How To Save Money As A Student – A Guide On Frugal Living For College & University

Money is always tight for students, I survived my years of university without an overdraft or loan to live on by following the tips included in the post below. The first major tip was very spending money I didn’t have and trying to make my money go as far as possible.

Make The Most Of Anything Free

  • Santander offer students a free 3 year rail card if you open a student current account with them. My rail card saved me a small fortune even though I didn’t think I’d use it much when I first got it. For any students travelling within London you can twin your rail card with an Oyster card and save 1/3rd on all off peak travel.
  • Student Beans / Unidays are both are free to sign up to and offer discounts in high street stores and chain restaurants.
  • Topcashback gives you cashback on purchases made online. It is free to have an account and although it can take weeks to months to receive the cashback it all adds up and is worth doing if you intended to buy items anyway. They offer new member deals £15 cashback from various retailers, at the moment these include Iceland, Superdrug, Matalan and Brewdog but these do change. I’ve used the £15 Superdrug one which you can read about here.
  • Amazon offer 6 months free of Prime which includes Prime Music, Reading, Video and free delivery on loads of items.
My 89p Topcashback Supedrug haul

Get A Part Time Job Or Side Hustle

Whether you decide to do this in term time or during the holidays doesn’t matter but working through university really helped me. I had a 4 hour contract in a high street shop and then was able to do over time during the holidays to save up. Some stores offer 1 1/2 time for bank holidays which are always worth doing. I also received free fashion items from the store which, years after graduating, is still saving me money as I haven’t had to buy things. Selling unwanted items on eBay can be a great side hustle. I noticed when I first moved out anything I didn’t take with me or miss I probably no longer needed so gradually sold.

Set Up A Budget

It’s a really obvious one and goes without saying. Check what your monthly expenses will be such as rent, phone bill, food, household bills and contributing to savings before working out what you have left to spend.


  • Free Santander rail card as mentioned above
  • Booking trains as far in advance as possible with your railcard can result in some amazing savings.
  • National Express coaches offer student discount which can work out even cheaper than the trains
  • Local bus companies to your university should offer subsidised tickets if you show your Student ID
  • If you plan to travel a lot by bus look into monthly or yearly passes to save even more. I bought a yearly pass as a student and it paid itself off within 4 months because of the amount I used it to travel to campus, to my part time job and for socialising.
  • If you’re going to get taxis share them with as many people as possible to keep costs down. I mostly used night buses when travelling home with housemates as this felt safe and was cheaper.


  • Stores like Lidl and Aldi I find are by far the cheapest supermarkets
  • Stick to own brand items as much as possible
  • Buy from the reduced section and always stock the freezer. For example a 7p loaf of bread can be toasted from frozen and be breakfast for a week.
  • Packed lunches are better for your bank balance and the environment.
  • If eating out Groupon often has good deals. O2 Priority moments is worth checking too.
  • Avoid takeaways by having a similar junk food treat in the freezer to avoid temptation like a frozen pizza and chips.
  • Cashback apps like Shopmium can result in food freebies once the money is paid back into your PayPal account. g2ye4k will earn you a free tube of Pringles when you sign up.
  • A full blog post on money saving food tips can be found here


  • Embrace happy hour and 2 for 1 offers
  • Pre-drinking before going out can save money equally so can not drinking excessively
  • Co-Op offer 10% student discount for NUS card holders which works on alcohol too
  • Swap plastic bottled water for a refillable bottle
  • Make your own hot drinks instead of buying or take a flask / keep cup.

Toiletries and Beauty

  • Try any bargain shop like Poundland, Savers, B&M Bargains, Home Bargains etc. for every day cheap essentials.
  • Look for own brand items in Boots or Superdrug for bargain basics like shower gels for 50p-75p. Shop around to look for 3 for 2 or % off deals if you need particular items.
  • Superdrug and Boots offer students 10% off and if you sign up to their loyalty card you can earn points to knock money off your shopping. The Boots app is totally worth downloading to collect lots of points which will save you money in the long run.
  • Signing up to be a hair model can result in free or very discounted hair cuts. Looking out for salon promo days and skipping blow dries can also help keep costs down.
  • Collect beauty freebies – a whole post dedicated to this can be found here

Household Items

  • Collecting pots, pans and kitchenware doubles from relatives was how I first started out
  • Check what communal items your student house has before buying anything. This saved me buying crockery, mugs, pans and cutlery sets.
  • Charity shops are great for cheap home basics.
  • Look for student sections in shops like Wilkinsons or IKEA which offer cheap deals on bedding and culinary items. Poundland is another one worth a visit.


  • Only buy items you really need
  • Consider asking family for gift cards to shops you like for birthday presents etc
  • Embrace second hand clothes shopping with via Depop, eBay or charity shops.
  • Have clothes swaps with friends / family.
  • Try to buy the best quality you can afford as items will last longer – this is why I love second hand shopping
  • Make the most of Unidays / Student Beans offers – sometimes they increase to 20% discount


  • Where possible buy items second hand and you’ll be able to sell them on when you no longer need them.
  • Join your local library as well as university library

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