Getting cash-wise in Cambridge

Image credit: Keith Edkins

We’ve all been there, waiting apprehensively as the cash point whirs out our statement (or does something on a computer screen – I’m prehistoric and don’t yet use online banking, but I imagine the suspense is the same). Then, yes! Bingo! You’ve hit the jackpot! For that moment, that one blissful moment when your student loan arrives in your account, you are wonderfully, fantastically rich.

Of course, you’re not. Or, at least, not for very long. Rent, food bills, and social activities soon eat away at your treasured cash and that figure on the screen, once a source of such elation, soon begins to fall despairingly.

Before coming to university, I was inundated with website and leaflets (and parents!) advising me on how to make my money go further. "Budget!", they all said, "don’t blow your loan in the first week!" However, such advice is all rather vague: it could be applied to any student, in any city. I am by no means super-savvy when it comes to cash, but as I come to the end of my first year at Cambridge, I have picked up some neat tricks and tips which make that bank balance slump a little slower.

For many students, especially those studying arts subjects, books can be a serious strain on the termly budget. Amazon may seem like a great alternative, but their books can be just as pricy once postage and packaging have been added. Instead, think carefully about the books you need. The rapid pace of Cambridge life means that many will only be relevant to one essay and then linger depressingly on the shelf for months after. The solution? Request books from your college or faculty library – they will be more than happy to help. For those you need to annotate, try Heffer’s second-hand section, Oxfam Books on Sidney Street, or Books for Amnesty on Mill Road.

For more general use, Unidays and NUS cards are fantastic. I am constantly surprised by the number of students who don’t make full use of them. From ASOS to Alton Towers, you can save some serious money on both everyday items (Co-op offer 10% off with an NUS card) and treats. Showing an NUS card can also entitle you to discounts at restaurants on Mondays and Tuesdays –30% off at Zizzi, 40% at Pizza Express and even 50% at Ed’s Easy Diner! With a Cambridge week that runs from Thursday to Wednesday, Monday and Tuesday are practically the weekend!

Food. It consumes (pun intended) a large part of our maintenance loan and dictates our diet throughout the term. It may be smoked salmon in Week One, but it will be beans on toast by Week Eight. However, this need not be the case – you can still treat yourself to some gourmet goods when you’re feeling the pinch. As well as offering a student discount after 3pm, Itsu sells all items at half price after 8.30pm, and after 6.30pm on Sunday. I am also a self-confessed Marks and Spenser fan. Yes, I know, they don’t have a hot pizza counter, but they do slash their prices as closing time draws near. I have it down to a fine art: if you drop in to M & S Food at around 6pm on a weekday or 4.30pm on a Sunday, you will be guaranteed to pick up something delicious for as little as a third of the original price. My recent bargains include two red velvet muffins for 50p and a rather posh beetroot and goats’ cheese salad for £1. Luxury on a budget is not a fantasy!

So there you have it: my top tips to help you survive on a student budget and indulge a little along the way. Oh, it’s 5.59pm! I’d better head off to Marks…

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