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Save Money

How to stop spending money

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Everyone has their vices, but did you know your bad habits could be costing you £1,000s every year? And they're probably a lot easier to quit than you think.

hand holding money coffee shopping bag burger

Credit: Karkhut, Fotofermer, echo617, Vladyslav Starozhylov, donikz – Shutterstock

A lot of your purchases might feel super small at the time, but the cost of every habit adds up.

If you're looking to cut back on your spending, following even a couple of these tips could save you a surprising amount of cash (and don't worry, we're not about to stop you from ever having fun again).

The total cost of these habits across the year can be well into the £1,000s and cutting them out is usually pretty easy, so there's really no reason not to read on.

These money-saving resources give you maximum savings for minimum effort.

How to spend less money

These are our top tips on how to stop spending money on unnecessary things:

  1. Avoid going out for meals

    Eating out is always an enjoyable treat. But as this can be one of the biggest drains on your finances, we'd suggest limiting it to special occasions. Even then, we've got a huge list of places where you can eat for free on your birthday.

    That said, if you really enjoy wining and dining and can't face giving it up, at least check if there are deals on food in your area or any restaurants that offer student discount.

    We also have plenty more tips on eating out on a budget, along with a rundown of the best restaurants for students.

  2. Don't buy expensive takeaways

    Not to take away (pardon the pun) all of your favourite things at once or anything, but takeaways shouldn't really factor into your student budget.

    Aside from the obvious toll they can take on your health, takeaways are always way more expensive than cooking for yourself.

    "But hey, what if I want the sweet, sweet taste of KFC?", we hear you ask.

    Well, fortunately, there are easy ways to recreate your favourite takeaways at home, for as little as a few quid.

    And again, if you can't do without your fill, our guide to saving money on takeaways can at least help you spend less.

  3. Bring a reusable bottled water

    woman on run drinking water

    Credit: Samuel Borges Photography – Shutterstock

    While it's admittedly very convenient to buy a bottle of water when you're out, it can slowly start adding up when bottles cost anything from 75p to £1.25 (or more!) each. Even just one a day can amount to over £456 a year.

    A better alternative is to get a flask or refillable bottle, which can be bought cheaply on Amazon. Although, we're big fans of the slightly more expensive flask-style bottles which keep your drink cold/hot for hours on end).

    You could also consider getting a Bobble – a refillable water bottle that has a built-in filtering system. This is perfect if you're worried about the quality of water coming out of the taps in the library toilets. They usually cost between £3 – £12 (ish) depending on size but are worth the investment in the long run.

    As for the water itself, the drive to cut down on plastic waste has seen more and more companies offer to refill your water bottle for free. If you're ever in need of a top-up, use the Refill app and you'll be shown a map of all the places nearby where you can refill for free.

  4. Use free alternatives where possible

    How can you stop wasting money? Get stuff for free instead!

    As our ultimate list of free stuff shows, you can get your hands on so many things for absolutely nothing – as long as you know where to look.

    While we all need to eat, we don't all need to pay for our grub – our guide to getting free food is packed full of ways to score your next meal at no cost.

    In fact, if your birthday's coming up, you could be dining out for free for a week thanks to all the birthday freebies on offer from your favourite shops and restaurants. And you can get a few beauty treatments and clothing discounts too.

    As for textbooks... well, aside from checking out the library to see if you can rent the book for free, we've got a list of ways to get your reading list for less. And, if all else fails, you could sell your existing books to fund this year's collection.

  5. Make your own coffee

    Buying drinks from chain coffee shops on the way to uni each day may feel like a good wake-me-up, but it can burn a serious hole in your pocket.

    You're much better off brewing your own at home with one of our favourite kitchen gadgets and popping it in a thermos to take with you.

    If you really don't think your homemade coffee is up to the task, we'd recommend looking for smaller, cheaper cafes rather than chain ones.

