55 practical ways to save money
A penny saved is a penny made. Follow our favourite tips and tricks to save yourself £100s every year!Credit: formatc1 – Flickr
Looking to sniff out top-dollar money saving? You've come to the right place. Discover how to cut the price of everything, from rent reductions to cash back on your commute. We've organised our tips by greatest savings potential and also time required:
least to most.
Big Money Savings (£££)
Think beyond dorms to save on rent
Don't assume uni accommodation is always your cheapest option: if you’re prepared to get creative, you could save a ton – like the students who lived on a yacht for a quid a day or camped out to cut costs.
Remember: wherever you live, students do not have to pay council tax. Discover more ways to save on digs.
Get student funding
There’s heaps of cash tucked away in bursaries, scholarships and grants: the trick is to hit as many angles as you can (location, dependents, your gender, subjects studied). Your uni will have some schemes, but there are private scholarships, sponsorships, grants and emergency funds floating out there too.
Disabled Students Allowance is worth checking if you have a disability or learning disadvantage (eg. Dyslexia), with cash for computers and specialist kit. See if there's anything you're eligible for.
Go abroad for grad study
Finland, Norway, Germany and Austria are tops for free or low-cost study, even for international students, which could save you thousands each year. On the downside, living costs can be pricey, and you may need to know the local language to get a place (or a job): start saving, look for funding, and learn the lingo ahead of time.
Stop smoking (or doing drugs)
If you're a smoker, you could be burning two grand a year or more to fuel your habit. You can get a quitting kit (patches, gum, sprays and medication) for less on the NHS, otherwise e-cigs could help you stop frying your lungs while you cut back.
Lots of ex-smokers swear by Allen Carr's book – check the library to read it for free. Recreational drugs and legal highs can be just as pricey as smoking, a whole lot riskier, and often get you spending more cash on munchies, impulse buys or digging yourself out of a hole.
Impressive Cost Cutters (££)
Look twice for cheap flights
It can be a costly rookie mistake to assume the first get-away deals you find are actually the cheapest, especially as prices can change in minutes. Set up price alerts with momondo if you have a destination in mind, or use Skyscanner's 'Everywhere' tool to find bargain-bucket seats on flights to anywhere!
And don't dust off your mankini until you've read our specific tips to getting airborne for less.
Know your discounts
Get yourself a discount card to hoover up any student savings going. You'll need to pay for the NUS Extra card (three-year card best value), but you could recoup your costs in as little as one spend with 50% off Spotify, 10% off ASOS or even 5% off Amazon.co.uk.
Like to eat out? It's also worth adding a tastecard to your arsenal to knock 50% off at thousands of restaurants.
If you don't want to pay at all for discounts, you can still use your student ID to get discounts everywhere, from clubs to cinemas – check out our full student discount directory.
Earn money from your student loan
Whenever (if ever) you have a lump-sum of cash that you don't need straight away, stick it in a high-interest cash ISA.
If not, work out your living costs and siphon off what you need each month – you'll still earn interest, plus it's a discipline helping to make your money last for the whole term.
Speak to the Cancellations Dept.
Got a phone, broadband or TV subscription due for renewal? Tell your provider you're taking your business elsewhere unless they beat the cheapest alternative.
This one works especially well with mobile phone companies – try to cancel your contract and you can expect to be directed to their loyalty team who have the power to offer substantial discounts to retain customers. Get your poker face on!
Slash your bills in an evening
Spend just one evening comparing the cost of your gas or leccy and you could save hundreds by moving to a better deal. Switching is simple and free: just make sure you’re not tied into a contract with exit fees (even so savings can outweigh them).
Quickly find out what you can save right now at EnergyHelpine.com.
Get cash back on almost anything you buy
Every time you buy online, get some of your money back by learning how to use cashback sites.
Use the 'skimming' trick
When you experience the thrill of money inbound – Student Loan, birthday cash, wages or anything else – skim 10% off the top and whack it in a savings account (set up a standing order to shuffle the cash over automatically when it lands in your current account).
If you can manage just £20 a month you'll be £240 better off at the end of the year – more if you stick it in a top-paying savings account.
Haggle your rent
You’ve got nothing to lose by asking for a rent reduction – if you can show you’ve been a top tenant, the odds are in your favour, as it’s usually cheaper and less hassle for your landlord if you stay on.
Other tactics to try include paying in advance, or knocking off a month or two from 12-month contracts to account for non-term time.
