Moving out: can you afford it?

Strategies for affordable student living

Apparently more and more students are living at home while studying. This is totally understandable – student debt quickly mounts up with rent, bills, and food, on top of your fees and books.

I was lucky that I got some support from my parents – I think they were as keen to get me out the house as I was to leave. I also worked a range of terrible part-time jobs; and, being Scottish, fees weren’t an issue.

My income was by no means enough to live the high life, though. Like most students, I had to be clever with my spending to make my money last the month. In my mind, the worst thing I could do was ask my parent for more money – I was keenly aware of just how lucky I was that they were able to support me in any way in the first place. So here are the strategies I used to eke out every last penny.

Buy pre-loved stuff

From books to clothes, there’s a lot of bargains to be made if you’re open to second hand gear. Most university book shops will buy and sell used books for the courses they run. Most textbooks will bring out a new edition every year or two, but not always because there’s something new to say. Check with professors (or have a Google) to find out if it’s really worth shelling out for the brand new, latest edition.

And wherever there’s a university, charity and vintage shops will surely follow. If you’re a creative type, these become Aladdin’s caves of opportunity. A silk blouse could become a scarf, some old jeans a pair of cut-off shorts. Even if you’re not into upcycling, there are usually a few gems if you take the time to look.

And if you don’t have a reliable second-hand shop nearby, there’s always the online providers. My favourites are eBay and Gumtree.

Save on food and drink

When I was studying, I was an advocate of getting as much for my money as possible. I still am! And it all starts with being aware of the deals and discounts that you can take advantage of. Of course, loads of UK retailers do a student discount. But did you know that Topshop gives student discount on already discounted items too, meaning a further 10% off all sale items? They also run student nights where you get a bigger discounts and free goodie bags to boot.

Strict licencing laws in the UK – especially Scotland – means you’re not likely to get discounts or multi-buy deals on your drinks anymore. But that doesn’t stop some places finding a way to lure you in. On Fridays, you can get a burger for £1 with any full-priced drink at any Village Hotel Club. And you don’t even have to be a student to claim that one, so you can keep taking advantage long after graduation.

Shop around

No matter what you’re thinking about buying, you’re likely to get a better deal if you shop around. Of course, everyone knows about online aggregators that compare everything from broadband contracts to hotel rooms. But companies pay a commission to these websites for your sale; so often, if you approach a company direct, they’ll beat the deal you’re getting through the aggregator, either with a discount or added extras.

But you can do your own shopping around too. If you’ve found something specific, you might find an online provider selling it for cheaper. Books are a great example, with Amazon selling books cheaper than the high street, and eBay hosting independent book sellers who can be even cheaper.

If it’s a more general item you’re looking for – maybe a green cardigan, or a Harry Potter lamp – you’ll find a bigger variety online, and are more likely to find a bargain. Google Shopping is a great place to start!

Published on 21-Nov-2016

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