How to Survive on a Student Budget: Know Your Perks

Piggy Bank with savings message

As a first year I have been trying my hardest over the last two terms to adapt to budgeting things for myself – balancing buying food and tolietries with nights and meals out, or occaisional money for events such as Balls etc. It can be pretty tricky. Let alone when I want to go get my hair done, or get the train home for the weekend and that’s more ££s down the drain.

1. NUS Card/ RailCard 
– One of my best purchases this year has been by NUS Extra Card (it’s only about £12 and you make that back very quickly) you can buy these online, registered to your University and it entitles you student discount in a range of shops/ restaurants/ cinemas…. The most imporant thing if you are going to buy an NUS card, is to make sure you download the NUS Extra App on your phone, this will let you know what you’re entitled to. For example you can get 10% off everyday items at Coop and Superdrug (very handy for the average beauty blogger). And [one of the best deals by far] you are entitled to 40% off a Pizza Express meal on Mondays and Tuesdays and 20% off on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. This discount applies to your whole bill so you only need 1 card between a group of you to get the money off. So get you’re family to treat you when they visit, and in return save them 40% off the bill. WIN:WIN.

student rail card

– Another great deal, if you haven’t already got it this year is the free 16-25 RailCard that you can get by setting up your student account with a specific bank. This year it was Santander and I got a 4 year rail card (usually worth about £150), for the promise that I would keep some of my student money in their account. The downside is, this means you have to bank with Santander who’s online banking system is absolutely applaing, however it’s certainly worth it to get a 1/3 off your train journey everytime. Just make sure to take the card with you on every journey – and take a photo of it on your phone, incase you ever forget it.

If you’re interested in getting a Student RailCard this way, keep an eye out after results day [ you need to know for sure what Uni you’re going to to get the deal] on all the various bank websites to see which one is offering the deal. Alternatively, other banks do offer other deals – like a free NUS card, but as you can see a RailCard is much better value for money, especially if you’ll often be getting the train home from Uni.

tesco vouchers

2. Tesco Vouchers
-Whilst on the topic of saving money on travel, one of the great discoveries I made this year is that you can double up Tesco Vouchers and use them to pay for your travel e.g. turn a £10 Tesco Voucher into £20 off your train journey. It’s rather complicated to set up, but after that it will work smoothly every time, so if you’re interested in knowing more visit MoneySavingExpert.Com.  You or your parent will need a Tesco Clubcard to do this, I currently use my Dad’s.

3. Sainsbury’s Meal Ticket
-Great idea if you’re parents are willing to help you out, but don’t want to give you wads of cash. Sainsbury’s have recently introduced this rather ugly twin set of cards that you can pick up free instore. One card is for your parent/ grandparent, which they can put money on when shopping in a Sainsbury’s store, the other is for you. The idea is that your card is linked to the one that your parent has back at home, so when they charge it up with money, you can then spend it in store on your groceries, or just alcohol if you want. I found splitting my shop in half and paying half on my Meal Ticket Card and half on my debit card helped spread the cost and made me feel like I was spending a bit less everytime.

4. John Lewis/ Waitrose Card
– If you haven’t heard about this already, the My Waitrose Card is a great little loyalty card to pick up, even if you don’t shop there often. For regular shoppers of course there is the benefit that you get regular, and exclusive discounts on a variety of products everytime you shop. But for everyone else, the two favourite perks are 1. the fact that if you spend over £5 you can get a free newpaper (Either The Daily Mail, The Guardian, The Telegraph or The Times) and 2. the free coffees. Everytime you go into Waitrose [on the understanding that this is not more than once a day] with your My Waitrose card you can pick up a free tea of coffee (including Lattes, Cappicinos, Mochas and Expressos as well as regular coffee) to have in the Cafe or to takeaway with you. So fancy a coffee morning with your friends, but don’t want to fork out £3+ for a Costa/ Sturbucks? Take everyone to Waitrose for free coffees and spend the money on cake instead.

– A secondary point to add to this is that John Lewis have now issued their own card, My John Lewis, which offers cardholders a free tea or coffee and their choice of a slice of cake, once a month at their Cafe. Free coffee and cake once a month? Yes please. All you have to do is register yourself for a card online and you’ll recieve tea and cake vouchers to use in the shop.

5. Be a Model
This is a great tip for all the student beauty bloggers out there.Fancy getting your hair done, but can’t afford the price? I always have this problem because my hair is highlighted and that’s expensive. Solution: sign up to be a hair model. This is a bit more of a take the chance when you see it type of thing, but a large number of hairdressers employ Students who are doing some kind of course at College but have to do a certain number of cuts/colours/blowdrys before they can pass and become an offical hairdresser. As a result of this salons often advertise in their window, or post on their social networking sites that they are looking for cutting models or colour models and in return they will offer you the cut/ colour at a reduced price (I once had a full head of highlights for £15 at Tony and Guy). In my experience, student hairdressers have never been less capable than normal hairdressers and in some salons they have senior hairdressers watching over them anyway. So if you see a sign in a window looking for models, go in or give them a ring and suggest that you would like to be a model and what you would like to have done. It’s certainly worth it for the slash in the price.

I hope this ‘perks’ have been helpful. If you have any questions about any of these, please feel free to email me – email can be found on my contact page. On the other hand, if you have any other student tips or perks please post them in the comments. 



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