The top 5 student saver apps

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Being a student means living off a student loan, or maybe a small amount of cash from part-time work whilst you’re studying. This means being careful with your money and budgeting where possible. Therefore, students are forever trying to find deals, money off here, free items there…but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourself and be able to buy yourself those shoes you’ve been dreaming of or have the money to be able to purchase a present for somebody on their birthday.

So…I have done some research into the top 5 apps which I think could help students save money. These apps also helped me when I was at university, and I am still using them now as a new graduate! You don’t have to be rich to treat yourself every now and again and can still enjoy being able to buy your most wanted items without breaking the bank as well as having the knowledge of controlling your money.

Vinted – This app is great for finding those second hand bargains. I know a few people out there who are either embarrassed to say they shop in charity shops or are even too sceptical about entering one! But fear no longer. With Vinted you have a charity shop at your finger tips (minus the old people’s clothes). Not only can you find great items from all the top high street stores, you can even find items that haven’t been worn for half the price. Vinted does a range of clothing, shoes and accessories for women, men and even babies/children which is great if you are shopping for someone else. If there is something I have needed in the past I have gone straight to Vinted rather than hit the high street shops first because guaranteed I can get it for cheaper and sometimes not even worn! The app itself protects you just like eBay so you have no worries about someone scamming you and wandering off with your money as Vinted do a job at making sure your money is safe until you say that you’ve received your item. You can leave feedback and even become a ‘Vintie’ and sell items yourself making yourself extra cash for those clothes that you just don’t want anymore.

Unidays – Just like the NUS student card, Unidays offers you great discounts on all your favourite high street stores. In fact H&M are just one of the shops that don’t allow NUS student cards but every now and again they allow you to provide them with your Unidays ID straight from your phone to receive a nifty 20% off your items in store. You can shop online for online stores such as ASOS and Boohoo using Unidays which usually saves you 10% or even 20% for those limited time only offers. It’s a great saver and the best part is that it is FREE, which means you aren’t forking out £20 just to save yourself the money in the first place!

Just Eat, Hungry House and Domino’s – I know, I know, these are three different apps but as a student we are all known for our love of those naughty take aways right?! But why not check out what deals you can blag first. Just Eat and Hungry House usually offer 20% discounts at weekends (when you are more than likely to have those duvet days). So why not save yourself the money and see what you can find first. If you have Twitter, they are usually likely to post what discounts they have on there first so make sure you check regularly to see what you can find. Domino’s also does great deals if you are ordering for more than 1 person and their app is a great way to see what sort of deals they have going first before you order one standard pizza.

Your personal bank app – It goes without saying to have your personal bank’s (such as Natwest or Santander) app on your phone. It’s a very quick and easy way to keep track of your own spending as a student as well as being able to transfer money easily to another account or somebody else. At university I was forever checking my account to make sure I was sticking to my budget and even managed to set up a little savings account online which helped me to transfer my weekly allowance to my main account to prevent me from over spending on my card. You can keep track of your money without having to head to a cash point on the street where others could be prying over your shoulder. With it all being protected and safe with your own unique pin you shouldn’t have problems with anybody else accessing your account either.

Vouchercloud – This app gets a lot of praise and after downloading it half way through my 1st year at uni I started to understand what all the hype was about. The sheer simplicity of the app was a real selling point to me (although it is free to download!). You can search for deals via your location so you can see which shops or restaurants around you will save you the most money and I can honestly say it’s saved me a lot with eating out! I still use it now as a recent graduate as you don’t necessarily have to be a student to use this app. Although, I can easily say it’s probably saved me a lot as a student with the ability to eat in some of the fancier restaurants rather than your local fast food joint. It’s a very speedy app right at your finger tips which can save you a lot of money and I highly recommend it to all students!

So there we have it my top 5 student saving apps. There are so many that I could recommend to help students save but these are 5 which I feel have saved me the most hassle at university with the ability to budget, save and be able to treat yourself too.

Have you tried any of these apps? What do you think? Are there any others you could recommend to students? Comment below!

