Steep vs cheap: Eight product swaps students really can’t afford to miss

Winter bargains to help you conserve your precious loan

With just a flimsy student loan and perhaps the proceeds of a part-time job at minimum wage, money worries are a major part of university existence. But there are plenty of ways to be smart with your money - especially if you can learn where expensive goods can be replaced for a fraction of a price without a cost to quality. So here's a short guide to steep versus cheap.

Buy fruit and veg at a market

Getting our greens in the cold winter months can be difficult, but you don’t have to sell out on your health – or your wallet – for convenience. Supermarkets may have everything in one place, but the price of fruit and vegetables is anything but super. Ditch Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrison’s and the like in favour of smaller street stalls. Quantity and quality are generally higher while prices are lower, less packaging is used, and custom is truly appreciated; you’re simultaneously helping to support independent businesses while bagging yourself some cheaper (and most likely fresher) fruit and veg. Many stall-owners are partial to a bit of haggling, too; what have you got to lose?

Also try to purchase food that’s in season: apples, celery and lettuce for winter, bananas and cabbages all year round. Avoid fruit that’s out of season, such as blueberries and nectarines, as these can be very expensive and don’t taste their best. Save for the summer months.

Swap the cinema for an online subscription

The feeling of going to the cinema is certainly satisfying, but with prices regularly exceeding £10 a pop for a typical evening showing, it might be better to substitute your trips with an online subscription if you’re a regular. Netflix offers a free monthly trial, and costs £5.99 after that per month; Blinkbox scraps the monthly standard charge, and you just pay for what you watch. LoveFilm gives you the option of having your rented movies delivered via post, online or both for £7.99 a month. Not to mention that staying in with a mountain of blankets, homemade popcorn and hot drinks is more appealing to some than braving the cold.

The downfall of these services is that movies can sometimes take a long time to become available; but in that case, visit the cinema only for a new release you’re desperate to see, and it becomes a treat.

Invest in some warm clothes

As helpfully outlined in this article, there are many alternatives to putting on the central heating – one being to simply layer up. Unless you are a sartorial snob, there is nothing wrong with throwing an oversized dressing gown on over your ordinary clothes when at home. It’s also worth considering a hat and scarf – we lose a lot of heat from our heads and necks. Slipper socks, slippers, onesies and hot water bottles will also help to rein in the temptation to simply raise the external temperature.

Buy non-branded painkillers

Sitting in lecture rooms with other sneezing, sniffling students can result in catching a winter cold, but the allergy tablets, vitamin supplements and painkillers we buy to help prevent or deal with the symptoms can all be purchased at a fraction of the price if you go for the non-branded versions. Try basic pain relief Paracetamol caplets, 39p for 16 at Lloyd’s Pharmacy, or Superdrug’s cold and flu relief, £1.69 for 12.

Make yourself lunch

Sandwiches, soups and salads are a daily expense which can be easily avoided. If you’ve got a long day of classes, resist buying lunch and instead bring your own in a Tupperware box. Sandwiches are easy and quick to make, and concocting your own not only gives you the freedom to add whatever you like, but also gives you the benefit of knowing exactly what ingredients are going in. Bigger dishes such as shepherd’s pie or pasta bake can be rustled up on a Sunday evening and portioned out to last the week. You may want to consider a cheap insulated flask, too, as having a full one of these handy throughout the day filled with home-brewed instant coffee saves you at least £2 a day which might otherwise have been spent on a shop-bought hot drink.  

Ditch the bus: walk or cycle to university

Using buses and other means of public transport can be costly. The London Underground is now £2.40 per journey, and that’s just zones 1-4. Luckily this is reduced to £1.40 if you link your Oyster with a valid Student Railcard, which is a good investment if you use the tube a lot; however, walking is the obvious alternative if you want to avoid spending altogether.

If you live within, say, 45 minutes of university and have a 9am start, it’s worth getting up that bit earlier to trek into lectures rather than sitting on a steamy, cramped bus which is bound to get caught up in painfully slow rush-hour traffic anyway. You’ll arrive pink-cheeked, energised and alert. Using a bicycle is another great way to shave minutes off your journey – cheap ones can be found on Gumtree or Craigslist, or even for nothing on Freecycle. Of course it costs you more in the first instance, but it’s worth it if you use it regularly. A bike journey can be quick and exhilarating, not to mention a workout, and wakes you up in the mornings. Just make sure you have a good U-lock, lights (a legal requirement) and a helmet. Most universities have safe storage facilities available for bike-users.

Swap mp3s for spotify

If you don’t already illegally download all of your music and buying mp3s or CDs is proving expensive, Spotify might be for you. Already supremely popular, this service needs little promotion, and is certainly a money-saver. It’s a bit like iTunes with a social networking feature – you can follow artists and receive updates on what your friends are listening to. It’s a portable service made free through advertisements, but these are a minor irritant and can be avoided by skipping to the next song just before the current song finishes. Even if you pay for the premium, ad-free version, it’s a mere £9.99 a month and you can breathe easy in the knowledge that listening through Spotify is perfectly legal.

Use the library

This one may sound obvious, but if you don’t own a Kindle or similar, buying books off Amazon or eBay is often the cheapest and easiest option when confronted with a reading list as long as your arm at the beginning of term. It’s certainly the least time-consuming – it can seem like a massive chore to haul yourself to the library and hunt for each title. But books aren’t as cheap as we like to imagine, especially with delivery costs, so you could save a tonne by putting a little effort into your search. You might even be encouraged to get some other work done while you’re there. Most libraries allow you to check their online catalogues for availability. You won’t have this service at your disposal once you graduate; if they’ve got what you want, make the trip.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Guru Careers: Graduate Database Administrator / Junior DBA

£20 - 25k: Guru Careers: A Graduate Database Administrator / Junior DBA is nee...

Guru Careers: Graduate Administrator / Junior Operations Admin

£20 - 25k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Administrator / Junior Oper...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Software Developer - Entry Level

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate Software Developer i...

Guru Careers: Graduate Print Producer / Account Executive

£18 - 25k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Graduate Print Producer / Account Execut...

SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen