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Frugal living

6 tips to remain social at uni whilst saving money – Eating out.

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One of the biggest challenges I face at uni is how to save money but remain social.

I’m often asked by friends to go out for food, coffee, trips and of course nights out!

If you say no in these situations, you’re going to spend your time in uni with little friends.

So here are three useful ways in which I save money whilst remaining social.

Eating out  

  1. When asked to eat out, always try to do so before 5:30pm.

    The vast majority of restaurants have great deals on between lunch time and the evening period. Take advantage of this.

  2. NEVER split the bill amongst friends.

There’s nothing more annoying than going out for food, ordering a salad and tap water then ending up paying for Sandra’s steak and glass of wine.

  1. Do your homework and bring the correct change.

    This is a great trick I learnt during my first year. By looking up the menu online you can bring the correct change (or really close) to the restaurant. This avoids the bartering of;

    “Let’s just split the bill, it’s easier”
    “ Yours was £8 so just chuck me a tenner”

    Simply give your share of the bill and relax.

  2. Don’t let anyone buy you a drink.

    This may seem counter-productive. I mean, who doesn’t want a free drink? The problem when someone buys you a drink is that it creates an atmosphere where you socially ‘owe’ the other person a drink.

    When it comes to the dessert and they fancy another pint or a coffee, guess who’s paying!

  3. Stick to tap water

I know, I know. It’s lame, but I’m seriously fed up of paying £2.50 for an orange juice or pint of coke.

  1. Stick to one course

Again, a lame choice but by sticking to one course you can cut your bill in half.

Some of these tips are more obvious than others but stick to these tips and you won’t bust your budget on dining out.

Being frugal doesn’t mean being unsocial.

Keep an eye out for my next article on frugality: How to remain social at uni whilst saving money: Nights out.

The devastating effects of a damp student let.

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There are so many things students need to get right before coming to uni.

We have to make sure we have to make sure we have all the textbooks for the year ahead, enough money to scrape by on and that we bring everything we need from home!

But, there’s one aspect of student life that’s often overlooked.

Housing.

Your student house is where you’ll inevitably spend most of your student life and getting the right house is key for health and in turn motivation.

Renting a damp house could have devastating effects on your health and finances, as I found out.

My single biggest mistake.

In June this year I made the biggest mistake of my student life.

I didn’t do the necessary checks, got excited by the size of a bedroom and ended up renting a damp house.

On the 8th of June I moved in, along with all my belongings to the new house.

What proceeded was the worst 2 months of my adult life.

 

First signs of damp

To start, everything appeared fine, I moved into a large space and all was well.

I unpacked, stored my things, opened a celebratory glass of wine and celebrated what I thought was a ‘gem’ of a find.

Smugly thinking I’d gotten a good space for the price I was paying, reality soon smacked me in the face.

Slowly but surely, over the next few weeks I found I was waking up feeling very tired.

I couldn’t help but feel like my mind was clouded and that I was slowly but surely losing my enthusiasm and edge.

Thinking this was just a case of a cold, flu or poor diet I soldiered on without knowing that the particles of bacteria filling the house could have been seriously affecting my health.

It was only when my parents visited that I became aware of the damp. When my mother visited the flat for the first time she immediately exclaimed that “It smells of damp in here”.

Unbeknownst to me, I had acclimatised to the horrible, stingy damp smell filling the house.

Further investigations with a damp meter showed very high levels of damp in the property, especially the living room.

 

Things get worse

After reporting the damp problems to the estate agents involved, it was weeks until they finally agreed that there was both penetrating and rising damp at the property.

Those terms, alien to many students, simply mean that there were two causes of damp tag-teaming my health!

After returning from a three week trip to China, (staying in a dry property) I was met with a stinky damp house ready to take on my health again.

The wallpaper in the living area began peeling, the tops and bottoms of the walls were visibly wet in the corners and sat in the middle of this room was me, breathing in damp that made the pollution in Shanghai feel like fresh country air.

As an asthmatic, my breathing became much more laboured over the coming weeks as the landlord eventually agreed to let me move out.

By now I was waking up tired, napping at 8pm and suffering from a very clouded memory, meaning that I was struggling to study for my dissertation.

Chesty coughs became a problem in the following weeks and I became a much less patient, irritable person to all.

I was going into work in damp smelling clothes, with baggy eyes and low energy levels. Not the impression I really want to be making to my peers.

Desperate to get out of the house, I would often sit for hours in coffee houses, the uni library and walk aimlessly around Swansea just to feel I could breathe. I spent tens of pounds on coffee and junk just to escape – not what the frugal student wants to be doing!

Moving out

Finally, just four days ago, I moved house.

Having to take the first dry suitable property we saw means I had no room to negotiate on price.

