Rose | Edited by Martin
Updated September 2015
Whatever your means, there's no need to fall into the cash-strapped, debt-ridden student stereotype. Use our tips to help your student loan go further - without a baked bean in sight.
We've put together a Student MoneySaving checklist with 57 quick tips to help get you through university or college without a serious debt hangover.
57 student MoneySaving tips, including...
Student MoneySaving Checklist
Get student council tax discounts
Local authorities control council tax support. Each one decides what help to offer its residents. Ask your local authority what discounts and benefits are available in your area, but here are the basic rules for wherever you're living:
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.
Live with a non-student? The cost of council tax is based on a minimum of two adults living in a home. Some people - like students, people on apprentice schemes, and carers (see Gov.uk for a full list) - don't count as adults and are known as 'disregarded people' which means they're entitled to a council tax discount.
So if a student lives with a non-student, the student is disregarded. This means the 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? 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.
How to bag the discount. You need to apply to your local council - it isn't deducted automatically. Go to Gov.uk.
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 information on 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. You'll be surprised at what's available - some are very specific, aimed at specific religions, locations, parental occupations and more.
Don't get the 'spend it before it goes' bug
When loan cash arrives, it's all too easy to celebrate with a big blow-out. It may be tempting, but don't do it. Instead, 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. Read on for 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. Some providers offer 'up to £3,000', but how much you get depends on you and your circumstances.
Never 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? One offer right now is worth getting for its freebie - Santander is giving a four-year railcard (usually costs £90) with it's student account - see full details.
You'll need to apply for any overdraft increases.
Students must apply for overdraft increases on certain accounts, even where the 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.
Also 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 any jobs you do
If you work during term time or over the summer to keep you afloat, make sure you're paying the right amount of income tax.
Students are taxed just like anyone else. If you earn less than £10,600 a year, you shouldn't pay any tax, whether you're 20, 30, 40 or 50.
If students are employed (not self-employed) and taxed via Pay As You Earn (PAYE), they are automatically charged tax on earnings, so may need to reclaim it. Crucially, even if you only do summer or temp work you'll be taxed as if you'd earn that rate all year.
If you're a student and total earnings for the 2015/16 tax year come to less than £10,600, and you paid tax, see the HMRC website for how to apply for a refund.
If you’re working throughout the whole year, but still need to reclaim, you need to wait until the end of the year and reclaim tax then.
If you know you're only working for a short time, eg, just the summer, then you can fill in a P50 to reclaim tax back at that point. You need to wait four weeks after your last day at the job to make the claim.
Check 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 2015/16 Tax Rates.
Grab a student discount card
An NUS Extra card costs £12, but it offers you over 170 savings with online and in-store retailers for a year.
It includes offers such as 10% off Co-op groceries at over 3,200 participating stores (check here for stores excluded from the discount). If you'd usually shop there, and spend £120 a year or more, 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. It'll even get you around 40% discount on a much coveted ticket mid-week to London's Secret Cinema in April/May and July this year.
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.
Do 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
A colour TV licence is £145.50 for a year (or £49 if you're 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 which could be around £37.
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 you live with them outside term time and you don't have your device plugged into an aerial or a mains socket when watching. Even if you're only watching TV on your laptop, if it's plugged in at the time, you'll need one.
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 you're 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.
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.
Our free-to-join Cheap Energy Club is designed to keep you constantly on the cheapest tariff. It'll tell you when you can save and will even help you switch. Plus you'll often get £30 dual fuel cashback if it can switch you - there really is no excuse for paying more than you have to.
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.
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 £30 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.
Don't buy new books - rent, borrow or buy secondhand instead
At the start of a new term, it's likely you'll be given a list of books you'll need over the year. Depending on your course, some textbooks can really break the bank and leave you out of pocket.
The uni library is likely to have the texts you need, but in the first few weeks of term there's usually a rush on them, meaning you could be left waiting. So, instead of rushing out and buying them new, see if the local library has a copy. At the very least you can take time assessing how often you'll need it.
Alternatively, scout around campus, department noticeboards and even Amazon and eBay (see our eBay buying tips for help) for anyone selling books they no longer need. If no new editions have been released since they bought them last year, you're getting exactly the same book, possibly just with a worn-in look. Charity shops are also good for cheap textbook hunting, especially in your university town.
And thanks to the internet, consider year-long book rentals. Sites like CourseSmart will loan you the e-version of textbooks for 360 days, for up to 50% less than buying the text new.