How to use seasonal vegetables to your advantage part 1: autumn

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With the type of supermarkets we shop in nowadays we don’t tend to worry about whether we are eating seasonal fruit and vegetables; freezing and refrigerating have changed the food we have access to all year round. However you may not always realise it but certain fruit and veg may be cheaper at certain times of year when they are in season, especially in supermarkets such as ALDI which have a super 6 offers every week, so it’s worth knowing which types of fruit and veg are in season in different months.

Part 1 of this blog series is autumn, my favourite season! I love the nights drawing in closer and cosy nights in as it starts to get a bit colder and the beginning of frosty mornings with leaves on the ground; I never have been one for hot summers! However other than the typical colours and weather that you see, the season has beautiful foods not available at any other time of year. In this blog I have given you different ideas on how to use certain foods in season right now, with none of these recipes costing a bomb, all perfectly within reach of a student!

Apple: now obviously you can’t have apples and not think of apple pie or apple crumble; the standard comfort food! Many people believe you have to use cooking apples for these well loved desserts however this is just a myth, I use any old apple I have lying about and it’s just as nice for someone like me who isn’t the biggest fan of sharp tasting apples. To make a crumble all you need is apples, sugar, butter, flour and oats, all fairly cheap ingredients. I use oats in the crumble topping firstly to pad out the topping and also it creates a lovely crunch when cooked; this goes lovely with warm custard or runny cream!

Butternut squash: this vegetable is fairly new to me, for years I have seen them in the supermarkets and never picked one up to try it out, then one day someone told me about butternut squash soup and now I’m converted! Butternut squash soup is one of the most comforting and warming foods I can eat by the bucket full in autumn and winter. However this vegetable is also wonderful roasted with cracked black pepper and put into various different vegetarian meals such as curry, lasagne or spaghetti Bolognese.

Cabbage: this vegetable tends to divide the crowd but I love it in a variety of different ways! Personally I prefer cooked cabbage with roast dinner on a Sunday, boiled until only just cooked then mixed with cracked black pepper and a tiny bit of sea salt. However you don’t have to eat cabbage cooked, chopped roughly cabbage goes really well in a salad or homemade coleslaw!

Pear: this is a wonderful fruit which can be eaten in a variety of ways, my personal preference is poached which makes a wonderful dessert! However pear can also be put into pies or crumbles and goes wonderfully with plum which is also in season right now!

Sweetcorn: this is such a handy little vegetable which I put into lots of different meals giving me more ways to get my 5 a day! Fresh sweetcorn is lovely as a side for different meals such as bbq chicken or tuna pasta, however it can also be mixed with various things such as peas, or in sauces so that its hidden and gives you a healthy addition!

I hope this has given you an insight into different foods that are in season in autumn; however there are lots more fruit and veg which have not been mentioned here, so go explore and save some money whilst you’re doing it!

Avoiding the worst money situations as a Fresher

Money

So, you’ve just started your university journey and are away from home for the first time which also means perhaps for some, looking after yourself for the first time too! For me, when I started university, I was older than the average student so had already gained some life skills away from home and was never too dependent on my parents. But for some, it can be a massive step to really fending for yourself for the first time and that’s where I can help. Saying that though, when it came to money I was never very good at controlling my budgets and when I entered university it was a massive shock (queue monkey covering eyes emoji here…). Yes, you do get a student loan but spending it all in the first few weeks is definitely not what you want to do, especially in the first term when it is the longest of the three in the academic year. I made this simple mistake and I had to call the bank of Dad to help me out. Needless to say, by the time I had finished university I was more in control of my money and I had learnt a very good life lesson.

So here I have some great tips on how to avoid a situation like mine in the first term at university!

Managing your money is the most important thing you can learn whilst being at university, apart from actually gaining your degree of course! If you can’t learn to manage your money it will lead to all sorts of complications, such as not having enough to feed yourself to fuel your brain for those all important deadlines and exams to not being money conscious when you leave university. Plus, if you don’t budget your money, how will you ever know how much you have left over for socialising or shopping with?

Organise a budget for yourself. My best tip would be to work out what you have left to spend at the end of each week (after rent and bills) and then separate that into categories such as: food, going out, clothes etc. then take that amount and leave your card in your room in a safe and secure place. I find this helps because it stops you from spending little bits here and there when you have your card on you 24/7, as each little bit really does add up!

