We asked some of our awesome ex-students on our Facebook page for a few tips and tricks for freshers’, this is what they said + a few tips from us as well:
Before you go:
- Get a student bank account with a decent 0% overdraft.
- Sort out your loan / grants etc. Be sure to double check grants as many people miss out on potential free money!
- Grab some ID photos before you go (avoiding expensive passport machines).
- Make a budget (see below), boring but essential (& consider a Mondo account to keep on top of budgeting).
- Consider how you will earn money on the side at uni, not a necessity but it will help.
- Check out the other ‘free courses’ that your uni may offer, these could be great for your CV building.
- Don’t ‘buy’ reading books from new. Try and find them second hand or in the library. Also, ex-students will often tell you not to buy the books until you actually start the course, as they’ve previously done this and due to lecturers being lazy they’ve only referred to a handle full of them. If unsure email your lecturer and ask them outright what books you NEED for the course. You can also sometimes find eBook versions or lecturers will supply photocopies of key parts anyway.
- Private accommodation is often much cheaper than halls.
- Get a bike if you plan on getting public transport a lot.
- Have limited kitchen stuff – 1 or 2 plates, forks, bowls etc – less washing up.
- Make sure to take at least 2 weeks worth of clothing with you so then you don’t have to wash them as often as on campus washing machines can be expensive.
- Learn how to cook a few basic meals so you’re not down at the corner shop for Pot Noodles every day
- Remember condoms are cheaper than children and often free from Student Union buildings or Family Planning Clinics
- DO NOT get a credit card, it’s a stupid thing to do at this stage as it’s so easy to spend the money on it.
- Know a range of drinking games, ideal way of saving money compared with going to the pub.
When you get there:
- Remember to take your room key with you when you leave halls. I got locked out a few times and you may get charged a fee to get new keys or a call out charge to open. If you’re one of those people that often loses keys then considering getting a 2nd key cut and giving it to a trusted friend.
- Hold fire from paying for any societies (go to the free taster sessions etc first), you might regret paying £10 for a society you never go to
- Make sure you get an HC2 certificate ASAP (receive financial help through the NHS Low Income Scheme via this certificate), it will help for those who need glasses and free prescriptions etc.
- Go to the Freshers’ Fair and grab freebies [repeat for more]
- Remember nights in with new housemates is a much better way to get to know each other than going out and spending a ‘fortune’ on beers out.
- Ensure you keep your door left open so people can come in when you’re inside. Of course, make sure it’s locked when you’re away. Students can be easy targets for criminals.
- Remember don’t spend too much money in the first few weeks you won’t get another student loan payment, bursery or grant until January.
- “Do you do student discount?” is a phase you need to remember EVERYTIME you go shopping. Check this list as well.
- Drink plenty of water and eat properly, it is amazing how this can make a huge difference to how you feel.
- When food shopping go at certain times and aim for the reduced section, consider shopping in alternative places (market, butchers, supermarkets)
- Look for vouchers for restaurants – there are *always* vouchers – never pay full price, failing that sign up to their newsletter (a few days/week before) and you’ll probably get some money off vouchers at some point.
- Ask 2nd-year students what they thought of previous ‘fresher’ events, often these events are overhyped and setup to take your money. Some will be good but others mediocre at best.
- Don’t spend all your money on alcohol in the first week
- Buy toilet roll in bulk and don’t scrimp on cheap bin bags, they’re a pain when they split!
Once you settle in:
- Consider grabbing fancy dress online or charity shops instead of paying high prices locally, stores near to uni will mark up prices due to student parties. Consider buying in bulk as well with housemates/friends to reduce postage costs.
- Start your assignments months in advance. You’ll feel less stressed at deadline day. Also don’t try and do them in one sitting – split them over a few days
- Get as much partying/clubbing out of your system during your 1st year, 2nd and 3rd year need to to get down to business.
- If you’re going to get a job, get it somewhere you can make the most of discounts/freebies. I worked in a coffee shop, free meal on my break and any leftover sandwiches, pastries etc were free to take home at the end of the day. Sometimes I took home bags full of food that was good for another day or two. Also got charged 50p for a coffee out of work hours instead of £2-4 a go. Made for a great place to go study as well, free or cheap drinks and snacks and plenty of friendly faces when you need a break.
