Spendy-savvy students

If you wish you were better with your budget, don’t despair! We take a look at all the brilliant discounts and cost-cutting tips to save you some cash and help your social life, your wardrobe and your travel plans…

One of the downsides of being in education is the lack of income. While you might have a weekend job or parents to help you out, let’s face it – it’s never enough to let you do and buy everything you want.

Luckily, lots of retailers, restaurateurs and other businesses have noticed it’s not easy in these times of recession and now offer brilliant deals and discounts. Through a bit of savvy shopping, you’ll see your bank balance stretch a lot further. So where do you start?

PLASTIC FANTASTIC

Sometimes, it takes a bit of magic plastic to help you make the purchase you want. Not a credit card – we’re talking about student discount cards. There’s a huge range of different cards you can get your paws on as soon as you register at uni which can help make student life a little bit more affordable.

Not everywhere will accept your student ID, particularly when you’re shopping online. Luckily, there are other cards available. The NUS Extra card costs £12 to sign up for, but it does pay off if you’re a regular shopper with the likes of ASOS, Boohoo.com, Dominos, Amazon and Spotify. Buy it online at www.nus.org.uk. There’s also the UCAS card, a free discount card which can get you a bargain at Alton Towers and STA Travel, as well as in a range of high street shops. Get yours at card.ucas.com.

You don’t have to be a student to benefit from discounts. The Young Scot card will get you money off in over 1,400 outlets in Scotland, including Topshop and Topman, Knockhill Racing Circuit, Go Ape, M&Ds, Schuh and many more! The card is for 11 to 26-year-olds in Scotland, and what’s more – it’s free! Head to www.youngscot.org to find out more or call 0808 801 0338 to get your application form.

REAP THE REWARDS

Investigate reward cards too. These aren’t exclusive to students and young people, but can be a huge help to someone who isn’t in full-time employment. Lots of shops and restaurants do these for free, letting you collect points as you spend which can lead to freebies.

The Boots Advantage Card is a classic example – you get four points for every pound you spend, and each point translates as a penny which you can later spend on anything in store or online. The Waterstones card means you can be rewarded for buying the required reading for your course – now, do you use your points to buy a French grammar guide or the Hunger Games trilogy…?

With the Nando’s loyalty card, you get a stamp every time you spend £6. Collect three stamps, and you’ve got yourself a free quarter chicken or veggie alternative. Take it to six stamps, and you get a half chicken – a pretty tasty deal! For coffee lovers, Starbucks, Costa Coffee and Caffe Nero all offer loyalty schemes too, keeping your caffeine cravings satisfied with free drinks!

Avoid store cards like the plague – while the sales assistant will tempt you with promises of discounts, it’s basically a credit card with a high APR (annual percentage), meaning if you don’t make your payments or don’t pay off the whole amount, the interest it gains will be colossal. Definitely not worth that initial 10% off.

TRAVEL WISE

Travel can be a major expense, but as a young person you can get yourself some money off. The 16-25 Railcard is a real bargain. At £28 for one year, or £65 for three, you’ll get a third off rail travel throughout the UK, with certain limitations applying. Bargain! Get yours from www.16-25railcard.co.uk.

Your Young Scot card will get you discounts too. With it, you can get a fantastic third off bus fares throughout Scotland if you’re 16, 17 or 18 or a full-time volunteer up to the age of 26. You’re also entitled to a free Scottish Youth Railcard and it gives Islanders two free ferry journeys to the mainland.

BAG A BARGAIN

If you’re an online shopper, check out vouchercodes.co.uk or Google the shop name and ‘discount code’ to see if there are any money off vouchers swimming about too. Online stores like Gap, ASOS and New Look regularly have codes circulating, so always have a look before you head to the checkout!

Use daily deals sites like Groupon.co.uk, 5pm.com and Itison.com to get yourself great deals on things like eating out, weekends away and even your hair cut. Don’t forget to use price comparison sites for things like booking a holiday or sorting out insurance for your car or student flat. If you’re a driver, petrolprices.com lets you see where petrol is cheapest in your area – it could save you enough to treat yourself to some sweets in the garage!

INVEST YOURSELF

An initial investment can save you money in the long run too. For film fans, Cineworld’s Unlimited card costs £14.99 a month over a year, letting you see unlimited movies and giving you 10% off snacks at the cinema. If you head to the pictures once a week, you’ll make a massive saving, and it means you don’t feel bad if you go see a film which is a flop.

With your mobile phone, shop around to get the best price. If you’re signing up for a contract, don’t automatically go for the provider that offers a free handset for a hefty monthly bill – do your sums and figure out how much it will be for the handset plus the monthly price for the duration of the contract. Sometimes, shelling out a bit more for the phone will save you money overall. Pay As You Go is a good option, with tonnes of providers offering free SIM cards with lots of free minutes, texts and data for a fairly low monthly top up.

With all of these fantastic deals, offers and discounts on offer, you’ll soon have plenty of extra cash lining your pockets! Get ready to save, save, save…

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