Get a student account. Most banks offer student accounts with some perks for signing up also. They offer interest free overdrafts (which trust me, do come in handy in emergencies) and I even got a free four year rail card too! It’s worth it because the little costs of these also add up.

Saving whilst spending is every students’ dream! As a student you get discount in most retail shops and even restaurants and trust me when I say, take advantage of this. When you head out into the adult world after university and can’t take advantage of the discount anymore it makes you realise just how much it was worth having. It may not seem like a massive saving at the time but adding up student discount over your three or four year course will make you realise just how much you saved on all your shopping and eating out.

HOWEVER discount is great but if you have to ask yourself the question ‘should I REALLY be buying this?!’ then stop right there. The answer is NO. You probably shouldn’t. If the item you want is just too expensive, look for a cheaper alternative. Once I got into the swing of money saving at university my friends were forever asking me ‘where did you get that from?’ and ‘hey! I paid so much more for the SAME item!’

Apps and websites can really help to also make you money. Get rid of those unwanted clothes on apps or websites such as eBay, Vinted, Depop and Gumtree. You can also make money from shopping with Top CashBack and Quidco. Sign up, read the terms and conditions and get started. As the saying always goes ‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ and you will be surprised at how much stuff you can get rid of to make some extra cash.

Another tip I will add is for students to make their own budget spreadsheets and write down everything they spend using the categories’ technique explained above. This way you can keep on top of your spending weekly, monthly, annually and review it like I did every month. You can then see where you could cut back on your spending and save it for something else or simply just pop it in a savings account for a rainy day or for travelling after university, the choices are endless if you can become a money conscious student!

Organisation and time management tips

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When you first start university it can seem like so much is going on at once, it can be hard to get your head around it all and personally I got quite stressed! I wish that when I started uni, I had some sort of idea of how to manage my time, how to stay organised and how to deal with all the things that can get thrown at you when you first start. I thought a few tips on these things may help some of you just starting out.

It is important to get on top of time management as soon as possible as you can have so much to take in at first, you need some time to process it all before you get started. When you first start there are general talks regarding being a fresher, lectures, tutors and loads of information in the forms of leaflets, letters and flyers, don’t just put it all down and forget about it or throw it away, it might come be useful!

In the first few days, try and find an hour or two to go through everything; moving to uni is a massive thing and it’s important you try and take it all in. Have a look through everything and see if anything interests you. It’s in the first few days and weeks where groups will start up and if there is something you are interested in, you could see if others are too and make a society.

You will also get sent information regarding your lectures, or it will be handed out in your first one. They will tell you the times of your lectures, what lecturers expect from you and what you need to take with you, you don’t want to miss out on information like this as it can be really important and you don’t want to get stuck nearer the time. If you do want to hold onto all these things, which I think is a good idea at least for the beginning, you might want to think about investing in a desk tidy. You can get them for a really good price, and would fit basic notes, letters and documents, or you can get bigger ones like from Ikea for around £10 and would maybe a look a bit neater. You might want to keep all the leaflets and flyers just to refer back to when planning a night out (do you have to be up for that 9am lecture) or you might want them as a little keepsake for when you leave as something to look back on from when you first started. Something like a desk tidy would last a really long time, probably all the way through uni and then some after that, they are so useful and great for storing paperwork that might otherwise get left around.

Another place to store things like this is on a board on your wall which some halls and flats already have. You can just pin things to it and you know exactly where things are then. They’re also good for leaving little notes on to remind yourself to do things, e.g. start coursework this week, exam at 9am. Another organisation tip which might be useful is trying to make lists when you have a build-up of work. Sometimes you can get a lot put on you at once, with deadlines to meet and you may forget what work needs to be in first, what you need to etc. Making a list when you get given work can really help as you know from the beginning what you have to do and when for. Therefore you’re not panicking when you realise you have work to be in soon and it’s not done!

