How To Survive University Without Going Broke

Rain is in the air, we’re walking about in boots and umbrellas and everyone is miserable; yes its summer time in the UK! That means in just a few short weeks students will be heading back to college or university and many for the first time. Whilst university applications may have dropped there are still tens of thousands of young people leaving home for the first time every year for their first taste of independence.

You’ll learn more at university than how to analysis Shakespeare or what Schrödinger was doing with his cat, you’re going to learn to become self-sufficient and the habits you’re about to learn over the next couple of years will shape the rest of your life.

Money – Students’ claim they never have enough, everyone else thinks you have too much and the fact of the matter is both sides are right.

University is expensive and I’m not just talking about tuition fees and text books, I’m talking about buying all your own food for the first time, getting your laundry done, paying for train and bus tickets back home every few months and of course going out drinking (of course you don’t have to drink but you’ll be more drunk more often at uni than any other time in your life because this is one lesson all students learn very well)

Basic Money Coming In

Most students will have the basic student loan that will usually just about cover rent and bills. Students from poorer backgrounds might find they’re able to get a little extra money and if you’re studying for a vocation that’s in demand like teaching or nursing there might be a little extra cash available.
From here most students are split three ways
1. Some students will have family in a position to bankroll their education, the parents will pay rent, bills, tuition fees etc. and the student has the loan to live off.
2. Other students will take up a part time job, something low end that requires little brain power but accommodates classes and late nights out (bar/restaurant work are often very popular).
3. Some students can’t take a part time job, if they have placements which make timings impossible or if they have too much to study and there just isn’t enough time. If their families can’t actually afford to help them they just have to suck it up for three years and get their heads down.

All students are going to be accountable for their finances, either to their parents, their employers or simply themselves – so how do you make that cash stretch?

You’re A Student, Milk It

So many big name companies offer student discounts, fast food restaurants, cinema chains, even mobile phone suppliers. If you don’t ask you don’t get, they might not have a sign up or they might be a smaller independent business but it’s always worth asking. If it is a smaller business and they say no, tell them you’d recommend them to your friends and put a couple of flyers up round campus if they could do 10% off. Every little helps.

Cook Together

You can’t help but make friends at uni, whether it’s the people in halls with you or your class mates or just people you share common interests with, you’ll soon find yourself with a second family so make sure you’re eating together like a proper family. If everyone chips in a pound or two you can cook a large dinner for everyone at half the price. A large pot of spaghetti bolognaise won’t cost most that £7 and could feed plenty of you and keep you full, much better value than heading out for a takeaway.


Every day, every week, every month needs a budget. Student loans usually come in once a term so you can’t hang in until the end of the month and you can’t keep asking your parents for cash. It’s the simplest maths you’ll ever do, make sure the money you’ve got going out never exceeds the money you have coming in, if it does something needs to go whether it’s the car, gym membership, designer coffee habit or too many nights out. If you do have a car and you’re often the designated driver ask your mates to chip in for fuel money (it’s still cheaper than the bus). Use the gym at the uni or better yet just go for a run outdoors where it’s free. Invest in lunch boxes and thermos flasks so you can take your own food and drink if you’re going to be out all day. Stick to soft drinks or the SU bar when going out for the night.

Don’t Add To Your Debt
If you’re a typical student you’re already going to leave university with thousands of pounds of debt but your student loan is actually one of the best financial deals you’re ever going to get in your life and you only start paying it back once you’re actually earning money so you don’t need to stress about that too much. It’s important you don’t rack up any more debt whilst you’re at uni though; banks are unscrupulous little snakes that love targeting students with their huge interest free over drafts and shiny credit cards but don’t be tempted. The overdraft won’t stay interest free forever and at some point you will have to pay it back.

Sam is an expert on making cash stretch and works for Business Electricity Prices where you can make sure you’re always getting the best deal possible for your energy bills.


  1. I say financial management will really help you through a lot. Budgeting is the key source. Food, rent, fare, and other school expenses. I agree about the debt part. That’s really going to pull you down so as much as possible, don’t go in that route. I also like the idea of cooking/eating together. It’s fun plus it will really help in saving.

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