Keep it Green: Tiny But Transformative Tips For Avoiding The Overdraft
For some graduates, the final student loan payment marks the end of an era. It might not have been one marked by financial stability, but many will have the luxury of looking back on their heady undergraduate days as a golden time in which they weren’t furiously pulling pints to meet the rent.
Of course, many undergraduates, student loan or otherwise, have to scrimp and save to study away from home. The pointers below are addressed to all those students and graduates looking for simple but effective ways to cut costs. It can be done!
It’s infamously boring, but easy and incredibly useful. Spend an hour estimating how much you spend (or should be spending!) in the key areas of your life: for example, rent, food, transport, leisure and utility bills. (N.B: you can slash your bills dramatically by changing supplier: use a comparison site such as Which? or uSwitch to check out your options. And use that free voucher they send you.)
Work out how much you need to be earning a month to finance those areas, and if you’re not making enough money, make some cuts. Kettle chips and merlot may have to be promoted to ‘luxury items’.
Next, fire up Excel and use it to keep tabs on what you spend on rent, food, transport per week. Don’t do it just the once, do it every other day or so, and at the end of each week work out how much money you saved or lost. Get creative and colour code, maybe even whack out those GCSE ICT formulas and you can use them to demonstrate your flawless IT skills at your next interview.
- Shopping: go back to basics
Whether or not you harbour a guilty addiction to ‘How to Eat Well for Less’, it should come as no surprise that branded foods are more expensive, and often you’re only paying for the label. A hangover can’t tell the difference between Tropicana and Sainsbury’s Basic’s orange juice, and if you pour it into a jug and ditch the carton, you’ll probably forget yourself. Save those extra pennies for things that matter, like good quality meat or Fairtrade bananas.
Stop wasting money on things you could make yourself for a fraction of the cost and in very little time. Nobody’s asking you to don a bonnet and milk a cow every morning, but you could definitely make your own hummus or soup and keep a few more precious pounds in your pocket.
- Ditch the take-away coffee
Or at least keep it as a treat. In two lattes time you could buy a pretty flask with Minions on and join forces with the incredibly organised (not to mention thrifty) people in the library who don’t spend half their lunch break in the queue for a costa. Stop collecting Nero cards, you know they only encourage you to return.
The same goes for buying bottled water – it’s fine to ask someone to fill up a re-usable one for you!
- Arrange a clothes swap
When the H and M voucher your brother got you for Christmas is sadly redeemed, WhatsApp the group and organise an evening when everyone brings the items that have been languishing in their wardrobe for months. Swap them around. That way, everyone gets something new and nobody has spent £25 on a grey jumper that they won’t be wearing this time next year.
If a clothes swap doesn’t come off, head to your local charity shop. Admittedly, this can require exercising one’s selective faculties, but when you strike gold in Sue Ryder, you will be smiling for days.
- Travel light
We all love a good off-peak open return. It’s very liberating. However, you could save a LOT of money by planning your trip to Swansea to stay with your other half a few weeks in advance.
Another option is ‘Tickety Split’ – a perfectly legal and often much cheaper way to travel by train. The premise is that rather than buying one ticket from A to B, you ‘split’ your journey. This doesn’t mean you need to change trains. If you’re going from Oxford to York, for example, you might buy two tickets; Oxford to Leamington Spa and Leamington Spa to York, rather than one ticket from Oxford to York. The train stops at Leamington anyway, and your fare might be 16 pounds cheaper! See what you could save here.
Finally, there’s the good old railcard. You might be one of the lucky ones who got a 4 year free 16-25 railcard with their Santander student account. If not, it’s still worth buying one, as it could pay for itself within the first one or two journeys you make. If you’re decamping to London for university or to pursue your dream job, you can hook up your railcard to your Oyster card, and save money on buses and trains around the city.
And that’s that! Get budgeting, load up your trolley with own brand beans, recycle your Starbucks loyalty card, steal your best friend’s jumper and buy a 16-25 railcard while you still can.
This probably wasn’t the most exciting five minutes you ever passed, but it was certainly time well spent, as it were.
Inspiring Interns is a graduate recruitment agency which specialises in sourcing candidates for internships and giving out graduate careers advice. To hire graduates or browse graduate jobs, visit their website.