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alice-whiteUnless you’re Jessie J, the sad truth is that it is all too often about the money.

Getting the most out of your university studies takes hard work and dedication, of course, but you won’t last beyond a month at university if you can’t budget and make your money go further.

I had been earning a good wage for four years before I returned to university, and it’s been a struggle to get back into the mindset of scrimping and saving. It helps to remember that it’s not for a long time, but it still is important to take seriously – the more money you can save, the less time you need to spend earning it, and the more time you can dedicate to your studies.

So here are some of the main areas I think can help to transform a tight student budget:

  1. Know your direct debits

This is one of the most valuable things I have learned – I’ll be mid-month thinking I’ve got plenty to last until payday, when suddenly I’m down to £0 and I don’t know why. As well as rent, regular bills such as your mobile phone, TV licence, energy bills, contents insurance, or loan repayments can come out of your account at any time during the month, so make sure that you’re prepared.

  1. Be ruthless

Following on from point 1, be ruthless with your memberships and direct debits. You’re not earning like you used to be, so stop trying to live like it! Is that magazine membership really necessary, and can you live without that new pair of shoes every month? Probably.

  1. Sign up!

On the flip side there are some memberships that are worth signing up to – NUS Extra will get you 10% off a lot of things, and if you’re a music junkie then signing up to Spotify will mean you don’t have to buy every album. Also look into getting a Railcard if you are aged 16-25, or in full time education.

  1. Time of the year

Thankfully I don’t have to buy all my friends and family presents every month (I know, I’m mean), but when Christmas and birthdays roll around it can really knock the budget sideways. If you can, try and save up a little bit every month that is put aside for Christmas. This also works for an MOT if, like me, your car insists on needing £500 of work done every other year.

  1. Be smart

Obviously you’re already a clever clogs because you’re at uni, but try to be smart about how you spend your money. If it’s a nice day then consider walking to uni rather than taking the bus – not only will you save cash on the bus ticket, but the daily exercise is much cheaper than a gym membership. Buying a bike is also a great investment, as that £150 will mean never having to ride the bus again.

  1. Food

Remember the days when you’d order in an impulse takeaway and buy twice as much as you could physically stomach? Well now you need to shop cheap and waste nothing! Lidl and Aldi are a student’s best friend (who doesn’t love those cereal mascots?) and tinned foods are always useful to stock up on for when money is tight, and they’ll last until the year 3059. I find it good to plan meals a week at a time, and try to double-up on ingredients so that you can buy in bulk. For example, I’ll have a week when I buy a big load of chicken, which can go in a pie one day and fajitas the next. The next week I’ll have minced beef, which I’ll use to make lasagna, a cottage pie and homemade burgers.

  1. Be a tourist

I’m afraid your regular vacation has now become a staycation, but you’re studying in one of the most popular seaside resorts in the UK – so make the most of it! If you’re looking for something cheap to do there’s plenty around the Bournemouth area; take a trip to the beach or the pier, visit Sandbanks, go to the Russell Cotes gallery and museum, or venture out a bit and visit Dorchester, Stonehenge or the Jurassic Coast. You don’t have to go to London to have a great day out.

  1. Recycle

I’m not talking about green bins and brown boxes – I mean things such as your course books, clothes, games and DVDs. SUBU offers a second hand book shop where students can buy and sell course books, so make the most of that. Shops such as CEX will offer cash or store vouchers for your DVDs and games, and if – like me – you spent most of your full-time wages on clothes, consider doing a car boot sale. I once made over £200 and had a good clear out at the same time, plus it’s a day out. Sort of.

  1. Don’t worry

Finally, if you’re really struggling and need some help, then go and talk to SUBU – there is a financial hardship service to help you in the short-term. They will also be able to point you in the direction of further help should you need it.

By Alice White