into cash

picture of mobile phoneA mass of companies offer to recycle your mobile for money. This is a really quick 'n' easy way to make extra cash if you've old handsets lying around.

Once you agree to sell, you're even sent a freepost bag for it. To quickly find the best payer for your phone's make and model, use MSE's MobileValuer tool. It also works for other gadgets, including games consoles, iPods and more.


Free festivals, museums & art galleries

picture of guitar with ampIf you're after live music on the cheap, the Free Festivals guide has full listings of the top gigs nationwide. In it, you'll find totally free festivals across the UK, covering everything from rock and jazz to carnivals and outdoor theatre.

You'll also find info on how to get into the big paid festivals for free, including the latest volunteer schemes.

Alternatively, the Free Museums and Art Galleries guide lists venues across the UK on everything from forensic science to footie. Use 'em for research, entertainment, or even an unusual date on a budget (don't forget your restaurant vouchers!)

Nerdy tipFind 'em near you: To find your nearest at a glance, click on your area on the in-guide maps for full listings of venues in your area, plus opening times and what to expect on the day.


Don't chuck best-befores away needlessly

picture of strawberriesDo you know the difference between a best-before and a display-until date? If not, it's likely you're binning a lot of food unnecessarily.

To help, we've a free printable Food Saving Memo. Stick it on the fridge and check before you chuck. If you need inspiration on turning last night's leftovers into a banquet, see the Using up leftovers forum discussion for ideas.


Not all debts are the same

It's easy to think "I've got to get a student loan, why not borrow a little more?". But you need to understand how special student loans are.

picture of golden handcuffsNot all debts are the same, and no other loan only needs you to pay if you're earning enough. With others, it'll never go away. They'll chase you even if you can't afford it, and the interest is higher and will multiply at speed. Remember:

Some debts, like student loans, are much better than others.
Be very careful taking any other form of borrowing.

Sadly in the UK, students are educated into debt but never about debt. Many in authority concentrate on telling students to avoid debt – which is impossible – rather than focusing on avoiding bad debt. Educate yourself – see Good Debt, Bad Debt for how it works.

Nerdy tipDitch your spending demons: Use the free Demotivator tool to instantly see the real cost of your non-essential spending, from mags to chocs. Then print and stick the results on your wall to help you stop buying 'em.


Try the supermarket downshift challenge

picture of shopping basketThis is a quick 'n' easy way to make decent savings on your grocery shopping, particularly if you're still just buying big brands you're used to at home.

Over the years, supermarkets have hypnotised us into spending more by making us move up the brand chain. Many people gradually buy increasingly more expensive versions of the same thing. The challenge:

Drop one brand level on everything and see if you can tell the difference. If you can't, stick with the cheaper one.

Drop just one brand level on everything and the average bill's cut by 30%. On a £20 weekly shop, that's over £300 a year less. See the Supermarket Shopping guide for tips.

Nerdy tipDo your homework: For extra discounts, get into the habit of checking the latest Supermarket Coupons before you shop. If you tend to pop out for milk and loo roll only to return with a trolley full of impulse buys, take five minutes to make a shopping list before you go – and stick to it.

Don't miss out on updates to this guide Get MoneySavingExpert's free, spam-free weekly email full of guides & loopholes


The best things in life are freebies!

Picture of freebies stampThere's a mass of goodies available for free at the click of a mouse, if you know where to look.

The Freebies Directory is a full compendium of hundreds of goodies you can get for nowt. Use it to get free revision guides, games, music downloads, tea, cookbooks and masses more.

It's divided into categories to help you find the most useful. If you're spoilt for choice, try the Freebie Roulette tool, which finds a random freebie each time you spin.


Get on the net for nowt

If you're sharing a house, it's likely you'll want to get on the web. But before you take a pricey contract, consider the alternatives:picture of toy train carrying WWW letters

  • Get it for free at uni. If your campus has free internet access or wi-fi, it's well worth using this if you can. Use the uni's computers (or charge your laptop at uni) and you won't have to pay for the electricity either.
  • Get it for free on the high street. Free wireless internet's the norm at high street cafes and pubs now, rather than the exception. Wetherspoon and Walkabout pubs offer all customers unlimited wi-fi access, as do McDonald's restaurants nationwide, and many more. See the Free Wireless Internet article for the full list.
  • Consider shorter contracts. If you decide to get the internet at home, some tariffs offer a 30-day contract. While the monthly cost may be slightly more in the short term, if you'll only need it for nine months instead of the full year, it could work out cheaper in the long run.
  • Beware download limits. If there's several of you downloading or watching TV online, limits for standard cheap tariffs may not be enough. To avoid being hit by unexpected charges, consider getting an unlimited plan if you live with several heavy downloaders.
  • Check the best buys. Some providers offer tariffs aimed at students, eg, nine-month student contracts from Virgin Media and BT. Yet never assume student tariffs are cheapest. Factor in any fees to work out the real monthly cost, then use the Cheap Broadband guide to see how it compares to best buys in your area.