As well as organisation tips, I mentioned how important time management is. Even though when you first start, it’s all about freshers week and going out, it’s good to get into some sort of routine at the beginning. If you can, getting up at a set time everyday and going to bed at a set time each night (when you can) will really help. You’ll feel so much better for it and it gives you plenty of time to be getting sorted for your lectures, exploring the campus or even the town and city if you’ve moved from a different place, and you can get a good start on everything. Getting into a routine at the beginning will really help you when it comes to revising and preparing for exams. Hopefully it will mean a lot less stress as you’ll already know how much time you have each day spare to get revision done and also coursework.

The best things to do when you start university as a fresher

UniversitySometimes you might wonder what the best things to do are in the week before your lectures start, well here are a few things I would consider as important:

  • Join a sports club or society; this is a wonderful way to meet different people that aren’t in your living halls or on your course; likewise the likely hood is that they are similar people to you if they have an interest in the same hobby.
  • Find out what your uni can offer. My uni gives free off peak gym membership for all students for the local gym in the city. This is a wonderful way to keep busy and have things to do, as well as it being good exercise for the mind and for the body. However if a gym is not your thing then your university may offer other things such as discounted sports team tickets like football, or just being a student gives you the opportunity for discount cards such as NUS and UNIDAYS.
  • One of the most important things to do is to get to know where your local shops are, don’t get caught out with doing big shops in your local ‘Sainsbury’s local’ or ‘Tesco metro’ these smaller shops tend to put their prices up, or only offer the most expensive brands just because of their close convenience. Walk that little bit further and you will end up saving a good amount of money; another really good habit to get into is shopping for the best deals, don’t always go to a specific one because for example ALDI offers its ‘super six’ which might mean you can choose your fruit and veg for the week around this offer, but you may want to get other items from another shop such as Tesco.
  • Make sure you’re planned for your first week, if you’re starting soon you should have found out by now when your induction week is and when your first day of lectures will be. Most people will have gone for an open day or an applicant day before the start of uni, however if you haven’t then don’t worry you aren’t at a disadvantage. Google maps and street view are a life saver when you’re trying to find a specific building, go on a virtual tour and on your first day you’ll know exactly where you are going!
  • Another good thing to do before you arrive at uni is to look on your university’s official social media accounts; around this time of the year there will be lots of nervous freshers looking for their flatmates or other people on their course. This is a really good tool to use, you don’t have to post every day but if you keep your eye out you might find some people to help you during your first few days, I met some of my course mates outside of halls and we all walked to our first lecture together!
  • A really useful tip is to collect the best equipment for starting uni, I’m sure your family will be going round the shops and looking out for the best deals to buy you with all the stuff you need for uni, however there are some things you may find really useful like lunch boxes and flasks, these also help to save lots of money!
  • Make sure you have the equipment for your course, certain degrees may need specific equipment for day to day use, and you should have been told about these before you arrive. However unless you are told you HAVE to buy certain books then refrain until you have started your course. Of course it is useful to do background reading constantly, however it is not essential to buy such books straight away. University libraries are really useful and will have lots of different books for your use, if you find you are getting one specific book out constantly then of course by all means buy that book looking for the best online deals to save some money.
  • A really good tip is to make an effort with the people you hit it off with straight away. These people can develop into friends so making an effort in terms of arranging nights out or games/movie nights will show these people you want to get to know them and the effort won’t go unnoticed. But remember these nights you arrange don’t have to involve spending money or buying alcohol, there is plenty of cheap or free things to do.
  • Get to know your university’s facilities, for example most unis have a wellbeing centre, advice centre or a careers department. These are really useful facilities and are there to be used especially for first year students who may have the most questions of all, so make sure you investigate where these are and how to access them if and when you need them.
  • Set up a student bank account, or move your current account across. This is a free service offered by all banks and they all offer different incentives to go with them, so look for the best option for you. The main drawing point for a student account is the fact they offer interest free overdrafts. It’s never advisable to ever use an overdraft however to have one there in case of emergency or in case of a mix up with your student loan is useful, but remember they need paying back sooner rather than later, otherwise the bank will claim the whole amount back at any time that suits them not you!
  • Lastly don’t worry! University will seem strange and weird when your first there, it’s a big step and you will have never have done anything like it, however you will get used to it and as soon as you’re settled in and feel comfortable with your area you will soon enjoy yourself.