Students are also often able to get free access to specialist resource websites via their university, although some times you will have to be on campus to sign in. The library will be a good place to start to see which are available to you.
But if you do decide you need a brand new copy, don't buy without doing a little research. Always start by doing a comparison - our MegaShopBot tool takes the leg work out of this for you, searching a host of price comparison websites in seconds, finding you the cheapest price.
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 your parents' income; those who come from wealthier homes get a smaller loan.
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.
Show 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.
Here are a few to get you started:
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, Paint.net is easy to use and PC-compatible. For a more advanced photoshop equivalent, GIMP is a powerful tool with free add-ons and (PC and Mac), while Inkscape is handy for scalable vector graphics and works on PC, Mac 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.
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. but even if they don't offer a student discount, why not ask for one? 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!
Haggling is chutzpah time – never buy without a try. 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.
Hunt for hidden student discounts
Always 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, everyday. 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, but you can't use it alongside any other promotional offers. 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 is offer is valid until 31 August 2016. 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 (including Limited Edition and concession items) and is currently ongoing. See the New Look site for more.
Foyles. Gives 10% off in-store, or 5% off already-discounted items online. To get the store discount, sign up in-store with student ID. For the online discount, email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, course and uni to get a code. Valid until 31 Aug 2016. See Foyles for terms.
For more student discounts that don't need an NUS Extra card, forumites recommend MyUniDays. It's free to register, and once it's verified your student status, gives codes for a range of ongoing online students discounts via its site, including 10% off Dorothy Perkins, 10% off Waterstones and more.
Student mythbusting - find out the truth about fees, loans and grants
The student loan system changed for new undergrads who started in or after September 2012. Any students who started before then stayed on the previous system, which would've cost £3,465-a-year max at the 2014/15 rate.
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 to budget - you may have a great first week splashing the cash, but spend the rest of term struggling to survive.
Knowing how much income you'll have is essential as without this your budget will be nonsense. While the rule for working people is that they shouldn't spend more than they earn, no one says what student shouldn't spend more than.
Martin's rule is count your income your student loan + any grant + any cash from parents + any work income and don’t spend more than that. Note this doesn’t include your 0% overdraft (that’s for emergency cash flow issues only).
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.
Here's three very basic steps to help you boss your budget:
- Let our Budget Brain assess your finances and tell you just how much you've got to spend.
- Don't ignore any overspends there's three steps to cut back
- Once you've got your budget stick to it with Martin's piggybanking method
For the full steps on each aspect of budgeting see our Budget Planner guide.
Treat 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.
Get Martin's Free Money Tips Email!
For all the latest deals, guides and loopholes - join the 10m who get it. Don't miss out
A company's job is to make money from you
As the year goes on, the costs of starting higher education quickly add up. 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. However well you budget, you will have to spend on tuition fees, books, transport, living expenses and, of course, socialising.
So always remember these companies want your cash and look with a sceptical eye; you'll make better decisions.
Get free cash to study in Europe
If 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.
C'est gratuit: There are masses of free online language learning resources if you know where to look, including BBC Languages and the Open Universitys' OpenLearn Works resource. See Learn A Language Free for the full list.
Get 50% off ad-free Spotify
The cheapest way to get Spotify is to listen to it with ads and with certain other limitations (eg, only listening to playlists on shuffle), which is free. If you don't mind that then you can't beat the price.
However, if you want to listen ad-free, listen offline, play any track in the order you want and listen in higher-quality audio, you'll need a premium account. If you're paying the standard £9.99/mth price for this anyway (or were planning to), Spotify's student discount gives 50% off, making it £4.99/mth.
You can sign up to the deal through via your MyUniDays or NUS Extra account – log in and follow the instructions through to the Spotify website. You can only use the offer on one Spotify account. If you already have a premium account, the discount will apply from the beginning of the next month.
You initially get the promotional price for 12 months, though if you want to extend it you can do so before it the discount period ends, as long as you're still a student at the time (so you could extend it by another year just before you graduate). Otherwise you'll be charged full price unless you cancel your premium subscription.
One additional thing to note – you can't pay for a discounted subscription using a Spotify gift card, so you'd pay the full £9.99/mth price tag if you tried to redeem one under the student offer. For more information on Spotify and other music streaming services, see our Free Music Online guide.
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.
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.
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
Again, 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, using 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 and if your parents home is your main permanent address.
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. Many policies allow this, so it's worth checking.
Don't assume student policies are cheaper.