Nerdy tipConsider going mobile: If you live in an area where broadband's pricey, you move frequently, or just don't want the hassle of chasing your housemates for their portion of the bill, mobile broadband's another option. For pros, cons and best buys, see the Mobile Broadband guide.


You don't need a TV licence for movie streaming sites

If you’d rather not fork out for a TV licence, you can watch movies and box sets legally for free via online film streaming sites – plus the big boon with these is you don’t need a TV licence if these are all you’re watching.

The big sites usually offer free trials, so you can sit back and watch unlimited films and TV series, such as Downton Abbey and Dexter, without spending a penny.

If you don't mind paying after a trial, you can subscribe from £6/month, and watch 100s of movies for less than the price of a bag of cinema popcorn. Yet before you do it, ensure your broadband connection’s fast enough and you’ve a generous download limit, or you’ll risk being hit by added costs and constant buffering.

We’ve a full rundown of how to do it, plus the top totally free movie streaming sites to try in the Watch Movies Online guide.


Don't stick with student accounts after uni

Don't stick with your student bank account when you graduate. By switching to specialist deals for graduates, you may be able to gain £100s a year.Picture of mortar board

This is because many offer special terms that are unavailable to other people, such as 0% overdraft deals for up to three years. So picking the best can save you serious cash on your overdraft. See Graduate Accounts for the top picks.


Sell old CDs, DVD and games

Several sites let you quickly trade in old CDs, DVDs, computer games and Blu-rays for cash. The sites are easy to use and give instant quotes, so if you've got loads to get rid of, you could speedily make a bit of extra money.picture of CD

Sites to try include Music Magpie*, Amazon Trade-in* and CeX. To do it, type in the barcode, ISBN or product name on the site to get an instant valuation. Each site is different, and some offer more for certain items than others, so always compare a few.

Once you've compared and found the top payer for your items, you simply accept the valuations and send your stuff to the them. Postage is usually free, but always check.

Always ensure items are packed well, as, in most cases, any that fail basic quality checks won't be sent back to you. You'll then get paid, either by cheque, bank transfer, vouchers or store credit, depending which service you've used. For full info, plus other easy ways to make extra cash while you're studying, see the Boost Your Income guide.

Nerdy tipFlog it: For more recent items you may be better off selling 'em individually on eBay. Check out the eBay Selling Tricks guide for a mass of insider tips and tricks on how to easily declutter your digs and make extra cash at the same time. You'll also find free tools to help.


Get paid for your opinion

picture of man with question markIt's possible to earn £100s a year, without any special skill or talent. You could be paid to take part in online surveys, which are often short enough to fill in during breaks between lectures.

Some surveys can pay £1-£3 for just a few minutes of your time. Find the full list of top picks in the Survey Sites guide. You'll also find quick tips on how to maximise your earnings as you go along.


Warning! Store cards are the devil's debt

Most store cards charge a hideous 30% interest or more, and even the best aren't cheaper than bank's credit cards, so don't get sucked in by the sales patter.

picture of card with hornsThey work and feel very much like credit cards, except that while credit cards can be used anywhere, store cards can often only be used in a specific store or group.

Yet they've exorbitant rates, and are often targeted at the young as stores assume they're an easy target.

  • Stores hide the fact this is debt. The common sell on the card is a 10% introductory discount, which sells people into debt whilst never explaining the consequences. Don't get burned; read the Devil's Debt for more.

Get a part-time or temp job

picture of student in chicken costumeWhile studying's a priority, it's commonly accepted many students will work. So if you don't have enough cash, don't overborrow try to find a job instead.

Think outside the box – babysitting, supermarkets and the library are handy places to start, but so are TV extra agencies, or even medical trials. See Work, Work, Work for ideas.

Nerdy tipBe the early bird: The earlier in the year you try to get work, the better your chances, so try to arrive before other students.


Not good with cash? Teach yourself

Picture of teen cash class bookIt's likely you came out of school with very little – if any – training for the consumer decisions you'll have to make every day as an adult.

"Companies spend billions of pounds a year on marketing, advertising and teaching their staff to sell, yet we don’t get ANY buyers’ training." - Martin

The Teen Cash Class is a free, printable PDF guide to help redress the balance. In it, you'll find lessons to tackle impulse buying, how credit cards work, the cost of fashion and more. It's an invaluable guide for students, parents and anyone wanting to pick up the skills to handle their money and avoid being ripped off.

This is a real, practical survival guide to living in one of the most competitive consumer economies in the world.


Get a railcard

Picture of trainConsider a 16-25 Railcard if you spend £90+ a year. These cut a third off your train ticket. A huge plus is they're also valid for full-time students of any age.

Cards can be bought from the Railcard website for £30 a year, or £70 for three years. So spend over £90 a year, even in just one trip, and you'll save. Plus if you've an NUS Extra card you'll get an 11% discount; see the NUS Extra website for full details.

Nerdy tipRenew just before you finish to nab another year: Don't forget, renew just before your 26th birthday to grab another year (the same applies to older cardholders about to finish uni).


Some students are eligible for benefits

Picture of busSome students in special circumstances, such as those with kids or disabilities – might qualify for a special support grant instead. This will be the same amount as a maintenance grant.

However, the plus here is that while under usual circumstances the amount given for your loan might be reduced if you get a grant as well, a special support grant won’t reduce the amount you get for your maintenance loan. For more on what's available and how to apply, see


Learn to cook (!)

picture of chef hatThere's no need to live off pricey takeaways at uni while longing for a home-cooked meal. Take the time to learn the basics and it'll help to stretch your cash much further, and it's far healthier too.

The forums are a great place to get tips and ask questions. Read the Basic recipes for novice cook discussion to arm yourself with the essentials, while the 50p meals thread has loads of budget recipe ideas. Feel free to add your tips!

Nerdy tipPlan your eats: Check out the How to start meal planning and Menu plans discussions, which will help you to only buy food you need.


Nab extra travel discounts

If you're off home at the end of term (and you can't coax a friend or parent to give you a lift), it's possible to find extra discounts if you know where to look.Picture of bus

Train and bus companies often discount heavily with regular sales to fill seats. Promotions have included £1 train and bus tickets across the UK, and London to Scotland for under £20. To find the latest offers, check out the Cheap Trains and Coaches deals page.

Cheap train and coach ticket offers go quick.
To hear about them as soon as they're released, sign up to the free weekly email.


Get free financial advice

Picture of piggy bank under umbrellaThe National Association of Student Money Advisers (Nasma) has advisers in many universities. These can be a massive help if you're struggling financially.

See the Nasma website to find your nearest, or ask at your student union. Alternatively, local charities Citizens Advice and StepChange Debt Charity also offer free help and support.


Time your train ticket booking carefully

Picture of calendar Timing your purchase accurately can make a real difference:

  • Buy 12 weeks early. Everyone knows that if you book early, fares are cheaper. These often disappear quickly, so to ensure a bargain, start looking about 12 weeks before.

This is because Network Rail must set the timetable 12 weeks in advance. Train operators commonly, though not always, release cheap advance tickets shortly after. It isn't often dead on 12 weeks; National Rail's future travel chart shows the latest date you can buy advance tickets for each train firm.

  • Or... get last-minute early booking discounts. Few realise you can often buy advance tickets till midnight the night before or, in rare cases, on your way to the station. See the Cheap Train Tickets guide for tips.

Get extra help and support

Uni can be a stressful time – financial, social and academic pressures can quickly add up. If you're struggling, don't suffer in silence. Talk to your tutor, parents or a close friend if you feel you can, but there are also organisations to help:Picture of broken pencil

  • Free counselling. Many universities offer free student counselling services. Ask for details at your local Students' Union.
  • Can't sleep? Charity Nightline offers a confidential, anonymous listening and info service specifically for students. It runs overnight from about 8pm to 8am during term time, in over 90 universities and higher education colleges across the UK and Ireland; see its website for the number of your nearest. Alternatively, Samaritans offers confidential help around the clock.

Investigate 'uni access funds' - poss £100s

picture of books and mortarboard If you're struggling, many universities have access funds to help. These aren't always advertised, but it's well worth speaking to your uni to find out more, and ask for how to apply.

You can also contact the National Association of Student Money Advisers (Nasma) to find out more info on these, as well as get free financial help and advice while you're studying.


Use Money Mantras before ANY buys

Before you buy anything, use these money mantras to help keep your cash in your pocket. Different scenarios require different approaches, so there are two to choose from depending on your circumstances:

picture of money mantras

Nerdy tipGet the mantras on the move: To help when you're out, pop the free printable Money Mantra Card in your wallet. Use it to remind you to not to spend when you shouldn't.


Save in an ISA, even if just short term

picture of money tree If you've got any spare cash, don't leave it languishing in a current account earning 0.1% interest. Put it into a Top Savings Account and it'll earn interest, so it's worth doing even if only for the short term.

It's also worth considering putting this cash in an ISA. This stands for Individual Savings Account, and it's simply a tax-free savings account that everyone over 16 can put up to £5,760 per tax year in, and most let you take cash out whenever you want.

Yet there's a crucial difference: unlike in a normal savings account, the interest you earn isn't taxed. Basic-rate taxpayers must normally hand over 20% of their savings interest to the taxman, higher rate taxpayers 40%, but in an ISA, you keep that.