    But, if you can't resist treating yourself to a drink from chain cafes now and then, bringing a reusable cup can save you 25p off coffee at Starbucks. Or, you could use our list of ways to get free coffee at Starbucks – anything to avoid paying full price.

    In fact, we have an entire list of ways to get free coffee, and that doesn't even include the offers that come and go every week – keep an eye on our Facebook page or join our Telegram group for more info.

  6. Have pre-drinks at home

    Meeting up at a local pub or the SU before a night out can be great, but it's also likely to add between £10 – £20 onto the cost of the evening.

    Save money on going out by having people over to your house for pre-drinks (or going over to a friend's). It costs much less, and it's a lot easier to play drinking games.

    If you're sick of drinking budget cider, check out our guide to making the best homemade cocktails – you don't have to be a bartender to master them, we promise.

    But clearly, the biggest saving of all will come by not going out in the first place...

  7. Drink less alcohol

    cocktail in a bar

    We're under no illusions here. We know that if you like drinking, you're probably not going to stop – and we don't expect you to! But if you make it too frequent a habit, the financial drain will creep up on you (and your liver).

    Probably the best way forward is to drink at weekends only. Alternatively, if you're a mid-week kinda person (which also happens to be when going out is cheaper, thanks to student nights and the like), pick one or two days in the week to drink instead.

    You might find this gives your grades a boost too.

    Looking for alternatives to try? See our guide to the best non-alcoholic drinks.

  8. Stop impulse buying

    Even if it is just a few quid here and there, impulse buying is another major cash-killer.

    It could be a caramel Frappuccino from your local Starbucks, or a late-night takeaway when you can't be bothered to cook, but always stop and ask yourself: do I really need it?

    We know it's easier said than done, but if you can enforce a bit of self-restraint to avoid frivolous spending, then you can save some serious cash.

    Also, try saving up your spare change. That way, you're not tempted to spend a few quid just because it's rolling around.

    You could find an old jar and store your spare change in there. Take it to the bank once it's full, and there's your emergency survival money to get you to Student Loan payment day.

  9. Don't use taxis and ride-hailing apps

    It's easy to fall into the trap of stealing an extra 10 minutes in bed, missing the bus and then having to get a taxi to make it to lectures on time. We've all been there.

    But even one or two taxis a week can really add up, so as painful as it can be, obeying your alarm might be the best bet after all.

    Of course, sometimes a taxi or an Uber can be the best way to get home from a night out – and you can sometimes get money off your cab. But if you're going out with your housemates or people who live near you, see if there's a night bus that you can all take home together – it's still safe and a lot cheaper.

    Although that's not to say you should start taking public transport everywhere, either...

  10. Cut down on public transport

    For some students, public transport can be a necessity. But for a lot of us, if we're being totally honest, it's just an opportunity to be lazy and avoid walking to lectures.

    If you're serious about saving your pennies, this tip is a must. Public transport is expensive (even with our tips for saving money on trains and bus passes), so even just reducing your use will have a positive effect on your bank balance if you're struggling to save money.

    For example, if you love your lie-ins, why not cut your transport bill in half by only using it to get to uni, and walking back instead?

    And if walking to uni would be a serious trek for you, why not buy a second-hand bike or see if there are any going on Freecycle (or any of these other swapping sites)?

    Ditching public transport may do more than just save you money – you can also make money from walking too.

  11. Avoid branded products

    Tins of Campbell's tomato soup

    Credit: calimedia – Shutterstock

    Very often, you'll be able to buy a cheaper version of the same product by simply avoiding famous brands. For example, many students use Benefit products, but Soap & Glory offer cheaper alternatives that consistently score just as well when compared.

    We're also huge advocates of the supermarket downshift, which is basically a process of dropping down one or more tiers on the ladder of prices.

    Once again, there's often little or no difference between the big brands and the cheaper, lesser-known labels and own-brand basics. This goes for food and drink, but also things like medicine and cleaning products too (you could save money by going for these cheap homemade cleaning products instead).

