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My ten top tips for budgeting at university

Mila Tsvetanova has moved from the USA to study BA (Hons) Design for Publishing at NUA. She reflects on her first year living independently in Norwich and shares her tips for budgeting while at university.

Photo of Mila Tsvetanova

My first year of university brought with it lots of new experiences and challenges that helped me become more independent, but the main skill I had to learn and refine was how to manage my spending. Here are my tips for budgeting while away from home:

1: Cook a large meal that you can refrigerate, and eat the leftovers for a day or two.

If possible, I recommend finding the nearest Aldi store because their products are quite cheap and pretty good quality. Tesco is the next best option in terms of price. For lunch I tried to make food to take with me as much as possible or ate after I got home. It’s also better to go grocery shopping when you’re not hungry to avoid making impulsive purchases. 

2: Norwich is easily walkable and walking is free!

I walked pretty much everywhere, unless the weather was really bad. There was a bus stop right next to my accommodation, so it was very convenient to catch the bus if necessary. A young person’s return ticket into town from Beechcroft was around £2.60. There is a group discount for 5 travelers, so that’s also worth taking advantage of.

3: Pick up toiletry and medicine basics at supermarkets and take advantage of student discounts.

Aldi had basic medicine like Ibuprofen and Paracetamol, but for my other needs I usually went to Boots. The pharmacy offers student discounts, and I also signed up for a Boots Advantage card to earn points from my purchases because my pickiness meant that I shopped there quite frequently; if you’re not particular, I would suggest buying items for cheaper at Aldi or Savers. 

4: When going out, go to places that don’t charge entry.

I recommend going to places that don’t charge entry before a certain time. Also when my friends and I went out for the night I always took out £10 or £20 in cash and left my card at home so that I wasn’t tempted to spend more money once we were out. Some coffee shops and cafés, like Café Pure near NUA, offer student discounts, so it’s always a good idea to keep your student card on you. 

The Students’ Union organise quite a few events throughout the year and often works with businesses across Norwich to offer discounted events for NUA students. I think they’re a good way to meet new people and do something fun for cheap, and joining societies is also a good way to socialise without having to spend money. 

5: Check out charity shops and vintage fairs for clothing.

There was a student sale at the Chapelfield Mall during the first couple of months, but I recommend going to charity shops because you can find a lot of cool stuff for cheaper. A lot of people I know also went to events where you pay £15 for a kilogram of vintage clothes, which I think is also a pretty good deal.

“Joining societies is a good way to socialise without having to spend money.”

6: Subscribe to online fitness channels.

I subscribe to yoga and fitness channels on Youtube, so all I had to buy was a yoga mat and exercise at home for free. The yoga society at NUA did classes for £7 and there are gyms that offer student discounts.

7: Shop around for different art materials.

I brought some supplies with me from home (mostly pens and pencils) and then bought the more specific materials that I needed for my course from the university store. I discovered that Poundland and Wilko had good prices for more basic supplies and that the university shop had reasonable prices for less-common materials.   

8: Buy a UK sim card.

Internet access was included in the rent that I paid for my room at Beechcroft. For my phone, I replaced my U.S. sim card with a UK one. Three charged me £9 each month. I thought it was quite a good price and was satisfied with the service, so although I can’t compare it to other providers I would recommend it.

9: Check what’s included in your rent.

I lived in Beechcroft during my first year at NUA, which is one of NUA’s accommodation buildings. The rent was taken in three installments- one in October, one in January, and one in May- and included electricity, WiFi access, gas, and water. The amount each student paid depended on the size of their room. I had the smallest available room, which came out to be £99 per week. 

10: Use the NUA library.

Unless you’re certain that you will frequently use the recommended books, I suggest saving money by checking them out from the library. The loan periods are quite long, and they usually have several copies of most books.

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