November 2022

Struggling with the cost of living? Here's our top tips

By Killoran Wills

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Let’s face it, we all need to make our money go a lot further these days, from heating bills to rising food prices and transport costs to, well, the bare essentials.  

And that is not a bad place to start if you are looking to trim your monthly outgoings. Work out what you need, as opposed to want you want, how much it will cost and how much money you have got coming in to pay for it. For fans of an Excel spreadsheet, so far so good, but you might find a finance app useful too. 

But do add in a few treats along the way. A friend of mine accounts for every last bean, right down to impulse buys from the central aisle at Aldi. Now a well-paid executive, her economy was drummed into her when she had to give up her student loan to her parents to pay the mortgage.  

Many students can find themselves supporting family members while they study and if this is you, make sure you are getting all the help you are entitled to. Student services and the Guild of Students are good places to start.

Here are some of the things you might consider: 

  1. Are you paying the correct level of council tax? Households in which everyone is a full-time student do not have to pay Council Tax. If you live at home, you may qualify for a discount depending on your circumstances.  
  2. Are your student digs value for money? It may look like a good deal, but check out the extras. Are bills included? Is it a bus ride out of town? It could be worth paying a bit more to avoid scary utility bills or forking out on a monthly travel pass. Then again, you might consider staying at home and saving the rent. 
  3. Get a good deal from your bank. Look for interest free overdrafts as a minimum because banks want students and you want a safety net. 
  4. No NUS Extra card? Then you are missing out big time, particularly on your Co-op shop, so sign up now. Many places will offer a student discount as a matter of course. 
  5. Cook at home and leave eating out for when parents are taking the tab. Better still, cook with housemates and your food, and money, will go further. Buying in bulk and sharing with mates will also keep costs down. 
  6. Budget for a night out and take cash to the amount you are willing to spend.
  7. Don’t go window shopping! It never works and you’ll be handing over cash in a flash. If you don’t need it, don’t waste your time. After all, time is money. 
  8. Does your reading list look very long and expensive? The good news is that is what libraries are for! If it’s not on the shelves and is required reading, get the librarian to reserve one or order more in. Alternatively, a hop, skip and a jump away is Birmingham’s fabulous city centre library. If that draws a blank, buy second-hand online and then sell it back when you have finished. 
  9. Never, EVER, buy bottled water. It’s not a good look. Fill up from the tap. 

There are lots of ways to keep costs down, so it really is a case of finding what works for you. However, it may be necessary to find a part-time job to bring in a little extra cash. If you need help with that, sign up for Unitemps or pop along to Hired in Moss House.

If you are struggling during your studies, find out what help is available from our student support services.

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