Freshers’ week (or even fortnight at some universities!) can be a student MoneySaver’s paradise. At no other point in your life will you be subjected to a week of constant vouchers, discount codes and freebies. In fact, you’ll likely bring so many totes full of leaflets back to your halls you’ll make it rain Domino’s vouchers for weeks.
We want you to enjoy this one beautiful week in the year where a lecture is still something your mum gives, and 12p instant noodles are something you’ve never had to experience.
So here are some MoneySaving tips from us seasoned graduates at MSE Towers and from our forum users on how to absolutely boss your way through freshers’ week.
1. Join the societies – but don’t waste the money if you won’t actually go.
Sure, Quidditch Society sounds like a great idea at first, but will you really get up every Sunday morning to run around on a broomstick and throw a ‘quaffle’ around? It’s probably not worth the joining fee, so only sign up for the societies you know you’ll actually go to.
Societies and extra-curricular activities are great things to put on your CV for after you graduate, so if it’s for you, get involved.
2. Look out for free… kitchen utensils.
Keep your eyes peeled for freebies. MSE Sarah M and MSE Shrey reported free kitchen utensils at their freshers’ fairs.
These can be costly and you may not need them straight away if you’re in catered accommodation in your first year, but they’re worth hanging onto for your second and third years. You don’t want to end up sharing spoons with THAT grubby housemate (there’s always one).
3. … free stationery.
I was one of those students that only ever took a pen and a notepad to lectures and seminars. However, exam time rolled around and I had a full array of highlighters, pens, notebooks and sticky notes – and I didn’t pay for any of it…
My freshers fair was full to the brim with free stationery. So if you don’t mind company branded biros, stock up. They’ll last the whole year, and you can always go back to next year’s fair to replenish your supplies.
4. … and, free food.
Domino’s is notorious at freshers’ fairs. From handing out free pizza, to special discount vouchers; never pass its stand without picking up some. Also, you’ve probably not cooked much for yourself before, so it’s a perfect way to put off becoming a proper adult just yet.
Big chain restaurants and pubs also often hand out voucher booklets, which can be quite lucrative and make cheap food cheaper. You may also be able to pick up free sweets, energy drinks and instant noodles, so keep an eye out for these too.
5. … and did I mention free clothes?
The T-shirts you’ll find handed out free at some freshers’ events probably aren’t ones you’ll parade around a club in, but they’ll do for the gym or chilling out at home.
6. ‘More freebies’ I hear you cry, well how about a mini camera tripod?
MSE Sarah M was extra savvy during her freshers’ week. After getting a free tripod, instead of letting it languish at the back of a cupboard, she sold it on eBay.
So while you may not have a use for a freebie, it’s likely someone else will, and they might just pay you for it. If you’re a total newbie when it comes to eBay, we’ve written a whole guide on eBay selling to help you max your profits.
7. Safe sex = free stuff.
Many universities promote safe sex during freshers’ week, and often this includes some type of freebie being dangled like a carrot on a stick in a bid to get you to go for an STI test. I’ve heard reports of free cinema tickets being given out, and free underwear with slogans such as ‘Tried and Tested’ written on them.
All 16-25-year-olds can also get free condoms from most GUM clinics and GP Surgeries – see the NHS website for more details.
8. Find out if you can get cheap travel in your uni town.
Freshers’ fair is the best time to get your travel sorted if you know you can’t easily walk to university or into town. Scout out if there are any cheap offers for bus or train tickets at the fair. I managed to get three month’s bus travel for £1 a trip.
Also, see our Cheap Train guide to see if you can save even more – if you own a 16-25 Railcard, for example, you can cut some fares by a third.
9. Find out what textbooks you need, and don’t pay over the odds.
I studied English Literature and Language, and my lecturers would think nothing of setting a new novel to read every week. But if you’re thinking of stocking up during freshers’ week, never buy books brand new if possible, have a look on eBay or Amazon first.
You can also often find free PDFs online and if you have a Kindle, you can download free copies of many classic novels too.
Your uni library will most likely have a few copies as well, so get in there early and get your hands on one.
It’s also worth going to a lecture first before forking out for any textbooks. You’ll be able to get a feel for whether you actually need a textbook or not.
10. Don’t fork out for expensive freshers’ costumes – get creative.
Freshers’ week is traditionally a week of themed events in which fancy dress is strongly encouraged. My uni town had a few expensive fancy dress shops, which had a captive audience as freshers turned up unprepared for the nights out.
But don’t spend your loans here, rifle through your wardrobe and see what you can craft an outfit from. If you don’t have anything, get on eBay or go to charity shops and buy cheap alternatives.
I turned a leopard print dress into a cave woman outfit with a homemade papier-mâché club and a bam-bam style pearl necklace from Primark. Total cost = £2.99.
11. Attend freshers’ events like a VIP, but without the price tag.
Don’t pay huge amounts for events tickets during freshers’ week or after. Befriend the student club reps for offers on cheap tickets. You can also usually get a better discount if you’re in a bigger group, so get some friends together. (Please be Drinkaware.)
Also check if local sports events do free or cheap tickets for students. If you squint hard enough, you can pretend you’re at the Emirates.
12. Budget, budget, budget.
As much as you may feel rich because you finally have a comma in your bank balance, you still need to budget. Forumite pickledonionspaceraider says: "With so many things going on each night, it is tempting to go out each night – so budget.
"Take your evening budget out with you and leave any other monies at home."
I’d recommend doing this (but remember to include enough money to get home with too), you’ll thank your future self the next morning, trust me.
Check out our student banking guide to help you get the best bank account.
Do you have any more MoneySaving tips for surviving freshers’ week or uni in general? We want to hear them, please post on our forum or via the comments section below, or tweet us @MoneySavingExp.