Living on a budget: Top tips from a Liverpool graduate

Joanna Parker graduated in 2017 with a BA Hons in English and Modern History. She is currently working in the University’s External Relations, Marketing and Communications department as an Undergraduate Recruitment and Marketing intern:

‘Maths has never been my strong point. This is coming from someone who took their GCSE maths exam five times before they passed. So if I can manage to budget and survive three years at uni, then you can too!

The cost of living was definitely one of my biggest worries before I moved to Liverpool. I had absolutely no clue how to budget or how much I was supposed to spend a week. At first my spending was all over the place, especially with everything going on in freshers’ week! I quickly realised that my spending habits had to change.

So I’m going to share with you my four tried and tested ways to avoid the danger zone – aka, your overdraft:

  1. Open a savings account

Let’s start with before you even move to university. Everyone already has a debit account, and some move to a new student current account for a better overdraft/student deals, which is a great start! But what really surprised me was how many people I met who hadn’t even thought about setting up a savings account.

One of the best decisions I made was opening a savings account. I chose a Nationwide easy-access account recommended by my Mum. This option was the best, and most reassuring for me because I could easily put cash in, and withdraw money whenever I needed to. Looking back, I definitely should have done some more research into savings accounts to find those with the best interest rates.

Check out this article by money expert Martin Lewis on the best easy-access saving accounts right now:

To start off I put £100 in my account, but you can put in as much or little money you want. It all depends on if you have regular income from a part-time job or not. It was really easy to manage when I set up mobile banking, I could simply transfer money to and from my debit and savings account.

Remember: Even if you only manage to save a couple of quid each week/month it’s worth putting whatever you can afford in your savings. To slowly but surely build them up!

  1. Get a part-time job

This might seem like an obvious one when you’re running low on funds and struggling to budget. But working long shifts for minimum wage every weekend is draining, and gives you no time to get work done or socialise with friends.

Look closer to home, part-time jobs at the university and the Guild offer flexible working hours and a generous pay packet. In in my 2nd and 3rd year I worked as a student ambassador. I can’t recommend this enough. You can work when you want, earn some extra cash, and gain some valuable experience to put on your CV. Earning over £50 each shift really does make a big difference to your weekly budget!

If you can, work during the Christmas and summer holidays back at home. In the excruciatingly long wait for your next loan after the Christmas splurge you’ll thank yourself for working hard. In the summer, part-time work means you don’t have to try and stretch your loan till September (which is pretty much impossible anyway). By working, you’ll be able to fund travelling, festivals and so much more. If you’re lucky maybe you’ll even have some money spare for freshers’ week!

Remember: Look out for emails advertising work opportunities throughout the year. And don’t forget to check for part-time jobs on CareerHub and the Guild website.

  1. Take advantage of student discounts

Students can get discounts off everything, from food, fashion and travel, to technology and fitness, so make the most of the next 3 to 4 years of exclusive savings!

It’s free to sign up to both Unidays and StudentBeans. All you need is your university email, (ending to join, enter where you study, the year you graduate and you’re all set. Unidays probably has the biggest range of discounts available. If you’re looking to treat yourself, StudentBeans is your go to site for exclusive high end discounts.

Remember: You can renew your Unidays student ID at any time, so be sure to re-verify your student status before you graduate to hold onto your discounts for an extra year!

  1. Meal Plan

In my 3rd year I made the HUGE mistake of a renting a house right behind an ASDA 24 hour superstore. We were that close that there was even a shortcut through our back garden. I was at a major risk of spending at least 50% of my loan on daily trips.

My bank account really took a hit during exam time, I spent a lot of time in ASDA stocking up on ‘essential’ revision supplies (snacks). Most of the time I had good self-restraint and managed to limit myself to one big food shop a week, following a meal plan. I bought a cheap weekly planner from Wilko and sat down (almost) every Sunday to plan the week ahead, so I knew exactly what I needed to buy. This helped me spend less than £30 a week on supplies, and by using what I had in the fridge and cupboards I definitely ate healthier.

After 1st year I managed to shake the worst shopping habit of them all…meal deals. I lived right by a Tesco Express on campus and bought at least 1 meal deal a week. It’s not worth it, and you’re almost always still hungry after!

Remember: Limit impulse buys as much as possible.

And Finally…

Try to remember that everyone has a different budget, don’t compare your spending habits to your friends!

These money-saving hacks worked for me, but there’s plenty of other simple and effective ways to manage your budget. Here’s a great YouTube video by student vlogger Emily, who has some great ideas about budgeting at university:

If you’ve applied to the University of Liverpool, you’ll find more information on finance, accommodation and lots more in our web hub for applicants at:

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