Think about phone insurance
Not only are two-thirds of you likely to damage or break your phone at uni, phone theft is so rampant there’s even a national crime unit dedicated to stopping it.
Insurance obviously costs money, but can save you the expense of a new phone or pricey repairs. So if you’re a butter fingers, have a pricey handset or are locked in a length contract, getting insured is often worth doing.
Don’t just go with the policy that’s bundled with your gadget – you can get cover for pennies.
Ride the bus for less
If you catch the bus every day, a student bus pass usually works out cheaper (if you're entitled to disability support, you may be able to get free travel, or funds to help you pay for a pass). Check if there are free metro bus services in your area, too.
Swerve premium rate numbers
If there’s one thing more torturous than most companies’ choice of hold music, it’s the rip-off rates you pay for calling their pricey 084 and 087 numbers in the first place: even on an inclusive call plan, they can cost up to 60p a minute.
Don't pay for top-selling apps & games
Most tablet, phone and PC platforms offer free or freemium games, but Amazon’s gone one further and banked a load of premium apps in its .
That means you can get your hands on Monument Valley (£2.49), OfficeSuite Professional (£9.99) and the inexplicably popular Goat Simulator (£3.99) for free and nada. The trade-off is you’ll need to allow Amazon access to your app usage stats to actually run any free downloads.
Get a 3-year railcard when you’re 24
Buy or renew a 3-year 16-25 railcard before your 24th birthday to lock in a third off rail fares until you're 27!
If you miss the window and turn 24, you can still buy a 1-year card right up until the day before you turn 26.
Lose your TV licence
But if you ever do watch live TV, legally you need to cough up for a TV licence, and you now also need a licence to watch iPlayer and 4OD!
However, find out how you can get a refund to cover the summer months you're not at uni.
Run from overpriced gym membership
Opt for any of the big fancy fitness chains and you can expect to pay anything up to £80 a month. Whilst that may incentivise you to actually go, there are lots of ways to lose a few pounds for fewer pounds (sorry).
Your university is likely to offer most facilities for a fraction of the cost, with no lengthy contract. Or check out PayasUgym for hundreds of pay-as-you-go or no-frills gyms popping up all over the country. See all the ways you can save a packet on fitness.
Save on postage costs with Amazon Prime
Amazon’s student Prime trial gives you 6 months of free one-day delivery with no minimum spend, and thereafter 50% off the usual yearly membership fee.
Oh, and you also get access to the full Prime Instant Video catalogue along with other exclusive Prime offers 😉
Get your tax back
Most students won’t earn more than the personal allowance each year, so shouldn’t be taxed on any of it. If your employer has you on an emergency or incorrect tax code, or if your bank knocks tax off your savings' interest, you’re entitled to reclaim it. If you run a student business, you can also claim for allowable expenses – meaning less tax to pay on profits.
Buy past 'Before Before' dates
The bottom line on best before dates (not use by dates!) is that they’re about food quality, not safety. The Approved Food website can help you cash in on that – they sell stuff close to or past its best before date that’s still safe to eat. We slashed £60 off one shop, so there are top savings to be had.
Get a free fiver every month
Instead of varying interest, the Halifax Reward Current Account pays a flat fiver each month you stay in credit (and sometimes a bonus for opening the account, too). You’ll need to pay in at least £750 and pay out two direct debits each month, but you may be able to transfer in (and out) the same cash each time, and set up the smallest direct debit to qualify – even a quid to a charity would do.
If you’re one of the 50% of students without a student account (and you don’t need a 0% overdraft), it's worth a look. You can find out how students rate Halifax here.
Check Amazon's secret warehouse deals
You can get almost anything for less at Amazon Warehouse, although what’s actually on offer varies at any given time. These heavily discounted goods are typically returns, but you’ll still get the same guarantees about stuff working properly (or your money back if not).
Food shop in the evenings
If you’re prepared to shop around (around 6pm, that is), lots of supermarkets mark-down items they need to shift or ditch by the end of the day.
Still make a list, but if you’re flexible on brands and flavours you could bag tinned or fresh produce that’s still plenty good to eat, but for pennies. Just don't shop on an empty stomach! Read more tips for food shopping on the cheap.
Grab £200 worth of freebies in a day
From cloud storage to condoms, work your way through our list of top-pick freebies to save yourself £200 – also includes photos, music, software and satnav!
