Students are notorious for having to scrimp and save through their university years, but there are some things that are worth spending your depleted student loan on. The following are items that, with a small investment, will ultimately save you time, money and stress in daily student life.
We are at university to learn after all, and the advised course textbooks will help you to achieve your potential in your chosen field. Universities tend to issue enormous reading lists, and it can be unclear what is compulsory and what is recommended. So before you splash out on the entire list, make sure that you’re only buying what you will actually use. It’s often useful to you to own the core books, but much of the other reading may be easily available in the library for free. That said, it's often possible to find second-hand editions from last year's students, on ebay or on your uni intranet - and these could save you a packet.
It may sound expensive, but student insurance can actually be very reasonable. With some companies offering excesses of just £10, it’s worth claiming as you won’t need to spend a fortune yourself, and often one claim will pay out much more than the overall cost of the insurance. Lots of businesses even let you pick and choose the options that suit you best, so that you only pay for what you need.
Train tickets and railcard
You have to travel back and forth to university somehow, and price of buying, running and maintaining a car is difficult on a student budget. Travelling by rail is the perfect solution, and by booking in advance it’s easy to get cheap fares. Websites like The Trainline offer a ‘best fare finder’ so that you can work out the cheapest time to travel around the date that works best for you. A 16-25 railcard costs just £28 for a year and will save you a third on travel, so you can often save what you spent on it with your first journey.
A daily newspaper
Staying in touch with current events is important for everyone, and just the simple act of reading a daily newspaper will improve your grammar and vocabulary, which could ultimately boost your essays by several marks. i is perfect for students, with its concise, intelligent format, and currently offers discounts to students through its subscriptions, at just £30 for the entire year or £10 per term.
It’s entirely understandable if your student loan doesn’t allow you to stretch to a gym membership, but if you’re looking to lose that Christmas weight then all you need is a good pair of trainers. There’s no shame in exercising in the great outdoors, and investing in decent footwear will keep you motivated by keeping blisters at bay.
Fairtrade products and local produce
Fairtrade produce costs little more than its rival products, but makes all the difference to farmers and workers in the developing world. Making a switch to Fairtrade products will not dramatically change your life but it will change the life of its producers, who are enabled to improve their quality of life through the scheme. You can also support local produce in your area at markets, which can often be fresher and less expensive than chain supermarkets.
A necessity for house parties, iPod speakers are great for adding some atmosphere and sharing your music tastes with your friends. Even the most basic ones can be bought with a radio and charging dock so you can combine lots of gadgets in one easily portable device.
An NUS Extra card
At just £12 for one year, an NUS Extra card offers exclusive discounts with Amazon, Spotify, ASOS and many more companies used typically by students, and can save you money every day. They’re currently offering an extra month for free if you sign up this January.
Diaries (or planners) are inexpensive, and will save you time and effort. A5 ones are the perfect size to keep in your handbag or pop in your pocket, so that you can always refer to your timetable and other commitments. They really do help you to get organized with lectures, tutorials, deadlines, and social events too.
Universities are unlikely to provide a toastie press in Halls, but toasties are a staple part of the student diet, being easy to make and appropriate at any time of the day (or night). Starting from just £5, they are a brilliant investment, and the perfect way to make a toasted sandwich without jamming up your toaster with melted cheese.
Printers are unbelievably useful as a student; when you’re working to a deadline it’s a comfort to know that once you’ve finished your work you can print it off easily at home instead of having a race to a computer room and pay to print. Having your cartridges refilled is much cheaper than buying new ones, but if you’re considering buying a printer, check first that you can refill the cartridges, as a few models do not allow this option.
When you’re confident that you’re saving money and time it’s easier to enjoy student life and get the most out of your university experience. None of these things will break the bank, and most will actually save you money eventually, so there’s no reason not to invest.