I also had to pay another admin fee and am now left with two lumps of money in deposit protection schemes as I eagerly await the inevitable unreasonable deposit reductions from the landlord of the property – that students inevitably suffer.

BUT, My first night sleeping in a dry room was pure bliss. Waking up a few days after I felt like I has been reborn. I had energy again, enthusiasm and most importantly the drive needed to complete a degree.

Whilst it would be very hard for me to prove that damp caused the symptoms I suffered over the past two months, I am convinced it was the source.

No student should be made to suffer damp housing – don’t get caught out!

 

Avoiding damp 

I viewed several properties before moving from the damp one, making sure I got it right this time.

I noticed two ‘tricks’ that may have been used by agents and landlords trying to mask damp.

It’s worth you keeping these in mind when viewing properties.

 

  1. Newly painted properties.
    If a property has been newly painted then this could make damp much harder to spot. The damp house I moved into had been freshly painted meaning that the damp patches weren’t visible upon viewing.
  2. Does the property smell strongly of anti-odour spray?
    Another trick that may make it harder for students to spot damp in a property is when the property has been sprayed with anti—odour sprays such as ‘oust!’ before viewing, thus masking the musty smell of damp.

Here are some signs of  damp that you may want to look out for;

  1. Visible algae and mould – especially in the corners of rooms. (Ask if you can move sofas and tables to check corners)
  2. A musty, damp odour
  3. ‘Lifting’ wallpaper
  4. Changes in plaster up to one meter above floor height

If you’re really keen you could even buy a damp meter although the accuracy of these varies (especially with cheap ones not used in the industry).

Lessons

As students we are faced with a mountain of challenges and a damp home will make this a lot worse.

The NHS has a useful page on the effects that damp can have on your health:

Having to move house mid-study can have devastating effects both financially and academically.
A damp house could be the difference in grades attained, I have no doubt that the ‘clouded’ mind I experienced affected my ability to perform academically (Luckily I had no exams).

Final word

This blog details my own experiences and it’s worth noting that I have absolutely no qualifications or experience in dealing with/detecting damp.

If you think your student let is suffering from damp then please seek advice from your Students’ Union/University advice centre, The housing charity Shelter or the Citizens advice Bureau.

The tips contained in this article are things that helped me and may not necessarily be helpful to others.

 

5 tips to avoid being a skint student

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Students love spending money. Students love complaining that they don’t have money.

Seems like a paradox? I know I’m generalising but this is my experience after 3years of uni.

I get it. The student loan system sucks. But we have to play with the cards we’re dealt.

So here are 5 practical tips on how to have cash left at the end of every month.

                                                                                  Plan your meals

Living in student accommodation for the past three years taught me one thing. We just love fast food and takeaways.

According to data collected from HungryHouse, students spend over £900 a year on takeaway food.

Avoid this pitfall and plan your meals. Try to make the planned meals easy to cook so you don’t get demotivated.

It’s ok to eat takeaways too – But try to only eat takeaway food once every fortnight and give the uni meal deals a miss if you can.

 

Ditch your habits (Coffee and snacks included)

A few weeks back I wrote an article showing how coffee could be costing you £806 a year. This also applies as one of my student money saving tips!

Whilst we all need that late night revision boost once in a while, grabbing a coffee every day into uni isn’t necessary. Not only will it limit the boost you get from drinking coffee but it’ll also burn a hole in your pocket.

I’ll put crisps, pop and sweets in the same category. You’ll be surprised at how much buying the odd snack here and there will damage your wallet and maybe even your health.

Try this: For a fortnight, keep a log of your snacks spending. Once you’re done imagine that money in your bank account instead!

Complain

This is my favourite. Complaining can really pay off.

Bad service at a restaurant?

Food not up to scratch?

Or just not happy?

Complain!

I often use resolver to complain for me. It’s quick, easy and rewarding. I’ve gotten anything from a free coffee to £60 straight into my bank account.

BUT Don’t rush straight for your nearest coffee shop! Only spend it when you would have used cash anyway.

 

Don’t get sucked in by discount

Marketing people are geniuses. They can make you think you’re saving money, by making you spend money.

If you’re local takeaway is offering 20% off for one weekend only, and you order a £10 takeaway because of the offer you’re not saving money.

News flash: You didn’t just save £2. You spent £8!

Companies often offer ‘student lock-ins’ and all sorts of initiatives to help you ‘save’ money, when in fact they’re ploys to make you spend money.

Avoid this trap by only buying something that’s on offer if you would have bought it anyway.

 

Don’t rush into any contract

When you get to uni you probably want to rush straight in and buy a gym membership, get a TV licence and get drunk.

Going on a spending spree will leave you skint for the rest of uni. Digging yourself out of that overdraft is harder than you think.

So, PAUSE before you buy anything;

Don’t rush into gym memberships – Just because a company has a stand at the freshers fayre doesn’t make them the cheapest.

Places at freshers fayres are sometimes even reserved exclusively for university services in some sectors. If the uni has a gym, I doubt they’d be letting a competitor pitch a stall!

A TV License costs nearly £150 a year – But if you only use it to watch catch up TV (except BBC iPlayer)  then you don’t need one.

If you do watch live TV or BBC iPlayer content, think if you could go without it for some cash in your pocket.

Insurance – Probably the most important tip. At freshers events you’re always going to have pushy sales people try and sell you contents insurance or mobile phone insurance.
Shop around! They’ll say they’re the cheapest – but they probably aren’t.

Check price comparison websites such as money supermarket before buying.

It’s also worth noting the plethora of exceptions that sometimes make insurance virtually pointless.

Common exceptions include ‘not covered’ ;

 

  • For accidental loss
  • If water damaged
  • If stolen from a home when there are no signs of forced entry

I even had someone try and sell me laptop insurance that didn’t cover laptops that wouldn’t turn on. Chances are, if it doesn’t work it wont turn on!

It’s also common to see agreements that don’t start for 14days after you’ve signed the contract. So, if you smash your phone at a club the week after you bought insurance. Tuff luck!

Remember, if you’re struggling with cash universities often have a money advice service that will help you free of charge. It’s always important to get advice on any debts before things get worse.

Whilst my student money saving tips might help you avoid getting into a hole, it’s always best to get professional advice if things go seriously wrong.

I hope you enjoyed these student money saving tips and end up with extra cash at the end of every month (maybe to invest!)

Have any extra student money saving tips? Comment below.

Could coffee be costing you £806 a year?

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Coffee is a booming business. You can’t walk 50m down a high street in the UK without seeing a coffee shop. With a plethora of chains, Costa, Starbucks, Coffee #1 e.t.c it’s so easy to depart with your hard earned money for a quick treat. Even Greggs is now serving coffee (not too bad either) and the expansion of McCafe by McDonalds only adds to the growing temptations.
Quick treats often turn to habits and before you know it you’re grabbing a coffee every time you’re in town and on your way to work – at around £2.50 – £3.00 a time (more if you enjoy some iced drinks)  this habit becomes an expensive one.

 

From premium coffee to expensive hipster trends, it’s becoming abundantly clear how easily and mindlessly many millennials hand over their hard-earned money. Coffee may well be the biggest leech to millennial wallets.

 

Let’s talk about cash. How much money could you really be spending yearly on coffee? Well, that depends on how many times a week you buy coffee from a chain such as Starbucks and what drink you order. For guidance;

 

A medium latte from Starbucks costs £2.70;

One coffee a week = £140
Two a week = £280
Three a week = £421
Four a week = £560
Five a week (one every working day) = £702

A large coffee (£3.10 a coffee at Starbucks) would cost you £806 a year!

You could really be spending £806 a year if you bought a large coffee from Starbucks every working day.
Keep in mind that these figures don’t include any extra spend on toast, buns and cakes!

How to buck the trend.

 

I used to drink at least three cups of coffee a week from premium coffee shops meaning that I spent £421 a year on coffee (probably more because I got addicted to caramel slices). Money that could have been spent on a trip, debt, my loved ones or more than likely a stake in a dividend growth stock.

 

Addiction is hard to beat but I managed to reduce my coffee intake to around once a fortnight by simply ‘charing myself’ for coffee.

Every time I would want coffee from Costa/Starbucks e.t.c I would open the internet banking app on my phone and transfer £2.70 from my current account into my savings account. To my amazement, this was very motivating and before I knew it I was transferring myself money for many things that I was tempted to buy;

When I wanted a can of coke – 70p transferred

When I wanted some Ice cream – £1.50 transferred

When I wanted a take away – £12 transferred

 

(It’s actually quite empowering!)
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t enjoy these things. But I find, you can enjoy things more if you save them for when you’re enjoying a nice day, doing things you love with your loved ones and not on your way to work. Even better, enjoy these things when you retire in your 40s from saving all this money and investing it in high quality dividend growth stocks!

 

Another thing I started doing was simply switching where I drank coffee. A medium latte in Starbucks is £2.70. A medium latte in McDonalds is £1.69. Although I can fully admit that McDonalds coffee is not as good as Starbucks coffee it’s not that far off and definitely better value for money. After all, a £3 a week saving is a £150+ saving yearly.

 

Save yourself some money, change your coffee habit and start spending your money on the things you really value.

 

 

If you’re interested in the growing UK coffee market I found this article from the financial times very insightful:  http://on.ft.com/2aUFden