Price compare your groceries
Take the leg work out of penny-pinching by comparing the cost of your groceries at mySupermarket.co.uk. The site stacks up the prices of big-name retailers to reveal who’s cheapest on each item, and reckons it can save you around 30% on each trip. Even if you don’t buy your basket, it’s a good opportunity to compare your usual spend and see multi-store offers in one place.
Tune-in for free gigs and events
Events newsletters can be worth signing up for if they net you early bird discounts on your favourite gigs. Other ones to watch for include giveaways for TV and radio shows: the Beeb regularly hosts big-name songsters, while ITV and other channels offer free tix, including for jackpot-heavy gameshows…
More of a film buff? You might be interested in our competition to win free cinema for a year!
Don’t pay for software
We're not talking illegal downloads here, but from writing to image editing, there’s a free alternative out there – some good enough to pass for pro products costing £70 and up.
Head here for a long list of free software.
Browse eBay outlets
eBay's official outlets stock all the same gear that you’ll find in the high street stores, but up to a third cheaper.
Why? Because these are end-of-line, returned or ex-display items. Retailers – which include Argos, House of Fraser, Skechers and Tesco – guarantee your quality and rights just as with full-price gear. If there’s something you’re shopping for anyway, have a look to see if you can get it cheaper.
Don’t get stung on event tickets
Missed the tickets you really, really wanted? Avoid the touts and scammers out to get rich from fans by securing re-sales or unwanted bookings at a fair price: Twickets lets you buy and sell your seat at face value or less.
Rack-up loyalty points
Get yourself a reward card and hoard points to claim money off, free treats and other discounts. At the very least, get one for your favourite supermarket.
Furnish for free
It's usually worth sticking to furnished rental properties to avoid shelling out for (and carting around!) bulky furniture and appliances. But if it's unavoidable, or you want to make an addition, freecycling is your go-to.
Freeze your groceries
The average UK household bins around £700 worth of uneaten food a year! Planning meals can help cut back on that – but lots can be frozen to extend its life past the use-by date.
Surprisingly freezable foods include bread, milk, pasta and wine (all your essentials, in other words!). Freeze leftovers and you’ve got a cheaper/healthier alternative to take-aways and shop-bought snacks, too.
Save £600 on lunches
Buy lunch on the hoof three days a week and, at a fiver a pop, your munching could set you back almost £600 over the academic year – more if you include snacks and drinks.
It doesn’t take much to get organised and save money: cook extra at mealtimes and carry leftovers, make sarnies the night before, or get a thermos to have soups, stews and hot drinks on tap for less.
Do your reading for nowt
You can often find whole articles and chapters without dipping into your loan to buy the whole book, potentially saving you a couple of hundred quid a year. Get pally with your librarian, too – if anyone (except us 😉 ) knows how to save money by accessing free and underused resources, they do.
Get extra tuition for free
Not a replacement for the degree you’re already paying for, but with access to course content, book discussions, leading academics and further reading, free courses from the world’s top universities are worth a nosy.
Downshift to own-label
Lots of own-label goods are exactly the same as the fancy packaged stuff, but without the hefty price tag. It can be true for everything from aspirin to coffee at the supermarket, and downshifting also works for substituting overpriced designer clothes for high-street brands.
See what you could save with our intro to the supermarket downshift.
Small but MIGHTY savings (£)
Get money back from your mates
Loaned money to mates and need it back? It doesn’t have to be a saga: Pingit (by Barclays) shuffles cash between friends for free via your phone. You don’t need to bank with Barclays to use it.
Round-up your spend
If your bank runs a 'Save the Change' scheme, it's a zero-effort way to load-up your nest egg. Each time you pay with a debit card, your spend is rounded up to the nearest pound and the leftover is nudged into your savings account.
Click & Collect for free delivery
Lots of online retailers now offer a Click & Collect service, where you can avoid the normal P&P and get purchases of any size delivered to a local store for nowt.
Get paid for your commute
If it’s a journey you’d be making anyway, recoup the cost of your fare by playing postie while you’re at it. Search for deliveries that need to be made on the Nimber website and, if there’s one you can drop-off, you’ll get the fee (Nimber even cover the cost of parcel insurance). If you can walk or cycle the route you could even turn a profit!
Trade-up to new gadgets
Always have a one-in, one-out policy: either ask for money off for a trade-in, or sell your unwanted item first. You can turn old phones into cash, flog your boy band collectibles on eBay, and find a new home for just about everything else.