- Get your Amazon Prime Student account
- Make sure you 100% visit the first few lectures.
- If you have a disability speak to the support team at the uni and apply for disability support allowance.
- Hang your clothes up in the bathroom when having a shower, steam will remove the creases which equals less ironing/electricity!
- Don’t bother with makeup from day 1. Saves money, time and those awful mascara streaks when you’re crying because you’ve left yet another assignment until the night before it’s due.
- Know your rights in terms of renting, many landlords will break the law in small ways (e.g. Not supplying safety certificates etc.). good to know these things in case your landlord tries to sting you for your deposit at the end. Also, make sure you take photos of any damage and email them to your landlord/letting agent at the start of the tenancy!
- Never reference Wikipedia, but save loads of time by using the references on a relevant Wikipedia site as a starting point
- Study at the uni library free heating and internet + you’re more focused
- If you have Netflix and you share it out, ask for a couple of quid for payment.
Making a budget
As soon as your loan arrives, calculate how much you need to pay in rent and utility bills (usually needs to cover 3 – 4 months) as one lump sum – place that money into a separate account which you cannot see or touch. Set up a direct debit to that account for rent.
Then assess the amount you have remaining, divide it by the amount of weeks till your next student finance payment. Thats the amount of money you have as a weekly allowance to buy a weekly food shop, buy books and use for a night out or 2 a week.
(P.s take into account money needed for family/friend birthdays and Christmas presents during this time).
Cooking & Grocery shopping tips:
- Learn to cook using spices etc, and they’re way cheaper in the world food aisles or from Asian markets etc.
- Consider copying ingredient lists on sauces etc to make cheaper alternatives, it will take a bit of time to perfect it but saves paying £2 for a jar of sauce when you can make the same for 19p!
- Food Portion Control. Practice it, you will make your food last longer and in turn save you money.
- Cook large meals and freeze the leftovers.
- Get some emergency food (pot noodle, super noodles, pasta to go etc) for when money is running low.
- Learn how to cook basic, inexpensive meals. Pasta dishes, jacket potatoes, stews, soups, omelettes etc.
- Take aways, ready meals and junk food are fun, but the price (and the waistlines) add up.
- Keep spending down with a sensible weekly shop – plan your meals in advance if you can and don’t waste the food.
- Leftovers taste SO much better at 3am after a night on snakebite in the Union….!
- Places like the pound shop, home bargains, B&M bargains & Iceland etc actually sell quite a range of food and alcohol on the cheap
- Get supermarket and shop own brands of vodka, rum, schnapps it’s a lot cheaper for pre-drinks.
- Learn how to improve cheap alcohol with cocktails etc.
- Learn how supermarkets will rip you off
- Supermarkets, even their basics ranges often work out more expensive than ethnic supermarkets. Scout out your local Indian and Chinese wholesalers and save big, you’ll even find better quality and better-tasting stuff most of the time, even the noodle pots!
- Invest in a slow cooker, put dinner on when you get up and by the time you’re done with lectures you’ve got a lovely meal waiting back at your dorm…..assuming your mates don’t scoff it.
- Save all take away plastic containers = Free freezer boxes, lunch boxes for pasta or rice salad and if you buy a cheap slow cooker containers for 3 other meals during December ( when you will be poor.)
- Buy meat in bulk from places like MuscleFood or Butchers and then go into Wilkos etc and by loads of freezer bags. When it comes put 2 breasts per bag in the freezer. This means even if you’ve got no money left you’ll have plenty of dinners until your next money comes in.
- Buy food that is near/past it’s best before date
- Don’t share food/drink. Most of the time people will not buy it back for you, and expect you to constantly keep buying it. If they do offer to get the next one, keep them as a future house mate. Saying that in your first few weeks of uni life it always goes down well if you just happen to make ‘too much’ spaghetti etc and invite people to have some, costs a bit extra but it’ll come back round to you (if not then maybe they’re not great friends).
- Never buy lunch in the canteens etc bring packed lunches or go home for breaks, i saved over £300 last year.
Remember, you’re not alone!
Everyone is thinking and doing the same thing. Talk to people and relax, this video will soon be you: