8 money-saving tips every student needs to know

If you're heading to college next month, we've got some tips to help you manage your money, while still making the most of college life.

Maeve McLaughlin
by Maeve McLaughlin on 16th August, 2016

Back-to-college season is upon us, which means lots of students across the country are currently making the most of their last few weeks being looked after at home.

Heading off to college is really exciting - moving out of home, meeting loads of new people, and getting a first grasp at real independence. But it can be daunting, too… especially the whole ‘looking after yourself’ part. Rent, bills, food and nights out can soon add up, and it can be difficult to figure out how best to manage your money.

Luckily, we’ve got some helpful tips to set you on your way:

1. Avail of student discounts

During Fresher’s Week, you’ll be bombarded on campus with vouchers, coupons and freebies. Make sure you grab these while they’re still around, as they could mean cheap meals, or discounts off grocery shopping and cosmetics.

Once the madness of Fresher’s Week is over, however, you shouldn’t forget about the potential that your student card has. Lots of places, from sandwich shops to clothing stores, offer student discounts if you can present a valid student card. These discounts are normally around 10%, so nothing to be sniffed at.

2. Choose your bank wisely

Again, during your first few weeks in college, there’ll probably be a number of banks around campus, offering incentives to students who sign up with them.

Although this might be tempting, make sure you really compare all of the student accounts before signing up, as things like ongoing transaction-free banking could be more useful in the long-run.

3. Be careful with credit

If you do sign up for a student current account, you may also get some information on student credit cards, overdrafts and loans.

These may seem like a good idea but be cautious before applying. Even a small credit limit or loan amount will mean ongoing monthly repayments, which could use up much-needed cash.

4. Forget about fast food

A really quick way to burn through cash is to rely on convenience food, so it’s worth considering bringing in your own lunch and cooking dinners at home.

Learn how to cook a few simple dinners, like spaghetti bolognese and stir fry, and stock up on salads or sambo supplies for lunch. Doing a shop once a week and preparing food at home will definitely save you money. And it’s better for your health as well!

5. Save money on transport

If you live close enough, think about cycling or walking into college. This will save you money on public transport and exercising on your way in will clear your head before you start your lectures.

If you’re too far away to do this, look into student discounts for your bus or train. Irish Rail will take your student card as ID and you can avail of really good discounts on train fares. Even if you don’t use them for getting to and from college, this could come in handy for those weekend trips home.

6. Think about your broadband plan

Let’s face it, most student houses wouldn’t survive without a good broadband connection these days. But if you’re moving out of home for the first time, signing up to a contract could be a bit daunting. Luckily, there are some contract-free options available.

Virgin Media recently launched Freedom Broadband, which has speeds up to 240Mb and costs €50 per month. Magnet also offers a contract-free service starting at €41.99 per month for speeds up to 24Mb.

These products give you the ability to simply cancel with a 30-day notice period, and they could save you around €100 when compared to a 12-month contract, as you’ll only need to pay for the amount of months you need the service. Typically, this will be the academic year, which is around 8 months long.

Both packages also offer unlimited broadband, which will be convenient for anyone living in shared accommodation, as it means the price remains the same month-to-month and there is no limit on the amount of broadband you can use.

7. Be book smart

In the first few weeks of lectures, you’ll likely be bamboozled with reading lists as long as your arm. Before splashing out on a whole set of new books, check out your college’s library to see which ones they have there. If your college doesn’t have a library, there may be one near where you live that stocks some of the titles you need.

If you do end up buying a lot of books in the first semester, but find you no longer need them for semester 2, see if you can sell them online, or to other students in the college, to make back some money.

8. Don’t waste money on your energy

If you’re renting, you’ll need to sign up for electricity, gas, or both. Check with your landlord to find out what plan is currently in place in the house, as it’s possible that you could make savings by switching to a new supplier. At the moment, the difference between the standard plans and the cheapest deals on the market is €358 for the average dual fuel customer.

If you’re confused about how to switch, don’t worry.. it’s actually very straightforward. You can compare energy plans to see which one represents the best deal for you, and it only takes around 5 minutes to complete a switch from there. It’s definitely worth taking the time to do this as it could save you hundreds.