Complain for cheaper rail fares
There's now a national scheme called 'Delay Repay' which applies to most train operators. Any time you’re delayed on a prebooked train ticket by at least 30 minutes (15 minutes on the Tube), always check if you can get a refund. On national rail journeys you’ve got 28 days to request one, with each operator setting how much they’ll cough up and on which bit of your journey.
As a guide, if your train runs an hour late, you’ll get back the full cost of that bit of the journey (i.e. not the full price of a return fare, unless you’re delayed both ways). See the train company's website for how to put in a claim, or learn how to complain properly to get a fairer price.
Get your drinks 'on the house'
You'll need to be aged 18 or 19, and there's no guarantee how much work you'll get, but some students have reported earning around a tenner a trip, with bars, clubs and betting shops all on the list.
Complete online surveys in exchange for vouchers for major retailers, or even get free products to test. We've reviewed the best survey sites here.
If you’re on top of your money (and have some means to repay), you can use credit cards to not only manage your cash flow and build your credit score, but also get rewards or cash back.
Opt for a card that offers rewards and do all your spending on it to max out the savings. Spend £200 a month on a card that pays 1% cash back, for instance, and you’d get £24 back over a year – that’s better than some savings accounts right now. Just make sure to set cash aside to repay on your purchases within the 0% interest period!
Barter for freebies
Bartering is a bit like haggling, but with less cash involved. If there’s something you have, can do or are qualified in, you could swap your time, stuff or services for things you need.
It works best with small traders or personal swaps, and could include things like free gym entry in exchange for promoting them on social media, or creating artwork for a local restaurant in return for a meal out. It can take a bit of nerve to ask in the first place, but after that there’s no limit on how creative you get.
Don't taxi, Uber
Mobile taxi app Uber has blown up in the last few years, and you can now save around 50% on taxi rides in most UK cities and abroad (compared with traditional black cabs).
Right now you can get a free ride too with our free ride voucher code.
Trim the cost of haircuts
If you really can’t live without a big-name salon, find one that has a local training school or ask if your usual mop shop needs hair models. You may not get to choose exactly what you want, but you can shave off pounds of the typical £30+ cut (or get one for free).
There are lots more tricks and tips, check out our 15 ways to save on haircuts.
Don’t pay to withdraw your cash!
It’s tempting to just suck up the cost of using those convenience ATMs that charge, but that can mean you’re paying as much as £2.50 a pop just to get at your own cash. That's 12.5% for a twenty!
Unless it’s a real emergency, walking to the nearest free machine instead (try Google Maps), paying by card or borrowing from a mate will leave you better off.
Grown ya own food
If you’ve got the patience to grow your own veg, you'll find money really can grow on… plants. You don’t need lots of space or equipment to grow herbs and small veg: a bag of compost and some seeds will do. You don’t even need to shell out for pots: lots of plants can thrive in old wellies, buckets, hanging baskets and window boxes.
Go foraging to eat on the cheap
If the closest you’ve come to foraging is trying to remember where you put the Jammie Dodgers, there’s a whole world of free food out there. We’re talking wild garlic, fish, cockles, berries and mushrooms for starters (get a wild food book or course under your belt to stay safe).
If it all sounds a bit ‘survivalist’ for you, try the urban alternatives: supermarket launch events and closing time in your local chippy can come up trumps for free eats (they have to pay for waste disposal).
Squeeze the most from your toiletries
Just because you can’t squeeze out any more toothpaste doesn’t mean there’s not another week’s worth of pearly white gunk in there. Cut the end off the tube to get at the rest of the toothpaste, shampoo, moisturiser or whatever and you won't have to replace them as often.
Join Secret Sales websites
There are a growing number of sites which run limited time flash sales, on everything from designer threads to holidays. The savings are significant but you need to be signed up to hear about the sales.
Most sites rely on word-of-mouth and are not heavily promoted (these are the ones we follow) but big retailers like Amazon ('Today's Deals') have also started to branch out into this world to clear surplus stock.
Use less electricity
There’s no sense torching your leccy bills when simple fixes can save you cash. Use energy saving bulbs and turn off lights when you leave the room, put on extra clothes before turning on the heating, and don’t leave your gadgets plugged in when you’re not using them – turn the socket off. Or try these cheeky fixes.
Scored yourself serious savings? Claim your bragging rights by leaving a comment below – or give us your insider tips and we'll add them to the list.