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Written by Farida El-Kafrawy, BSc Social Sciences with Quantitative Methods

At an assembly in high school, I clearly remember my head of year holding out a can of dog food for everyone to see, opening it and eating a large spoonful. The hall was filled with a mixture of laughter and horrified faces. Our head of year warned us that if we wanted to avoid eating baked beans and dog food when entering university life, we’d need to budget.

Now, dog food is actually quite expensive, so the idea of surviving on that shouldn’t worry you, but living on a tight budget is a reality for many students. Below are some suggestions that may help your budget stretch a little further.

Food

This is one of my favourite topics so it was hard to narrow down. Here are some places I would recommend if you’re on a budget: 

  • The Union’s Cafés. The Chicken Tikka Masala is making me salivate right now… oh and the prices - much cheaper than you’d get anywhere else around Euston. 

  • Pizza Neo and Stone Willy’s offering pizzas (and wraps too from the latter). Both are halal with Stone Willy’s also providing vegan options.

  • The UCL Shop stocks lots of low-cost snacks, sandwiches and drinks.

  • For those on a strict budget, there are supermarkets around campus so you can make your own lunch. If you need a place to heat up your home-cooked lunch, there’s microwaves in the Union buildings and the Student Centre. Tip: if you go to the supermarket just before closing time, you’ll find a range of heavily reduced items which are expiring soon. 

  • Hare Krishna hand out free, nutritious vegetarian meals at two stands outside UCL and SOAS everyday between 12:00 and 13:00.

Shopping

TOTUM card, previously called NUS Extra card, gets you loads of discounts in high-street shops and restaurants. You can also get a free 6-month trial for Amazon Prime, discounts at Boohoo, Co-op and lots of other places.

Culture: theatre, cinema, art and music

  • Young Barbican is free to join. You can get tickets to see the theatre, musical performances or new film releases for as little as £5. The National Theatre entry pass is free and gives you access to £7.50 theatre tickets.

  • Many cinemas have student discounts. A good shout is the ICA where you can get £8 cinema tickets on Tuesdays or £5 tickets if you join as a Blue Member.

  • With a Student Art Fund membership you get great discounts for entering exhibitions. 

  • Shows produced by societies: Jazz society hosts gigs at the Institute Bar, UCL Writers Society have spoken word nights, Bloomsbury Theatre hosts comedy night showcases and the annual Afro-Carribean Panafrik show. There are over 300 societies so there’s always something to watch! 

Fitness

Get fit with societies like UCL Yoga and Meditation Club, martial arts clubs, UCL Waterpolo Club and lots more (check out the online directory to find them all). If you’re looking for cheap gym membership, then Bloomsbury Fitness is the way to go with classes included in the student-friendly membership prices. And for those not looking for much commitment, there’s Project Active sessions which are just £2.50 - £3 a session - an absolute bargain!

Travel

student oyster card isn’t the only way you can save money. If your family lives outside of London and you need to use the train often, a 16-25 Railcard will get you 1/3 off rail fares across the UK for a year for £30. You can also add your 16-25 Railcard on a normal Oyster Card to get the same discount. 

Going abroad? You can also get ridiculously cheap flights to places across Europe by searching SkyScanner, EasyJet and Ryanair directly. Return flights to Spain can cost a measly £10! Buying a Totum card can get you a lot of travel discounts in the UK too, but you’ll also get a free ISIC card which gives you discounts internationally including Euroline discounts, hotels and restaurants abroad!