Whether you’re a brand new fresher or a world weary fourth year you probably eagerly await your monthly student loan payment because it’s free money, right?
Er, kind of.
Anyway, if (like the majority of students) you always end up unbearably poor about a week after you get your student loan money then it might be time to start thinking about budgeting.
Edinburgh is a really student-orientated city and – despite high rent prices and the odd painfully expensive bar – there are plenty of ways to reduce your spending and still have fun if you’re a skint student.
Here are 21 tips on how to budget better and avoiding blowing your student loan as soon as you get it.
1. Use your student discount
One of the many great things about Edinburgh was a student discount on like everything… 25% off at the bar was nice
— Giana DiGiulio (@GianaDiGiulio) March 24, 2015
As well as granting you access to the library, student union and being a huge source of embarrassment for the next four years due to your awful ID photo your matriculation card is a golden ticket when it comes to saving money. You can get student discounts nearly everywhere in Edinburgh – from the hairdresser to the cinema – so don’t forget to flash your matric card and save some pennies.
2. Cook at home
It’s tempting to regularly eat out and order takeaway for dinner when you’re studying, especially after a long day at uni or before a big night out with your mates. Unfortunately even the cost of buying a sandwich at the supermarket every lunchtime will eventually start to add up, and it’s much cheaper to do a weekly shop, cook in bulk and plan your meals out each week. Obviously this won’t happen all the time (and we believe a Dominos every once in a while is good for the soul anyway) but check out our foodie guides to Bruntsfield, Tollcross and Leith Walk before you hit the shops to inspire your inner chef.
3. Browse charity shops
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – you can find some absolute gems in Edinburgh charity shops and there are so many to visit. Whether you’re looking for clothes, records or home decor you can usually pick up something suitable for a fraction of its original retail price in a Stockbridge or Morningside charity shop.
4. Walk (or cycle) everywhere
Public transport in Scotland’s capital is top notch and £1.50 for a single bus journey can be great value when you’re travelling from one end of the city to the other. But Edinburgh isn’t anywhere near the size of London (or even Glasgow) and you can usually walk to your desired destination here within 30 or 40 minutes and cycle in even less. Save your daily bus fare and instead take a lovely walk in one of the world’s most beautiful cities – it’s good for you too.
5. Find cheap pubs (and clubs)
A night out in Edinburgh can be expensive, there’s no doubt about it. Since you’ll probably be going on a fair few heavy ones during your time as a student, it’s a good idea to have a drinking budget in place. You’ll save a lot of money by scoping out the city’s more affordable pubs – from The Tron to The Wee Red Bar – and limiting your dancing escapades to the more studenty clubs that charge little to no entry fee and serve cheap drinks. And we’d highly recommend not betting your entire student loan away at the casino post-club.
6. Avoid George Street at all costs
George Street is beautiful, less crowded than Princes Street and full of amazing high end shops, bars and clubs. If you want to keep a hold of your money we recommend you do. Not. Go there. Ever. Sure, you may fall head over heels for that £40 Jo Malone scented candle or that Jack Wills blazer, but spending a month’s rent on one item of clothing isn’t healthy for your bank balance.
7. Don’t go window shopping
Student loan comes in tomorrow and i'm going shopping in Edinburgh, can see me being skint for the rest of the month.
— Amanda Sutherland (@amandsutherland) April 4, 2013
In fact, try to avoid unnecessary shopping trips altogether if you’re trying to save money. It might be tempting to spend your lecture-free Friday afternoons on Princes Street ‘just looking’ in H&M, Office and New Look but the reality is that you will crack and purchase something. Even buying a few cheap tops from Primark gets expensive when it becomes a weekly occurrence, so resist temptation.
8. Visit museums
Edinburgh is packed full of fantastic museums and art galleries and the majority of them are absolutely free to visit and enjoy. Our favourites are the massive National Museum of Scotland on Chambers Street and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art down Stockbridge way. If it’s cold, rainy and you’re feeling the pinch a visit to one of these stunning museums will cheer you right up.
9. Don’t order takeaways
Or – if you must get your pizza fix – then make sure to suss out the best deals at your favourite takeaway places, whether that’s a business-specific student discount or deals on particular days of the week like La Favorita’s ‘Offerta Tuesday’.
10. Upcycle your furniture
— Christopher (@siriuswackadood) April 8, 2015
If you want to make your student flat homely but can’t realistically afford to fork out for brand new (but generic) IKEA furniture then consider upcycling. Whether you revamp a piece you already own – for example adding new handles to an old chest of drawers – or you sand down and re-paint some furniture you’ve scored cheaply from the charity shop it will make your flat feel fresh again and you can be proud of your unique furnishings.
