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How to stretch your student loan

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Before you came to University, what was the most money you’d ever had in your life at one time? Perhaps £100 on your birthday? Or perhaps you were feeling pretty swish with a summer job which got you a few hundred pounds a month? Either way, it’s probably unlikely that anyone has ever just handed you a few thousand pounds and let you do whatever you wanted with it… until now.

University? Expensive? That’s what you’re probably thinking, and honestly, I think I’ve had the exact same thoughts, back when I got my first student loan. That is, until it’s December, when you’ve got Christmas presents to buy, as well as train tickets to get home, and that other thing that might be a tad important – food – to somehow acquire as well.

So, how do you make it last? Luckily, it’s a well-known fact that behind the façade, students aren’t the most financially fortunate. I’ve got a few tips of my own to help you make that money go further than just your rent and some ill-advised nights out (please don’t do what my flatmate did and blow it all by week two!!!).

Get a student discount card immediately

This one seems a little obvious but I am absolutely AMAZED at how many people don’t get an NUS extra card. No, I’m not a sales rep for them, but for a teeny tiny price (considering what you get), you’ll have discounts for the entire year. You get discounts at restaurants, clubs, retailers, and even places like the gym and for Spotify. I can only imagine that the reason people don’t get one is because they think it’s not worth it and they don’t understand what it can do for them. So here you go, here’s me telling you – it’s the best thing you’ll buy. You’re best sticking with the all-singing, all-dancing version from these guys as you’ll get way more than you get with your standard student card.

Shop in the reduced section

Don’t judge. Even though I left Uni way over a year ago, I’m still partial to a reduced section in the supermarkets. Actually, if I’m really honest, I’m not just partial, but I practically dream about those little yellow stickers which can only mean you’ve grabbed yourself a bargain. Steaks reduced to less than £1? Sandwiches at 10p? Um, yes please. Contrary to some people’s beliefs, you’re not eating out of date food, it’s just the stuff that is on the last day it can be sold. If you freeze it, you can eat like a king or queen for weeks for a small amount. No pot noodles for me, thanks!

Recycle or sell your stuff

Got loads of outfits but always moan there’s nothing to wear? Does your flatmate at Liberty Living always complain about the same thing? Why not organise a mini swap shop? You’ve both got a new wardrobe without any added costs! Of course, if your sizes don’t match up (as they often don’t!) either get tons more people involved and make it a bit of an event, or take to the internet to sell. eBay is brilliant, but there are also new apps like DePop which help you sell on unwanted stuff. If you’re particularly crafty, upcycling is also an option – making something look cool and new again out of old stuff! There are loads of inspiring blogs about it, like this one.

Get onto loyalty schemes

One thing you don’t want to do is take out a ton of credit if you’re not in a position to pay it all back, that’s why store cards are a total no-no. The same goes for any bad credit moves in all honesty – payday loans are a terrible idea, just FYI.

However, there is nothing wrong with a signing up to points based loyalty schemes or free memberships. Nando’s, BarBurrito, and lots of smaller restaurants all tend to have them, so from time to time you’ll get FREE FOOD! Shops like Boots and Superdrug have them too – why wouldn’t you want to?! The Taste Card is also a brilliant invention; it gets you 2-4-1 in loads of food places, and it’s a lifesaver.

Keep an eye out for places that offer membership, too. When I was at Uni, there was a Casino which offered a free buffet to members every Sunday when they played there. Membership was £3. Needless to say, that was our Sundays sorted, we’d rock up, eat, and then suddenly ‘remember’ we didn’t fancy gambling. Sorry!

Get creative with activities

This may come as a bit of a shock, but not every Uni activity has to cost an arm and a leg’s worth of alcohol! Providing you’re doing it within reason, having a pre-drink before you go out can save you loads of money. You can even try a break from drinking, why not cook some nice meals together with your flatmates and all chip in for the ingredients? It works out much cheaper than popping out to a restaurant!

Remember…

Overall, money can go further when you’re careful with it, so download a banking app to your phone so you’re always up to date with where you’re at and always set yourself a weekly and monthly budget. If you do find yourself genuinely struggling financially, you can always talk to your University or us here at Liberty Living for some support. There are plenty of student jobs out there which won’t impact your studies too much – just don’t take on a load you can’t manage. Always be sensible, and if you get stuck, don’t be afraid to ask the right people for help.

Liberty Living provides student accommodation in 17 university cities across the UK, including student accommodation in Medway, student accommodation in Newcastle, student accommodation in Preston plus many more.

Posted on 13th October 2014 by Claire L.

Claire Louise Sheridan lives and works in Peterborough. She recently graduated with a degree in English and Communication Studies from the University of Liverpool.

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