Comparison sites can provide online quotes for those in rented rooms or shared accommodation but our research shows if you went down this route, you really need to check, and check again, that the policy that comes out top does meet the cover you need as sometimes it won't due to a glitch in the system.
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 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, especially for younger drivers – the average for a 17-22 year old is £1,242/yr. Young Drivers' Car Insurance has a step-by-step system to slice off every spare penny for under 25s, but if you're older and heading to uni, see our normal Car Insurance guide.
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 as you drive' or 'black box' policies 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. For more info, see the Young Drivers' Insurance guide.
Specific 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 Gov.uk.
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 MobilePhoneChecker*, Billmonitor*, MoneySupermarket* and Omio* 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?
Top-of-the-range new smartphones are never MoneySaving, but you can pay less and get a shorter contract if you know where to look. To quickly compare tariffs, use our Cheap iPhone and Cheap Samsung tools.
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.
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've managed to shave over £200 off a return ticket from London to Durham before using this method.
Free TicketySplit tool to find split tickets
Our revolutionary TicketySplit tool helps you do this. Tell it your journey, and it'll tell you where to split and the saving. This unique tool splits advance tickets as well as on-the-day tickets - often where the supersonic savings are.
Currently, the tool doesn't cover returns, only advanced and 'today' single tickets. 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.
If you're working for part of your year out then you need to be aware that you may pay tax. Earn more than £916 in a month, and you'll be taxed. However, if you only work six months of the year, you won't reach the £11,000 tax allowance so you'll likely need to apply to HMRC for a rebate. If you're not sure whether you should have paid or not, use our tax calculator.
If you're going overseas, budget for your trip - and don't forget travel insurance. Many insurers offer backpacker policies 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.
Get six months' free one-day Amazon delivery plus 5% off with an NUS Extra card
The Amazon Student* club is a version of Prime specifically for students. It gives all those aged 18+ who are in higher education access to free one-day delivery, Amazon's video and music streaming services, its Kindle lending library and photo storage - plus some student-specific discounts.
It costs £39 a year for membership (compared with £79 for Amazon Prime), but students can get a six-month trial free. The trial excludes Kindle library services though.
You need to sign up with a valid .ac.uk email address or other form of student ID. Don’t forget to cancel if you don’t want to continue or you’ll be charged £39 (to cancel, go to Manage Your Prime Membership).
Amazon Student members who have a National Union of Students Extra card can also get 5% off many products (excludes Kindle devices, MP3 and Amazon Instant Video). Just log onto the NUS website for a personal promotional code to paste into the gift voucher code box on Amazon every time you order. The reusable code should be valid for 12 months.
Create your own Amazon bargain basements
Amazon 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.
As it's a faff to do this yourself, we've made the Amazon Discount Finder tool. It lets you create 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 the best price across a huge range of shopping comparison sites.
Quickly turn old mobiles into cash
A 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 make and model, use MSE's MobileValuer tool.
It also works for other gadgets, including games consoles, iPods and more. Remember to factory wipe your devices and remove personal information before sending them off.
Free festivals, museums & art galleries
If 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!)
Find '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
Do 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.
Not 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 to test your knowledge.
Ditch 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
This 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. So here's 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.
Do 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.
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The best things in life are freebies!
There'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, you should consider some alternatives, including checking out our Cheap Broadband guide for the top deals.
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, though these are often more expensive than the cheapest deals available. Factor in any fees and monthly line rental to work out the real monthly cost, then use the Cheap Broadband guide to see how it compares to best buys in your area.
Consider 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.
This is because many offer special terms that are unavailable to other people, such as 0% overdraft deals for up to three years.
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.
Sites to try include Music Magpie* 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.
Flog 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
It's possible to earn £100s a year to take part in online surveys, which are often short enough to fill in during breaks between lectures. Find the full list of top picks in the Survey Sites guide, including some which pay up to £3.
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.
They 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 aimed 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.
Look for a quirky part-time job
While studying's a priority, it's commonly accepted many students will work. So if you don't have enough cash, don't overborrow (and especially don't get a payday loan) – try to find a job instead.
Babysitting, supermarkets and the library are all handy places to start, but it can pay to think outside the box too. Some earn from working as a TV extra, or even for participating in medical trials - see Work, Work, Work for some more unusual ideas.
MSE's Megan F got paid to go lectures:
I used to get paid about £13/hr to take notes in other students' lectures (eg, if they had broke their arm and couldn't do it themselves). I found the work through the university's job centre and had to go for a quick test. It was the perfect student gig as it fit around my lectures and unusually for student work was very well paid.
And MSE Rosie had an even more unusual job:
I got paid to take part in psychology and neuroscience experiments, earning around £10/hr – in some you could earn more for good performance. More exciting ones involved virtual reality headsets-all while contributing to scientific research. Some of the braver participants were even given electric shocks (not me).
Be the early bird: The earlier in the year you try to get work, the better your chances, so try to apply before other students.
Not good with cash? Teach yourself
It'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. Martin says...
Companies spend billions of pounds a year on marketing, advertising and teaching their staff to sell, yet we don’t get ANY buyers’ training.
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
Consider a 16-25 Railcard if you spend £90+ a year. These cut a third off your train ticket and they're also valid for full-time students of any age - a huge plus.
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 12% discount (see the NUS Extra website for full details), or grab Santander's student account to bag a four-year one for free - full info in Student Accounts.
Renew 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
Some 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.
Under usual circumstances the amount given for your loan might be reduced if you get a grant as well.
However, the plus here is that 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 Gov.uk.
Learn to cook (!)
There'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!
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.
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.
Get free financial advice
The National Association of Student Money Advisers (Nasma) has advisers in many universities. Alternatively, local charities Citizens Advice and StepChange Debt Charity also offer free help and support. These can be a massive help if you're struggling financially.
Time your train ticket booking carefully
Timing your purchase accurately can make a real difference, either well in advance, or last-minute.
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. You can also sign up to the TheTrainline's* ticket alert system and say which days you want to travel, so you get an email the moment cheap advance tickets come on sale (commonly the cheapest fares).
Or... get last-minute early booking discounts.
Few realise you can often buy advance tickets till midnight the night before or, in rare cases, at 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 that can help.
Many universities offer free student counselling services. Ask for details at your local Students' Union.
Charity Nightline offers a confidential, anonymous listening and info service specifically for students. It runs overnight from about 8pm to 8am and covers 90 universities across the UK and Ireland - see its website for how to get in touch with your nearest service. Alternatively, Samaritans offers confidential help around the clock.
Investigate 'uni access funds' - it's possible to get £100s
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 or the National Association of Student Money Advisers (Nasma) to find out more and ask for how to apply.
Use our Money Mantras before ANY buys
Before spending on anything, use Martin's Money Mantras. If you say 'NO' to any, DON'T BUY!
If you're skint
Do I need it?
Can I afford it?
Have I checked if it's cheaper anywhere else?
If you're not skint
Will I use it?
Is it worth it?
Have I checked if it's cheaper anywhere else?
Get 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 a ISA, even if just short term
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 a ISA. This stands for Individual Savings Account, and it's simply a tax-free savings account that everyone over 16 can put up to £15,240 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.
Beware borrowing on 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.
Get a YEAR'S 2for1 cinema by manipulating Meerkat Movies
Bag mega savings on your cinema tickets by using our very own Deals Hunter blog trick which manipulates Meerkat Movies to give you a year of 2for1 tickets.
You just need to buy the cheapest product you can find on Compare the Market, which is usually something like a day's travel insurance for a couple of quid, and then you can download the Meerkat Movies app to get you those 2for1 tickets every Tuesday and Wednesday.
See the blog for the full how-to, but here's some inspiration:
Thanks, I’ll be saving over £400 a year for a cost of £3. - @pinksuziq72
Don't forget your discount vouchers
Don't use payday loans to make ends meet
Payday lenders have sprung up nationwide, promising quick cash loans until you get paid. Yet interest rates are exorbitant, and the cost of the debt can easily snowball to epic proportions.
If you're struggling to make ends meet, instead contact the National Association of Student Money Advisers (Nasma), who will help with better alternatives.
Grab 75% off supermarket food with yellow-sticker discounts
If you bag a yellow-sticker discount you're on to a winner as it's a huge saving on perfectly good nosh (you'll just usually need to use it quickly).
But to help you out we (along with the help of our dedicated forumites and MoneySavers who work in supermarkets) have put together a table to spill the beans on which supermarkets discount at which time, even including the amount they are likely to reduce products by.
To pin down where you need to be at which time, see our Supermarket Shopping Tips.
Share your tips on the student forum
The Student MoneySaving forum board is a fantastic place to share your ideas and swap tips whether you're after student shopping and eating tips, info on bursaries, or help splitting student bills. It's free to join, so get chatting!
Thanks to all the MoneySaving students who emailed in these extra tips below.
Kit out your student house using Freecycle
Freecycle prevents perfectly good items from ending up in landfill 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
If 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
Collect 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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