How to: Be a not-so skint student

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Photograph: Marie-Sophie Klingenbrunner

Money problems are the worst when you’re at university, you’ve got all these things you want to do. You’re desperate to go on the big night out at the weekend, and you’ve been dying to buy that new outfit. But as we all know, you have got be saving-savvy when it comes to university life.

So you’re doing your weekly food ‘big shop’ and you are determined to stick to a pre-planned shopping list. But as hard as it is you can’t get too attached to this, while it’s great to have an idea of what you want so you don’t have a buying overload, supermarkets always have special offers on so be prepared to spend a little extra cash. Using these deals and buying in bulk is the way to save the extra pennies, although it may not feel like it, spending more money now will definitely pay off in the future.

When it comes to socialising with your friends don’t let money become the barrier that stops you seeing people. If your friends suggest a meal out and your purse strings just can’t stretch that far, either do your research and find a deliciously cheap place to go to or suggest a cooking night in. Take it in turns to cook for everyone, all pitch in a couple pounds and your night is sorted! And you can’t exactly go to a restaurant in your joggers and comfy clothes – another bonus. Eat what you like and wear whatever’s the comfiest. Perfect night in.

One thing that will save you loads of money is planning everything in advance, although it will require excellent organisation. If you know you’re going somewhere or staying at a mate’s for a weekend then book your train as early as possible. You can book online up to three months in advance of actually going so remember to book it quickly. If I wanted to get from Manchester Piccadilly to London Euston today it would cost me £76.30 for a single, but if I booked the same journey for January right now, almost all trains for that month cost £12.50. What’s the point in leaving things until last minute, it’s shocking how much you save by planning everything and not just turning up on the day.

So there are a few general money saving tips but there are also a few local ways to protect your pennies too. Lancaster has a great transport system and they even put on free buses to and from Sainsbury’s every Wednesday, so you can still do your weekly big shop but you can get there for free. Why wouldn’t you use it? It’s the same with the sugar buses, get free rides to and from campus with a night out in between. At least this way you don’t have to worry about getting home or having enough money at the end of the night, just make sure you’ve got a stamp.

One final thing is don’t turn your nose up at cheap shops in favour of Sainsbury’s. Sainsbury’s is great for everything you need, but you can get exactly the same branded products much cheaper at Home Bargains or B and M Bargains. Have a look here and you’ll be amazed at how little everything costs. So budget, plan and be creative and your purse will be bursting in no time.