For students about to take their place at university for the first time, it can feel overwhelming.
It’s so easy to get swept up in all the Freshers activities and exciting opportunities that all of the things you should do before you arrive at uni and in your first few weeks can get sidelined.
From making sure you’ve packed all your essentials to sorting out your transport, accommodation and food, here’s everything you should be thinking about your first month (aside from the socialising!).
Things to do before you arrive:
Double check you have packed the essentialsThe best way to avoid spending excess cash during your first few weeks at uni is to make sure to pack all the basics you already have at home.
Check to see if your parents or current housemates have any extras they can spare from the kitchen or bathroom. Tinned food such as spaghetti and beans are great as well as condiments as they are often non-perishable (can’t go wrong with a jar of peanut butter!). In terms of toiletries, try to see if you can stock up on basics like soap and toothpaste from home.
If you fail to pack the basics you could end up ‘panic-buying’ them when you arrive at uni which can be an added expense you don’t need during your first month. To make sure you remember everything you need, make lists and set an alarm on your phone reminding you to double check you have everything before you leave.
It’s vital to budget your maintenance loan and any other income you may receive during term-time accordingly (and do this as soon as it comes into your bank account).
Considering that the average weekly spend for students doubles during Freshers week, it is so important to keep your spending in check.
Source your textbooks
Facebook now has a Marketplace function, which enables you to buy and sell your textbooks online. Looking to sell geography textbooks? Search for your university’s geography page and see if you can buy your textbooks secondhand. This will be particularly effective around the beginning of term, when freshers are moving in and hunting out their books for the coming year. For more ideas on buying and selling textbooks, check out this blog.
Shop around for the best student bank account
Student bank accounts are designed for students and can include great perks such as great freebies, special deals and interest-free overdrafts. It is really worth your while to shop around (most students stick with banks they are already with or that family members are with).
Your current bank may not be the one most suited to your time at university. Make sure to shop around and check out which banks and ATMs are near your accommodation or on your campus (some banks give out cash simply for you opening your student account with them so you could be missing out!).
For more information on the most popular student bank account options in the UK, check out this blog.
Insure your stuffNot being insured and losing an expensive item such as your laptop or your phone can prove very costly! A lot of uni halls are covered with basic insurance but it’s always best to check with your halls about this.
Websites such as Money Supermarket and Go Compare are great comparison sites to check where to get the best deals on insurance are. Nothing more damaging to a budget than a large unexpected expense such as having to replace a pricey gadget that you need for uni.
Take photos of your accommodation
If you can, it’s good to take photos of your new room and its current state before you actually move in. By having a record of what was in the room and its general appearance before you moved in, you can avoid potentially being falsely accused of damage to the room (and being charged for it). But that’s worst case scenario!
Having snaps of your room is a great way to plan everything you need to buy or bring. Whether it’s a laundry bag, a nice print for a blank wall or a decent lampshade, you could be saving yourself a lot of hassle and expense before you move in by knowing what you need.
When you’re there:
Trade the train for a coach
Train prices can get very expensive and one-way journeys can cost as much as £70 in some cases if you live far away from your university! Although you can invest in a 16-25 railcard, it will often be more cost effective to get the coach. Coach companies like megabus usually have student deals running so keep a close eye on those!
Other things to note when it comes to getting the best value on travel includes asking your local bus agency directly if they offer student discounts and also investigate the NUS student card (also known as TOTUM) which offers thousands of discounts, some of which may assist with transport. For example, you can get 10% off megabus fares once you sign up.
Keep an eye on student deals and discount sites for regular travel options (including international travel because even students deserve a holiday!).
Be savvy when it comes to groceries
Food shopping is essential but it doesn’t need to be expensive! Using price comparison websites such as My Supermarket, you can work out which supermarket has the best deals for you and help save those pennies.
Wherever you choose to shop, buying ‘own-brand’ supermarket options are often the cheapest (and according to research, choosing these products does not mean scrimping on quality or your health!). Make sure to sign up to any loyalty cards or schemes offered by your go-to supermarket. You never know, by the end of term you could have saved up enough for a couple of days worth of groceries or a free meal.
Also explore on and around your campus to find a cheap student-oriented shop or market. For more information on how to save when it comes to food for uni, check out this blog.
Get used to sorting your washing
It might sound obvious but one washing blunder could cost you a new wardrobe of clothes and you really don’t need that eating into your budget!
If you have never done your own wash before, make sure to get a tutorial from whoever does your regular washing. Understanding the different products you need, where they go in the machine and how to read care labels and separate clothing will really stand to you your first few months of uni.
Take note of local launderettes for when you might get really stuck. Many will clean entire bags of laundry and you will only have to pay per kilo.
Don’t throw away your moving boxes
Most university students end up moving every year. This means that you’ll likely be packing up again in around 11 months time. Keep hold of the boxes for the next move to save yourself a bit of cash and to be kind to the environment in the process.
We know moving boxes can take up space so we recommend carefully opening the base of the boxes and flattening so that you can easily store under a bed or at the top of a wardrobe. All you will need to do when you have to move out is grab some duct tape and secure the bottom of the box again to have perfectly reusable storage for moving.
Get a job that works around your studies
It’s nice being able to treat yourself while at uni but often to do this you need to have some spare cash. If you have a part time job, the money you earn from that could go towards buying yourself treats, holidays or (annoyingly!) bills.
Getting a low hour contract role or a 0-hour contract role is the best route to take in terms of student jobs as demanding jobs with a need for you to work extensive hours can take a toll on your studies. A zero-hour contract means that there is no minimum hours you are expected to work or accept from your employer per week.
Why not also take a look at roles specifically designed for students on your campus? Promotional work can also be flexible on hours and you can often choose how many hours you want to work per week that fits around your schedule. Check out Student Jobs to see what kind of study-friendly work is available near you!
University is a really exciting time and as well as working hard on your studies you should also be enjoying yourself. Maximising on your money and organising yourself at the start of your very first term will mean more time and money to spend doing the things you enjoy in the long-run!