You know how travelling costs money? And students don’t have much of it? Well…
I quit my job a few months ago because I needed the extra time for my university assignments, and now I’m faced with a dilemma: I’ve forgotten how to budget. When I had student loan coming in, as well as a monthly income to cover my rent, I didn’t need to budget much because all my expenses were on rent/food/clothes, and that didn’t cost an arm and a leg. (I was a recluse with that job.) But now? I actually have time to go out, see my friends, drink alcohol. The only problem is that I now lack the appropriate funds to do so. I mean, I still have some student loan left over, but I really need that money to, well, eat.
So what’s a girl to do? Well, here are my five top tips for living on a student budget, when the travel bug’s bitten you:
- Set a realistic goal for your next travel destination.
It’s no use deciding you want to jet off to Thailand when you can just about afford the bus to campus. If you really want to travel within the next few months, pick a destination closer to home, like an EasyJet flight to somewhere in Europe, or even just a train ride to somewhere else in the UK (I picked Falmouth), it’ll be far cheaper than going anywhere else, and requires less planning ahead. If you’re really set on that trip to the USA, though, the best thing to do is book way in advance, and check out this SkyScanner article for the best (read: cheapest) time to book.
- Plan ahead
This doesn’t just pertain to your travel destination, but more to other aspects of your budget. Plan your meals in advance to prevent waste, and excessive buying (you really don’t need that packet of bourbons, let’s face it). Plan get-togethers so that they don’t all come at once and you don’t find yourself suddenly spending £30 for taxis/drinks/entry every night for a week. Trust me, it gets old, fast, and if you blow it all in one week you might miss out on events you really want to go to, like Grad Ball.
- Shop around
I’ve already alluded to how you can find cheap air travel, but did you know that certain companies are partnered with particular loyalty schemes, like Great Western Rail and Nectar (that purple Sainburys’ loyalty card you got once but never really use). It might not necessarily save you money initially, but thanks to all the train booking I make, I’ve now got nectar points worth over £20 at Sainsburys; that’s a free weekly shop for me!
- Phone a Friend
If you’re a university student, chances are you know people from all over the country, if not the world. So use those connections! Staying with a friend for a weekend, kipping on their sofa at night while they get to show you around during the day, means that you completely cut accommodation costs (save the dinner or two you might buy for that friend), and it’ll make your bond even stronger. Then, you get to return the favour later down the line, and I’m sure you won’t forget that free dinner… This is even better if you have friends who do languages (Hint: make friends with languages students) because one day they’ll swan off to sunny Spain/France/Portugal and you get to visit a whole new country and city, and of course see a very dear friend.
- Pack light
If you’re travelling by plane, with a budget airline, every kilo counts, and I’m telling you now: you do not need that extra pair of shoes. I know it’s difficult to pack light for a two week holiday, but if you’re jetting off for a weekend or a few days either side, it’s so easy to streamline your baggage to the essentials: minimal clothing (no, every evening does NOT need a costume change); no shoes (because you’ll already be wearing them); no/very limited makeup (you really don’t need to bring the whole vanity table with you). To be honest, my heaviest travelling is always because of books, so I asked for a kindle for Christmas (thanks, mum and dad) and now I can take as many as I want on holiday without worrying about baggage allowance.
To be honest, travelling on a student budget is really tough… But I’ve been unemployed since March, haven’t been on a night out since then either, and have booked tickets to go to Falmouth by train to stay with my best friend for a weekend so… I’ve managed to make my budget work, and I hope you find the right balance for you. Because travelling is amazing, and you only get so many opportunities. Now is the time to live so, guess what, I’m living.