Top five Tips for living at university on a budget from Military History student Austin Wilson

Austin is a second-year Military History student. Here he talks about how to make the best of your University experience whilst saving money.

Set yourself a weekly allowance.

I would strongly recommend setting yourself a weekly allowance if you are living at university, whether on a tight budget or not. It should be the first thing you do. At the start of my first year at UKC, I set myself a ‘termly’ budget, but did not think about how much I would be spending each week. This was a huge mistake, and I ended up spending double my intended budget for that term. I was fortunate enough to have selected part-catered accommodation for my first year, so did not have to factor in food budgets. Instead, all I worried about was things I wanted, like snacks, drinks, and going out and about. Without a weekly allowance, I over-spent consistently, and this was a cause of much anxiety for me. In second year, I moved into a house with my friends, and set myself a weekly food budget of £30, which has worked very well for me. However, many of you may find that you need less or more than this to get through a week. On top of this, I set myself a personal budget of an additional £30 for things I wanted to treat myself to during the week. Some weeks you may spend more than other weeks, don’t feel as though you need to spend the entirety of your budget each week, as a little surplus can help you feel more comfortable about your finances. When the pot is empty, the pot is empty, try to avoid topping it up mid-week, as this can quickly become a bad habit that leads to excessive spending!

Shop at budget supermarkets.

Shopping at supermarkets with student-friendly prices is an absolute must. For many of you living on campus, the nearest Sainsbury’s, Aldi, and Lidl, are in the centre of Canterbury, but you can easily hop on a bus to access these, or even walk if you’re feeling brave! Do not buy into the stereotype that budget supermarkets sell a lower quality of food than the more ‘premium’ brands. I’ve spent my entire second year shopping at Aldi, and not only does my budget cover an enormous amount of food, but I’ve also been eating very well and have never once been able to tell the difference between a cheaper alternative compared to a branded product. I would also highly recommend getting a Nectar card if you find yourself shopping at Sainsbury’s, as they have recently introduced permanent discounts for Nectar members, which, in the long term, really helps you save a few pounds. I find that keeping all your receipts after a food-shop is also a good way to track how much you’re spending!

Cook in bulk.

When cooking for yourself, I find that it is far more expensive, in the long term, to buy and prepare individual portions of food each day. Cooking in bulk is a much more affordable way to make your money and food go further. For instance, a very popular dinner among students is a simple Bolognese. Buying a big pack of minced meat may seem pricey at first, however, you can mitigate this by separating the food you make with it into several small portions, which can result in dishes of £1 p/portion or lower! Pop these in the freezer and defrost and eat whenever you’d like. This not only avoids the cooking time, but also means that your money has gone much further than if you were to have bought a single portion dinner for a similar price. I find that the best way to avoid spending more money on single portion dinners is to make a shopping list of the foods you’d want to eat during the week, rather than spontaneously picking up food in a supermarket that may not make more than 1 or 2 portions. Plan your meals ahead, rather than on the spot!

Make the most of student discounts.

Lots of shops and stores offer student discounts, you must take advantage of this. Whether its food, clothes, or just something you fancy, ask at the checkout whether a discount for students is

available. You can find out which of your favourite stores offer these through websites such as Unidays, and Student Beans, both of which have apps that you can download and create a student profile for. Your UKC student ID card can also function as proof of your student status, so make sure you keep this with you- it’s saved me money quite a few times!

Focus on being disciplined with your own expenses, don’t feel pressured to spend outside of your limit.

The most important thing to do whilst living at university on a budget is to focus on yourself. Many people will be spending less, or more, than you are, but don’t’ succumb to the pressure to spend more money to take part in something and keep up with someone else. Being disciplined whilst on a budget is key. If you have exhausted your weekly allowance, but there is an activity that you or your friends may want to go to, it is so important that you recognise that it is outside of your means, waiting until your budget resets next week is not the end of the world! Moreover, allowing yourself to spend over your allowance whilst feeling under pressure to spend more time with people can seem tempting, however it will leave you feeling anxious about your finances in the future, and can be very detrimental to your mental health. I certainly felt this way after my first term; having spent too much money because of ill-discipline and over-indulgence, I felt incredibly nervous about my financial situation going into my 2nd term at Kent. Recognising this, I became much more stringent, and paid more attention to my weekly expenses, making sure live within of my means. This year, I have felt much more comfortable, and have found that being disciplined with my own budget has left me much happier and with a greater well-being.