11. Go for a walk in the park
There are so many wonderful public parks and breathtaking views to be discovered (at absolutely no cost, of course) around Edinburgh. Holyrood Park, the top of Calton Hill and the Royal Botanic Garden – just to name a few – are some of the city’s most beautiful green spaces and if you get a good day weather-wise you can get back in touch with nature without leaving the city or spending a penny.
12. Research before you eat out
As with takeaways there are plenty of Edinburgh restaurants offering great discounts if you take the time to hunt them down before you head out for dinner. You’ll find that pubs like The Three Sisters often do two for one meal deals and you’ll always be able to find cheap eats at your student union.
13. Forget the gym
When it's sunny enough to run in shades. Feeling like a bada$$, until every runner out overtook me on the hills. And I swallowed a million bugs. #badass #hillrunning #running #borntorun #instarunner #runhappy #sunglasses #thisgirlcan #blackfordhill #runedinburgh #marathontraining #runlikeagirl #ukrunchat
We don’t mean give up exercise, but maybe think twice about signing up for a uni gym membership during freshers week if it means needlessly throwing away a huge chunk of money. If you’re not completely sure you will go to the gym enough times to make that money worth it then perhaps look into a pay as you go alternative, or think about walking or jogging outside (for free) instead.
14. Take advantage of Doors Open Day
On the weekend of September 26 and 27 the annual Edinburgh Doors Open Days will take place, allowing locals access to some of the city’s most architecturally and culturally significant buildings, a few of which are normally kept strictly under lock and key. Doors Open Day is a fascinating experience and a totally free event which has been taking place every year for the last 25, so you can enjoy it throughout your entire uni career.
15. Shop smart
By which we mean if the supermarket nearest your flat happens to be a Waitrose then you’re probably going to end up popping in for a pint of milk and somehow spending £20. Every single time. Find the most affordable place to do your weekly shop – whether that’s a low budget supermarket like Aldi or your local independent greengrocer – and try not to splurge on too many expensive treats from other shops.
16. Wrap up warm
I need to go and get milk. It's so cold in Edinburgh this is how many layers I need…. pic.twitter.com/bekgdO0Cld
— SallySu (@sallysuli) September 9, 2015
Things can get pretty chilly when you live in an Edinburgh tenement flat and while those high ceilings and original sash windows might look nice they don’t do much when it comes to keeping the heat in. Aim to put on a few extra layers when you’re watching Netflix and developing frostbite of a winter evening before you resort to cranking the central heating up. You’d be surprised just how expensive blasting the radiators for a couple of hours can be.
17. Make your own clothes
Okay, not everyone is the next Coco Chanel, but if you’ve ever had an interest in knitting or sewing now is the time to give it a go. You can buy material cheaply from local shops like Edinburgh Fabrics on St Patrick Square and (with some practice) make fashionable pieces practically identical to the ones you love on the high street for much less money. And if knitting is more your thing then a woolly hat, jumper or scarf always comes in handy in Edinburgh.
18. Ditch your car
If you’ve got a car or are thinking of getting one it’s worth remembering that Edinburgh is a pretty small city with excellent public transport and expensive, limited parking. You’ll save a lot of money on fuel, parking costs and (potentially) parking fines if you give up your ride. And if you ever want a car for a day trip you can always rent one or become a member of the City Car Club which lets you borrow a car as and when you need it.
19. Use the library
Not just for studying – although you should be doing that now and again – but for its brilliant resources. The majority of university libraries are packed full of great fiction books as well as DVDs, music and audio books. Of course they’re there for educational purposes, but there’s no harm in borrowing a book or DVD you fancy the look of from your uni library when it will save you quite a bit of money.
20. Go to the theatre
You might not think of the theatre as an affordable evening activity, but Edinburgh Theatres offer £10 student standby tickets for the majority of their shows. These tickets can be purchased from the box office on the day of the show after 12pm as long as you flash your student card.
21. Make your coffee at home
We all know how much money we waste on buying coffee to go from Starbucks, Costa and even the independent Edinburgh coffee shops. You probably need a caffeine fix to get you through morning lectures, but if you invest in a cafetiere, a reusable takeaway mug and some delicious ground coffee you can save yourself heaps of cash just by brewing a cup before you leave the house. Local specialist roasters like Artisan Roast and Mr Eion will even sell you a bag of the brown stuff so you don’t have to resort to instant – ew.