While you may not earn enough to be a taxpayer while at uni, if there is still cash left in it once you graduate, the interest will beat normal savings. Full help in Top Cash ISAs guide.


Text for nowt

picture of mobile phoneTexting can make up a serious chunk of your phone bill. Text 20 times a day at 10p/text and you'll spend over £700 a year, so there are big savings to be had.

If you're a textaholic, it's worth noting there are heaps of ways to send texts for free, or very cheaply.

Top picks include Orange and if texting online, and messenger services WhatsApp and Touch if using your mobile See the Free Texts guide for full the full list, plus pros 'n' cons.


Beware borrowing on credit cards

picture of credit cards Be extremely wary of credit cards. These are best avoided while you're studying, as if you don't have an income, you'll really struggle to repay the debts. This means the interest will compound and build quickly, leaving you owing serious cash.

Don't let the affordable-sounding minimum repayments trick you either. Even if you can meet these each month, they are designed to clear barely any of the debt - meaning the cost of borrowing rockets. If you need scaring out of this:

If you borrowed £3,000 aged 21, and only made the minimum credit card repayments, you'd be 50 before it cleared.

See the Minimum Repayments guide for a full rundown of how the system works.


Don't forget your discount vouchers

picture of magnifying glassBefore you hit the shops, remember to check the Discount Vouchers page. It's a massive compendium of all the latest printable vouchers, codes and deals open to all.

Plus it's well worth bookmarking the High Street Sales diary to help you keep an eye out for seasonal clearances in your favourite stores.


Don't use payday loans to make ends meet

High street stores advertising payday loans have sprung up nationwide, promising quick cash loans until you get paid. Yet interest rates are exorbitant, and while the actual cost of borrowing once may be manageable, a common trick's to roll debts over from week to week - until it snowballs to epic proportions.

picture of treasure chestIf you're struggling to make ends meet, instead contact the National Association of Student Money Advisers (Nasma), who will help with some far better alternatives.


Share your tips on the student forum

Picture of people chattingThe Student MoneySaving forum board is a fantastic place to share your ideas and swap tips on all aspects of student life.

Whether you're after student shopping and eating tips, info on bursaries, or help splitting student bills, there's something for everyone. It's free to join, so get chatting!

Your tips

Thanks to all the MoneySaving students who emailed in the extra tips below:

Don't pay the RRP for books on your reading list

Picture of textbooksVisit secondhand bookshops. Students from previous years are eager to make cash selling books they no longer need. Bookshop owners know next year's students are likely to study the same texts so they buy them, and sell them on. It's cheaper and greener; sell them on when you've finished!

Try eBay. I found someone who was selling the exact books I needed. I offered a 'buy it now' price for the job lot and she lived quite close to me so I picked them up from her, saving masses on postage costs. (See eBay Tips.)

Hunt in charity shops. Generous students donate old books to charity shops. You can pick up all sorts here – I bagged an Oxford Dictionary for £2 (RRP £25) – and you'll be helping a good cause along the way.

Re-kindle your Kindle. There are 1,000s of free e-Books that you can access through your Kindle, and the ones you have to pay for can be cheaper than hard copies. It beats carrying around 15 books! [See Free e-Books] Kirsty, Sheffield Hallam Uni

Don't forget the local library

Picture of library booksWhen a reading list's given out, there's a massive rush in the library and all the key texts are taken. Rather than paying for books, join the local council's library.

About 45% of the books I needed were stocked in the normal lending and reference library (I'm a politics student), saving me a LOT of money. They also hold journals and acts of parliament too. Georgia, University of York

Kit out your student house using Freecycle

Picture of armchairFreecycle prevents perfectly good items from ending up in landfills by giving them to those who need them. It’s dead easy to use and last year I kitted out my house (wardrobe, mirror, energy saving lightbulbs, bedside table).

There are so many participants it's never short of supply. Just sign up to your local group and off you go. Don’t forget to give back through Freecycle too. [See Freecycle guide]Ryan, London South Bank Uni

Use a car petrol contributions tariff

Picture of car on calculatorIf you are lucky enough to have a car, don't run your fellow students around – place a tariff on your wall with required contributions to your petrol costs.

For example, Tesco £1.50, town £2, pictures £1 (you can also give allocated times for these trips to maximise the income!) If you're going yourself the costs can be reduced, but you will be surprised how the money adds up.Caitlin, Uni of Wales Trinity Saint David

Get help with health costs while your income's low

Picture of toothbrushCollect an HC1 form from your local job centre, dentist or GP and you may be able to get help with NHS prescription charges, dental treatment, sight tests, vouchers towards glasses or contact lenses, and even hospital travel costs.

I've had no problems with eligibility and have received these benefits free despite not always qualifying for the full amount of student grant. I was shocked to find out that none of my fellow students had heard of it. [See NHS Choices for how to apply]Dan, Edinburgh Uni

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