    Don't believe us? Have a look for yourself and compare the ingredients – they're often the same (especially with medicines).

  12. Don't buy the latest version of products

    Having the most up-to-date products might make you the big name on campus (spoiler: it probably won't), but it's an unnecessary expense that you just can't afford during your uni years.

    The latest iPhone isn't all that different from the previous model in terms of what it can do – and just think about what you can do with the cost of a new phone instead. Plus, the older models can be scooped up for as little as half the price.

    Of course, this rule doesn't just apply to phones. You're often much better off starting your clothes shop in the sales/outlets. Although they might feature a lot of what's technically last season's lines, most of it will still be good for a long time.

    Better yet, you can find some amazing bargains on pre-owned clothes in charity shops. We even know of a student who set out to only buy second-hand clothes for a whole year – check out our interview with Becky Hughes to see her top tips for shopping sustainably.

  13. Check if you have the right type of insurance

    You probably went off to uni with all the essential gadgets you can think of… a laptop, phone, iPad, games console – you name it.

    And, in the fear that something terrible could happen to your precious gadgets, you may have paid out for different insurance for each gadget, without really considering how much this adds up to per month (the answer being: a lot).

    Investigating what student contents insurance options are available is always worth a bit of time, and should be re-evaluated yearly to see what new deals are available.

    You'll find that you can usually cover all of your gadgets under one policy, and for a fraction of the price – that is, if you're not already covered by your parents' policy.

  14. Cancel your gym membership

    Maybe you're on a mission to bulk up, or even just lose a few pounds. But remember there are cheaper ways to get fit than joining the gym. For example, you can easily create a home gym on a budget.

    Even a budget gym membership can set you back around £15/month (which would be £180 a year).

    As ever though, there are ways to get a cheaper gym membership if you do insist on paying for one.

  15. Quit smoking


    We all know cigarettes don't come cheap, but annoyingly they're probably the hardest expense to kick.

    You're likely familiar with the old favourites for quitting smoking, like nicotine patches and gum, but did you know that even smoking as few as five cigarettes a day could cost over £1,000 a year?

    If the idea of going cold turkey makes you want to run for the hills, you could try e-cigarettes or limit your smoking time to nights out and social occasions (as long as those times don't occur every day of the week – remember the money-saving goal here).

    We've got a whole guide to giving up smoking, and we promise it's not preachy.

  16. Bring your own lunch

    Campus meals are certainly tempting. What's not to like about rolling out of a lecture and straight towards the alluring smell of the nearby canteen?

    Here's one thing not to like: the price.

    As with most of these, it might not seem like much to do it once or twice, but the cost can soon add up. Instead, do a bit of forward planning and prepare your lunch and snacks the day before (and maybe try some of these cheap but fancy sandwich ideas).

    If you've not brought lunch out for whatever reason, use our guide to the best meal deals to make sure you're getting the most bang for your buck.
  17. Stick to a meal plan

    Supermarkets are out to make money and will do anything to get you to spend that little bit extra – so much so that they employ these tricks to get you to spend more.

    As such, you need to fight back in the best way possible: make a rough meal plan for the week, write down what you'll need, and stick to it.

    Need more help with saving money on food? We've got a whole guide to help you with that too.

At first, it may not seem like you're saving a lot by quitting these small habits – but if you admit to indulging in everything listed above, quitting them all could save you over £100 every week.

If that's not enough motivation to start changing your habits, we don't know what is.

One of the easiest ways to save money is the 1p Challenge – if you haven't already, check out our guide and follow the simple steps (you can save around £670 in a year!).

Tom Allingham

WRITTEN BY Tom Allingham

Tom joined Save the Student in 2017, initially heading up the editorial team before becoming Communications Director. He has appeared as a Student Finance expert on a range of TV and radio stations including the BBC, ITV and Sky, sharing his top tips for saving money and cutting student bills.
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