How I manage my money at university

Mia Ainsley

As we all know, university is not getting any cheaper, especially with the current cost of living crisis, which is making situations even harder for everyone, especially students. No matter how much you budget your money, it is easy to get a little carried away with the ‘uni lifestyle’, often waiting (maybe praying) for the next loan instalment to come through! In this blog, I would like to share some ‘top tips’ that have worked well for me when it comes to cutting down costs, whilst also making sure that I can fully engage with the activities and experiences that Durham has to offer.

Don’t be afraid to say no!

This can be particularly difficult in the first year, when you may feel a certain pressure to go out every night in order to make friends. However, it is important not to feel influenced by what others are doing. The reality is, everyone’s financial situations differ; it is absolutely reasonable to go for more budget-friendly options, even if that is not the lifestyle your friends appear to be living. Unfortunately, we often compare ourselves to other people and, for me, it sometimes felt like everybody around me could do more and never worry about money, but that simply was not the case. Thoughts like these only impede your own experience at university. Students come from all different paths and so likening ourselves to another is the biggest mistake we can make when it comes to money. Equally, planning your income effectively and deciding which events work well for you and your budget, without feeling ashamed to say no to things that are not suitable, is a healthy habit to start at university.

Work (if you can and need to)

Part-time employment has been crucial for my own personal experience at university, developing me both personally and professionally, but it certainly is not for everyone. Primarily, your studies are the most important aspect of your time at university and so, if you feel like a job would distract from that, then this tip may not be for you. However, working part-time as an online tutor and being employed by the university as a student ambassador, are two roles which have transformed and enhanced my experience here at Durham. Being proactive in searching for jobs when they become available or even working at home in the holidays, can support you financially and ensure that you have enough money to enjoy as much of the university experience as you like. At Durham, there are lots of part-time jobs available in the city, at the university, college and Durham Student Union.

Working as a Durham Student Ambassador (DSA) has been not only a great way to earn some extra money, but also helped me to meet some of my best friends at Durham

Think savvy

I am sure that, for a lot of students, setting up accounts on websites such as Unidays and Student Beans was one of the first things they did when they came to university. Yet, we can still forget to use them! I get caught up using codes on websites that are familiar to me and that I use regularly but sometimes forget about other deals, which may end up saving more money long term. Researching these platforms and keeping yourself up to date with the newest codes and promotions, can make sure that you get the best value out of your spending. Moreover, apps like Too Good To Go have been instrumental for a lot of students and are definitely worth checking out.

Make the most out of university resources

Colleges can be resourceful places for books, free events, social gatherings and acquiring memberships to cheaper societies and sports clubs. When you move into your college, the excitement of making friends and living out can sometimes cast aside the other ways in which they can be utilised. Make sure that you follow your college via social media or on their email, to be the first to hear about cheaper events that may be coming up. Equally, some colleges can offer scholarships or bursaries that you can apply for. This could be something to ask your college about if you think you could be eligible. Looking at Facebook groups like Overheard and Durfess means that you could be the first to discover when another student is selling their second-hand course books or tickets to events. This tip can save a lot of money.

Prioritising is key

Student life is one of the highlights of moving away to university. One of the best things about studying at Durham is the extent of social events they offer students, and it certainly has a lot to show through balls, formals, fashion shows and much more. Equally, the city is filled with countless cafes, restaurants, and bars. Although there is so much to do, it is not necessary to attend every single event or pay for a coffee every time you go into town. Personally, I like to sit down before each term and plan exactly which events I would like to attend so that I can save the money I will need accordingly. Despite my unbelievable sweet tooth, I also try my best not to be tempted by the cakes I see on offer in the cafe windows as I walk to class each morning. Of course, I treat myself now and then, but it is not a priority of mine to spend a lot of money here, I would much rather save for bigger events at college. This can be difficult to do, but it can save a lot of money long-term so it may be worthwhile (no matter how much willpower it takes).

Discover more

The University has set up a Cost of Living Hub which brings together the help available to students.

Mia Ainsley


Hi! I am Mia, a third year Modern Languages and Cultures (MLAC) student at Durham University. From the north east & a very proud member of Josephine Butler College. When I am not studying for my degree, you can probably find me taking part in some of Durham's societies. I am one of the project coordinators for MLAC Outreach society, a member of the 93% club and hoping to join yoga soon too!


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