Low-spend January: How I’m starting the New Year right

05 Jan 2022
By Eoin O., Student at University of Edinburgh

After the chaotic and unavoidably-pricey Christmas season, January is the perfect time to challenge your spending habits. Whatever your motivation is, whether you want a new laptop or just to recover from New Year’s Eve, a bit of budgeting should be possible for most students this month.

Not sure where to start? This is how I’m doing it.

First off, cut down on the takeaway coffee. Buy a KeepCup and some decent instant coffee, or split the cost of a coffee maker with a flatmate if you’re really picky. It may seem counterintuitive for my first tip to be ‘buy stuff’, but compare that one-off investment to the average monthly coffee bill and you’ll see it makes sense.

Homemade coffee may not feel as exciting as those peppermint lattés you came to rely on over Christmas, but it’ll still keep you going and warm your heart on cold January days. Still need a fix while you’re out? Most university study rooms and society areas have their own kettles with free tea and coffee.

And if you really need to buy one, ditch the Starbucks for your student union café. They’re usually far cheaper, just as good, and you’ll be more inclined to actually go to your lecture when you can literally see the class from the cafe.

Next up, plan your meals. Whether it’s each week or every few days, make a shopping list and think about how many meals you can stretch it to. It saves you from racing around Tesco grabbing every meal deal and frozen pizza in sight, and your body will probably thank you for it.

You’re also far less likely to give in and order yet another takeaway after a few nights if you know there’s a meal in the fridge ready to be made.

Lastly, when it comes to entertaining yourself, keep an eye out for student deals. Don’t base your social life around when and where you can get a discount, but be aware of the little things. If there’s a new movie you want to see, maybe wait a few days for your local cinema’s £5 Mondays. Before you make plans for a day out, check the usual websites to see if you’re missing out on any major savings.

Most of all, this applies to your nights out. You may feel like you need that fifth jagerbomb at 2am but, by this point of the night, you probably don’t. Save yourself from a wounded wallet - not to mention a wounded head - the next morning.

Read more: Discounts: How to cash in on your student status

December’s a strange month for money, with presents and travel and all that extra expense. So when you’re thinking about a budget for the month, don’t focus too much on your recent seasonal spending. Look at where your money goes in an average month. That’s why I’m starting with food, drink, and social.

Having a low-spend January isn’t just about challenging yourself for a single month, it’s about starting as you mean to go on for the rest of the year. Think of it as a New Year’s resolution you’ll actually keep and give it a go. I know I will.

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I’m a third-year student on exchange to the University of Edinburgh from Trinity College Dublin in Ireland. I study history and I’m passionate about film, writing and music.