The financial advantages of being a student

Updated on 05 August 2014 | 3 Comments

Students are eligible for thousands of discounts, deals and freebies so make sure you don't miss out.

Most of my university life consisted of repeat runs of Neighbours on repeat, reading weeks and never-ending fancy dress parties in between afternoon lectures and intensive study sessions at the library.

I was also lucky enough to go when the fees weren’t as high as they are now, so I wasn't left with the kind of debt current students will end up with.

One way to reduce this debt is to take advantage of the world of deals, discounts and freebies which opens up to you when you become a student.

1. Discounts and deals

Student discounts are available in most shops, restaurants and bars and are a good way to cut down costs.

Websites like list the best weekly deals and are a good resource for stocking up on freebies.

At the moment top offers include 25% off tickets to London Zoo, 10% off at Cineworld and 30% off at Giraffe and GBK.

2. Rail travel

Train travel is expensive but students can save money in several ways. Firstly, as most courses aren’t full time during the week, it’s possible to travel during non-peak hours which will always be cheaper.

A 16-25 railcard, which costs £30 a year, will also slice one third off your train travel, and this one isn’t just for students either.

Choosing to go via bus is also cheaper. If you opt for the MegaBus, for example, in the week a journey can be as little as £2 return. Take a look at Why it's always cheaper to get the Megabus for more.

3. Council Tax exemption

The average Council Tax bill per household in the past year was £1,444, but full-time students are exempt from paying it.

If you receive a bill you can apply for an exemption through your local council office and this should be wiped out.

4. Student bank accounts

The banks will be falling over each other to pull in new customers and most accounts come with a host of different offers.

Barclays Student Additions, for example, has a 10% discount on student possessions insurance for three months. The Bank of Scotland student account includes a free NUS Extra card and a £75 voucher towards a holiday with STA Travel while Santander is giving away a free 16-25 Railcard.

However, despite the offers, the most important factor to look at will be the interest rate charged and any overdraft or monthly fees.

5. Overseas travel

Many university courses will offer transfer places at universities around the world. During my degree, for example, I had the chance to live and study in north America for a year. This is something which becomes much harder after graduation, mainly because of the costs involved.

Programmes like Erasmus help students study in Europe for a term and grants are available from the British Council to help with funding. You don’t pay any tuition fees for the university you’re visiting and depending where you go living costs may be cheaper than in the UK.

If you’re away for an entire year it might also be possible to apply for a tuition fee waiver so you won’t pay any fees to your home university either.

6. Work experience

Choosing a career can be a daunting experience and very few people know exactly what they want to do by the time they become a student.

Work experience is a great way to try out a few different jobs and decide what you’re good at and what you enjoy. It’s also a really good way of making contacts should any jobs arise once you have graduated.

The problem for most people is they can’t afford to take time off to spend on unpaid placements. While you’re a student it’s the perfect time to do this and it can really help in lining up a job once you’ve left university.

You can find out more in our article Your rights in an unpaid internship.

7. Grants and loans

Going to university is not cheap; fees currently stand at as much as £9,000 per year. However, these aren't payable up front any more, but are paid back once the student has graduated and is earning at least £21,000.

There's still living costs to thing about though. That's where the student loan comes in, while grants may also be available. Each year you can apply for these through Student Finance England.

8. Student insurance

When setting off for university, many students are laden with all sorts of gadgets. And it's important to make sure this stuff is properly insured.

Burglars will prey on students, especially those in their first year away from home, but a policy doesn't have to blow your budget. It’s possible to get specialised cheap insurance, which can either be through a standalone policy – which will cost less than a standard policy for a non-student – or though an existing policy.

If the student’s main residency is another home, such as their parents, then the belongings should be already covered on their insurance.

Our article How should students insure their possessions? has more details.

9. University jobs

There are often vacancies to work for your university as a student ambassador. This can be mean anything from handing out flyers and attending conferences to helping new students move into their halls.

The jobs are well paid and you can normally pick and choose how much time it takes up depending on your work load.

10. Free time

Most university courses won’t be 9-5, Monday to Friday, and therefore students will have quite a bit of spare time.

Instead of watching reruns of American TV shows this is a good chance to get involved in something new or learn a skill. University teams exist for almost anything from tennis, singing and cookery to languages, travel and swimming.

Given that these kind of classes cost around £8 an hour when you’re not a student, it’s worth signing up, upping your skills base and meeting some new friends. That way you can learn a new talent and try your hand at something completely different for free which could help towards your CV.

More on student finance:

The best student bank accounts 2013/14

Money saving tips for students

Is a £3,000 student overdraft a good idea?

Students: how to find bursaries, grants, and scholarships

Student pods: a good investment for buy-to-let landlords?


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