(For students, travellers and the ‘strapped-for-cash’)
The situation for young people across Europe varies widely but for the majority who are studying, travelling or ‘interning’ these times can be very tough on the bank balance. Last month in the UK it was “National Student Money Week”. The aim: to raise awareness of the financial support currently available to university students, so that young people will not be put off by the new higher £9,000 (€10,300) annual fees. But, apparently, future debt is not the most important issue for current students, Student Money Saver polled 250 students and found that 91% were more worried about the cost of day-to-day life than the long-term repayments. As nearly all students, backpackers and under-paid people will tell you, finding the balance between enjoying life and avoiding crazy debt is a constant struggle. Today I share some every-day money-saving tips that I have picked up along the way.
Firstly and probably most importantly is learning how to be an effective shopper. Here are my 5 supermarket shopping tips:
- Shop with a friend to make the most of 2 for 1 deals.
- Buy “own brands” on selected items (but in the wake of recent events maybe don’t include meat in that category).
- Shop late in the day. Often, supermarkets reduce their products late in the day when the best-before dates are looming. Search out the discount section and you can pick up some bargains. Normally, even if it says it goes off tomorrow it will be fine for several days, just use your head about what products are ok.
- Don’t shop when you are hungry, you will buy loads more.
- Shop at local markets and with local family businesses, many are actually cheaper – and you can be more sure about what you are getting for your money!
Tip 2: Freebies
Maybe in the past you stared at the floor to avoid the gaze of those people trying to hand out coupons or free samples of shampoo in the street. Well not now. Now you want to keep every freebie and voucher that you get. Not only that, but you are going to actively seek them out. In the UK, sites such as moneysavingexpert.com and myvouchercodes.co.uk can provide you with excellent discounts on a range of products and services. I am sure many of these sites exist across Europe so find your local one.
Learn how to cook economically. An important first step is to learn to love your freezer. Everything is much cheaper when bought in bulk, but no one wants to be eating Spaghetti Bolognese for a week and a half. Also, if you like to go out for a couple of drinks every now and then, I advise you always have some leftovers in the fridge before a night out. (It will stop you from visiting the kebab shop on the way home).
For backpackers, make sure you get yourself a decent cooler bag for transporting your fresh stuff from hostel to hostel or you’ll waste money on gone-off or forgotten food. Also, don’t forget to label and date it so it doesn’t get cleared away. I also met some people who kept a padlock on their cooler bag to deter fellow travellers’ drunken hands wandering for snacks in the night.
Tip 4: What creases?
In my experience most students and backpackers don’t worry about having creased or scruffy clothes. However, hopefully, you may occasionally need to go to an interview (or maybe on a date) and on those days you will be pleased to know that a hairdryer or hair straighteners can be just as good as an iron if you don’t own one!
Tip 5: Freecycle!
Freecycle is an organisation that now covers many countries world-wide. The site allows people to get rid of their old furniture cheaply and easily, as well as helping others to pick up some freebies. Not only is it great for the environment but it is much cheaper than going to IKEA where you will definitely end up buying a fake plant and some kitchen utensils that you don’t really need. Alternatively, check out this blog for some similar alternative services (based in the UK).
Even if you have a very nice landlord (and more importantly when you don’t) you need to understand the rights and rules of renting a property and the conditions that surround getting your deposit back and paying for cleaning at the end of your lease. I have rented a property in 4 different countries and every time the process has been completely different and I have lost hundreds in deposit repayments due to badly explained contract conditions. Contact your local authority to get more information for your region. One thing is always the same though, take a lot of pictures when you move in. By doing this and discussing them with your landlord you avoid any last-minute arguments about where that giant hole in the wall came from.
Tip 7: Winter Wonderland
For those living in countries where it is cold during winter you will already know that paying for heating is expensive, especially if you live in an old house. Whilst I do not suggest that you live in freezing conditions, it is probably not necessary to have the thermostat set to 20 degrees. Invest in a pair of slippers, a hot water bottle and a dressing gown. (The latter becomes vital for making it out of the warm bed to the shower and consequently to university or work on time)
Learn to sew. Not necessarily particularly neatly or even that well, but just enough to hold that bag/coat/jumper together again.
Tip 9: Make Money
It’s not all about saving money, why not try to make a bit extra too. In the UK we have events called ‘car boot sales’. They are a great opportunity to make some money and clear out clutter at the same time; it involves selling your old stuff to other people from the back of your car at organised weekend events. Although I’m not sure if these are common Europe-wide, I am sure there is a variation of them everywhere. Don’t expect to sell your stuff for much, but old clothes, books, CDs, DVDs can all make between 20p-£2 (0.23€-2.30€). You could even offer to clear out things for friends and family in return for selling them. If nothing like this exists near you then think about Ebay. You’d be surprised what people will buy.
This is probably not new information to you but charity shops are a good place to pick up fashion bargains. You do have to be patient and trawl through quite a lot of old cr*p but if you have the stamina it is worth it when you find a designer jacket or bag for 5€. And luckily for us these are the years of “vintage” fashion, where we can finally be proud and even smug to buy our clothes second-hand! Similar rules should also be applied to books, DVDs and games, swap them with friends or buy and sell on the internet.
Do these tips apply to your country? What money-saving suggestions and websites do you have for people where you’re from? Leave your advice in the comments section below!