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University life and money saving tips

University Life

Going to university can be daunting, but it is a brilliant experience, and I would recommend it to anyone who has the opportunity to go. As someone who is four weeks into my third year at university, I have learnt a lot of hacks and tricks over my three years at university which I think could be helpful for anyone who has just started university or is looking to go in the future.

The first and most important thing about going to university is the course that you choose. I currently study English Literature with Creative Writing and I love it. I would highly recommend that you pick something that you are passionate about. Some people gravitate towards subjects that they think will propel them into a certain job sector, but you often find that the degree that you do has little to do with the job that you end up in. The key exception to this is if you want to go into engineering, computer science, or the technology sector. In this case, yes, do choose that kind of course. In my case, I went into Marketing and Partner Relationships during my placement year, but I don’t do a Marketing degree.

I also want to discuss living in university halls. Living in halls is amazing, but sometimes hard to navigate. From making new friends, to figuring out how to do your washing. Usually, your halls will have a committee who will help you figure all these things out which is brilliant. You can speak to them about everything and ask then for help when needed. At my university, the social sec held parties and events for the freshers which were all really fun and I met a lot of friends at these. Your flatmates are of course the first people you will meet, and I was lucky enough to get on with all of them, but if they are not your kind of people please don’t be disheartened. There are many other people at university which you are bound to get on with and everyone is in the same boat.

A brilliant way to meet new people is through societies and sports teams. If you aren’t a sporty person, then societies are a perfect way to meet new people. Societies are student led and they range from debate to baking societies, so there is always something for everyone. If you do play sports, then you should trial for as many as possible. It is a great way to meet new people and have fun while doing it. The trials are all free and take place throughout the first couple of weeks. Whether it is your favourite sport or something completely new to you, I highly recommend you get involved in as much as possible. After all, that is what university is about.

One key thing that all new students should look out for is the laundry prices. Most university halls have a built-in laundry service near or in your halls of residence. I highly recommend that you avoid these. You find yourself paying at least £3-4 for a single wash and then another £3 for the tumble dryer. Depending on where you are in the UK, there are often local laundrettes who charge a fraction of the price for washing machine and dryers which will end up saving you a ton of money of the year. To save extra money, you can also dry clothes on a clothes dryer (remember to add this to your university supplies list!). Heating is technically free in university halls, so make the most of it and ramp up the heating when you are drying clothes. Of course, if you are close to home, you can always head back to Mum and Dad’s house to wash your clothes, or if like me, you don’t live close, there is always the sink (this is not efficient, I do not recommend).

Food shopping

If like me, you eat a LOT, then finding the cheapest place to shop is paramount to surviving at university. There are many ways to save money, while keeping your fridge/freezer full.

First things first, you need to acquire your cupboard, fridge, and freezer space in your flat. You often find that the fridge and freezer will be designated into individual shelves so that everyone has their own space to put all your food. I would recommend getting to your halls as quickly as possible so that you can secure the best spaces.

It is worth researching what shops are available in your university town. Lidl and Aldi are the best for cheap food shops, but if your university town doesn’t feature these stores then Morrisons and Asda are also great for affordable food shops. When doing food shops, regardless of what store you go to the most, I recommend getting club/loyalty cards for all superstores nearby. There are always brilliant deals on big-name brands and cupboard essentials. Another brilliant way to save money on food shops is the reduced section. The early you go shopping the better because you often find the best reduced items at that time of the day. However, if you aren’t a morning person, searching out the reduced section towards closing time is also a brilliant way to get great deals.

Another brilliant way to save money on food at university is batch cooking. You can do this with your housemates and all chip in some cash towards it, or batch cook for yourself. If batch cooking for yourself, you tend to find that you end up eating the same meal all week, however, it is worth it. Saving money is key when at university. If you are lucky, your parents might send you to university with a couple of frozen bags of chili (thanks Mum!).

Linking onto the batch cooking trend, being at university can be busy and finding time to eat in between lectures can be tricky. Meal prep can save you time and money while on campus. A meal deal on campus at my university costs around £4.50 on average, whereas a packed lunch costs around £1.50 a day. You can also get cheap meals through apps such as too good to go (Join Our Food Waste Movement - Too Good To Go) where you can collect food that is going out of date from food chains near you.

University essentials

Before you go to university, it is always worth making a list of all the things that you need. Often, your hall representative will send you a list of what you will need, and if not you will be able to find lists online like this one What to take to university checklist | The Student Room. I recommend asking your family and friends for any freebies they have lying around, especially things like cutlery, plates, and bedding.

No matter how prepared you are, there is always something that you forget as soon as you are dropped off at university and your parents have already driven home. In my first year, I forgot many things: a bin, pens, mugs, and glasses. Luckily there is an easy way to secure these essentials if you have forgotten them! Charity shops are the way to go for household items. For instance, this year I forgot cutlery and bought a spoon, knife, and fork for £1 in a local charity shop (I was so happy with this!).

What if I am not staying in university halls?

University halls aren’t for everyone and if you live close to your university it may be easier to live at home during your studies. This is a brilliant way to save money and still stay at home with your parents. Not only are you saving money on accommodation but also on food. You will never miss your mum’s cooking if you are living at home during your studies!

What if I don’t want to go to university?

University isn’t for everyone, and it most certainly isn’t the be all and end all. There are a multitude of famous and successful individuals who never went to university and have incredible careers. Just take a look at this article! Six billionaires who never went to university - but made their fortunes anyway - Mirror Online.

There are loads of apprenticeship schemes for those who want a job straight out of college. Apprenticeship schemes are great for anyone who wants to learn a certain trade or get into a specific job. If you are thinking of taking on an apprenticeship, have a look at this website Apprenticeships.

If apprenticeships or university don’t float your boat, then the next step is to apply for jobs. Perfecting your CV and getting as much work experience as you can help with this. However, you often find that recruiters look for personability and friendly people when hiring, so even if you don’t have the required experience for the job, this won’t ruin your chances of acquiring it.

My advice

University is a lot of fun and I have made friends for life. It is hard work, but an incredible experience, one that I will look back on fondly. I was in lockdown for the first year of my degree which was very strange, but we made the most of it, a testament to what university life is all about. You make the most of every day because one day you’ll have to go into the big wide world and be a real adult! (something I don’t think I’ll ever be). Jokes aside, it changed my life for the better. Going into my third year at university I am a completely different person to who I was in first year. I am confident, chatty (probably a bit too chatty), and ready to jump into challenges I wouldn’t have even attempted before. Leaving is going to be very hard but I am ready for the next step in my life and a new adventure. Perhaps one in Australia (sorry Mum and Dad!).

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Amazing blog piece Elizabeth! So true! I remember my dad saying try and live on £50 a week for all food and fun and bus tickets etc! Don't know how I did it now! Hannah Bignell x


Richard Hackney
Richard Hackney

Love reading your blogs, this will be a real help to anyone thinking about Uni, love you xx

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