Freshers survival guide: All the money saving tips we wish we’d known then

How to keep your spare change safe so you never fall short of a VK in the SU

As Freshers’ Week commences and student loans are about to drop, we thought it seemed fitting to share all of our best money–saving hacks that every new uni student should know to save their bank accounts this side of Christmas.

That first loan can seem exciting and overwhelming, and whilst budgeting it out would be the most sensible choice – we won’t nag you to open an excel spreadsheet as quite frankly it’s probably the last thing on your mind.

That being said, whilst it can all seem tedious, taking care of your money will allow you to excuse a big blowout at the SU and half the regret of that odd hangover takeaway. So we made a list of money-saving hacks and habits that will help you every day and save you from struggling to buy a Christmas card.

Sign up to student discount sites

This time of the year especially, businesses go heavy on student discounts as waves of students hit cities up and down the country.

Student discount sites such as UniDays and Student Beans are free to sign up to and you can easily access all of the brands and businesses that offer you discounts. From free sausage rolls at Greggs to 20 per cent discount on clothes for your autumn semester wardrobe, both student websites partner with hundreds of brands online and in-store to offer exclusive discounts to help you look after your pennies.

Get yourself a railcard

This is something you’ll wish you’d done sooner.

Student or “young people’s” aged 16-25 railcards save you 30 per cent of your train fare on ALL train travel all year roundThey are just £30 for a year or £70 for three years which you’ll definitely get back in savings.

Or if you want to save the fees altogether- Santander offers an entirely free four-year railcard when you set up a student bank account with them.

Don’t be afraid of the reduced food section

Once you start shopping in the reduced section, it’s an addiction!

You’ll find the biggest and best savings later on in the day or on Sunday evenings; many tasty meals have been made shamelessly out of raiding the reduced section. Even if you don’t eat it then and there, lots of reduced food can be frozen and saved for another time.

It’s a win, win.

Shop big and less, not little and often

Whilst this can seem like a chore it will really pay off in the long run. You save so much more by planning out your shop and doing one large one; Cathays’ much-loved Lidl is the place to do your weekly shop if you want to get the most bang for your buck.

Convenience stores like Tesco Express and Sainsbury’s don’t quite match their prices and while it is affordable on the odd occasion, you will shortly see the little pop to the shop fees add up. And if you struggle to carry a bigger shop (god bless the strongest among us) then a backpack is great to take with you to help lighten the load, or a shopping trolley bag if you can brave it.

Get loyalty points when you shop

Tesco’s Clubcard is great for giving you better savings and the points can rack up to money off of your next shop or even a free trip to Alton Towers.

Signing up for loyalty cards is always free and it offers you exclusive discounts in so many stores– Boots, Superdrug, Tesco, and H&M are all great just to name a few!

Avoid buying books for your course readings

Something we wish we knew sooner is how many books are available for you online or to take out on loan from the library to save you purchasing them.

Don’t overspend on a gym membership

You don’t need to spend lots of pounds to lose a few– there are many student gym memberships offering discounted rates with free cancellation fees and even your University can offer the same facilities for a fraction of the price of some glamorised fitness chains.

Cardiff Uni offers an early bird term-time contract if you sign up before the 13th October 2021 for £175 and it is valid until the 31st July 2022 which is perfect being on-campus. You can sign up on the student intranet.

Better yet, why not take to YouTube and trail some home-workout videos that cost you nothing at all.

Get free photo prints

Are you really a student if you don’t insist on decorating your bedroom with photo prints? There are lots of companies out there that will print all your pictures for free and all you need to pay for is postage.

Plan out your meals

More often than not, life can get in the way and you’re eating out of the house more than necessary; we’ve all been there.

Preparing your meals for the week and utilising those leftover takeaway containers not only saves your time and money but the planet too. Cooking large portions and dividing it up to save for lunch/dinner for the upcoming days or even to freeze and have on standby is extremely helpful for the busier weekdays and stops you from buying more food out of convenience.

Utilise free trials

Free trials are the holy grail of student life. While they range from one week to six months in length, it’s worth always checking out what free trials are available to you before splashing out for an extra month you may not need to be paying for.

Hopefully you will take away some great money-saving tips to help make the most out of your loan and your time as a student.

Money can be overwhelming and stressful, but getting on top of it helps you stay in control. This is just one of the more responsible aspects of student life.

But we can assure you that you and your bank account will be happier for it.

Related articles recommended by this writer:

Believe it or not: I went out every night of the week and spent under £20

The best dates in Cardiff for less than £10 per person

How much does it cost to be a Cardiff University student?