How to survive on a student budget

How to survive on a student budget

This article was updated by the Great British Mag team on 20 April 2022.

Surviving on a student budget can be challenging even with a part-time job, but it can be done if you use these nine tips.

1. Eat for free

Your food bill is going to be one of your biggest living expenses so it’s worth learning a few hacks on how to get free food.

Supermarkets and restaurants are conscious about food wastage which you can use to your advantage. By signing up to Olio you will get alerted when local businesses and even residents are giving away food for free.

The Real Junk Food Project is also a brilliant way to get free food whilst helping your local community. The charity is given food by businesses that is perfectly edible but cannot be sold, and in exchange for a few hours of volunteering you will get food  to take home for free as well as get to eat for free in their cafes.

2. Don’t pay for your clothes or furniture

Buying what you need to make your new home feel comfortable can get expensive but it needn’t if you are happy to use things that have already been used. Keep an eye out Gumtree Freebies and Freecycle listings, as you will find people giving furniture that is in good condition and even clothes.

You should also keep an eye on the social media pages set-up by international students at your university as they might give away the furniture and clothing they have bought because they will not be able to take it home with them

3. Sign-up for free trials

You could keep yourself entertained for most of the academic year by signing up to free trials with Netflix, Youtube, Hulu, Apple TV and Amazon Videothat go beyond the 30 day trial period and offer students a free trial for six month.

If you’re not great at remembering to cancel trial subscriptions there are plenty of companies that you can sign-up for free films and TV shows, such as Snagfilms, Tubi TV, Crackle and Popcornflix

The added advantage of getting your films and TV shows this way and not watching ‘regular TV’ is that you will not have to pay for a UK TV licencewhich costs £154.50.

If music is your thing then why not sign-up for a free 30 day trials with Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and Amazon Music, with Amazon Music offering the best value if you end up subscribing because you get access to 150,000+ movies and TV shows; free next day delivery from Amazon and thousands of books (including academic books) via the Kindle app. 

4. Sign-up to sampling companies

OK this is the deal when a company launches a new shampoo or a new flavour of crisps they need to create a buzz around the product so they produce millions of samples and you can sign-up to get these samples by signing up with and

5. Become a product tester

By becoming a product tester you could be sent anything from a toothpaste to a pair of trainers to test and keep for free. And in some cases, you might also be paid to give feedback on the product.

You can sign-up to be a product tester with Toluna, Bzzagent, Trnd and Alba Science which are all big companies so if you get accepted as a tester you will be sent a variety of products.

You can also sign up with companies directly for example you can sign-up to the supermarket Tesco. They run something called the Tesco home panel whereby you will be sent the supermarket’s own range of home, clothing, food and cleaning products to test. You can do the same thing with the drugstore, Boots by signing up to Boots panel you will be sent the latest hair and beauty products for free to test out.

6. Become a mystery shopper

You can feed your shopping habit and get to eat out at all kinds of restaurants by signing up to be a mystery shopper. By signing up to a company such as Market Force you can expect to be given money for the shopping trip, including your travel expenses, in exchange for your feedback which might involve filling out a questionnaire.

The same thing applies to reviewing a restaurant. Sign-up with one of the most popular companies, HGEM, and you will be given money to cover the meal and your travel expenses, in exchange for reporting back on your experience.

7. Get free software

One of the things you will need when you start university is a laptop and along with that software which can be pretty expensive. One way to avoid paying for software is to take advantage of your student status, and sign-up for a free version of Microsoft Office 365, which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Microsoft Teams, plus additional classroom tools.

You will need to use your university email address to register to download the software for free.

It’s also worth noting that other software you might need will most likely have a free version or offer a student discount, so do your research before paying out the big bucks.

8. Drink for free

Whether you like a pint or like to stick to soft drinks there is no denying that pub culture is a big part of British culture and student life in the UK, so why not partake for free by becoming a pub tester with Serve Legal.

You will have to be at least 18 but looking younger actually helps as the point of this job is to visit pubs in your local area to confirm they are checking the ID of young people.

The audit could bag you up to £50 as well as free drinks.

9. Go out for free

As a student you do have more free time, but the irony is that you don’t have much money, so bagging a free night out is the way to go.

One way is to collect points on loyalty cards such as Nectar. The card is accepted at Argos, Sainsburys, ASOS and Ebay.  Use it each time you make a purchase, to collect points to use on things like visiting the cinema and fun days out.

You can also bag free days out by using companies that reward customers for choosing them, such as O2 which offers its customers 2 for 1 offers on gigs, cinema tickets and other leisure activities. And Compare the Market which gives you free cinema tickets as a reward for buy your broadband, home insurance or arrange your utilities through their website.

Other ways to go out for free is to put your name down on the guest list for clubs and turn up earlier for free entry. Look out for free gigs and concerts at your university. Book tickets to see TV shows being recorded and find out what free events are happening in your area to mark a festival or occasion, for example most areas have a free firework display to mark the start of the New Year.

You might also want to read:

Are UK universities expensive 

Best paid part-time jobs for international students 

What is the cost of studying in the UK?