How spending money now can help you save in the long term

25 Mar 2022
By Leah W., Student at De Montfort University

Whether you’re based in a city or are part of a campus university in a less populated area, living on a student budget can be tough.

From buying food to arranging transport for the journey home during the holidays, every single penny we can save counts.

When you’re trying to get by on a budget, you might think that spending as little as possible all the time is the best way to save money. But from my own experiences, I’ve found that splashing out early can really help you to save in the long term. Let me explain...

Being savvy with your food shopping

Despite what you might think, one way you can save money is by doing a big food shop every 10 days or so. I give myself a budget of £20 to spend on food, which I’ve found is enough to feed me for a week and a half. This means I’ll never need to just nip into a shop for an expensive, convenient meal, as I’ll have food waiting for me at home.

I also try to buy ingredients that can be used for making large meals so I have leftovers to  refrigerate or freeze for another day. Shopping at Lidl last week, I was able to get two packs of stewing vegetables for about £2, as well as two packs of corned beef for £3. That’s a total of five pounds spent on a meal that will last me three days. 

Even though I set myself a budget for regular food shops, I do break out of it sometimes, as I know doing so will help me save money in the long run. For example, if I notice that something I regularly buy is on special offer, I’ll stock up so it lasts me for a while. This way, I won’t have to pay more for it a couple of weeks later.

Timing is everything when it comes to transport

When it comes to transport, try and book as early as you can ahead of your journey. It’s not always easy when a family emergency comes up, but booking early train or bus tickets is the best way to travel economically. 

Last November, I had to head home with hardly any notice, so I needed to book a last-minute train ticket. Where a one-way ticket would normally have cost me around £9, my late booking meant it cost me nearly double that to travel from Leicester to Chesterfield. 

Personally, I try to book my train tickets at least several weeks in advance of travelling home or visiting a friend in order to get the best prices. You might have to book two singles and be limited to specific times, but this is a small price to pay for a potentially huge savings.

I’d also recommend that you get yourself a 16-25 Railcard. With it, you can save up to a third on rail fares, which adds up to a lot of money when you’re travelling to visit family and friends regularly. It only costs £30 for a one-year railcard, or you can spend £70 for three years of discounted rail fares. 

Saving money on textbooks

Whatever you’re studying at university, the cost of supplies can add up quickly. Every term there’s a seemingly endless stream of textbooks that I need to invest in, not to mention the huge reading list at the start of the year. 

When it comes to saving money here, buying everything you need for the term either before or right at the start will help save you some cash. Before spending loads on your reading list, check to see if you can take any of them out from the library, or search eBay for second-hand copies.

Another cost-effective alternative is to get a subscription with online library, Perlego. For a monthly fee, you can get unlimited access to over 800,000 textbooks and resources - potentially saving you a lot of money and hassle. 

Stocking up on stationary

Being a creative writing student, I need a lot of stationary and notepads, so I like to get them cheap. For the best prices, I rely on stores such as Poundland, or if you need notepads for specific subjects like maths, Typo has a variety of grid and square pads to choose from. 

I’ve also found that buying in bulk can save you money in the long run. You probably don’t need 10 notepads or 20 biros at any one time, but spending that money in one go means you don’t have to worry about running out of essential supplies in the middle of the term and getting stung for buying the items individually.

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I'm a second-year creative writing student at De Montfort University who loves writing poetry and other things for my blogs.