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How to have savings as a broke student

Danila explains how to start saving as a student

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Savings… why you need them!

It is never too early to start setting financial goals and learn about money and how to manage it better. You can only learn this in practice and small habits built now can easily be adapted later on when you are making more – with a more impressive pay-off.

As a fully self-funded student… in all honesty, I do not make enough to make considerable deposits to my savings. For me, it has been more of a mentality shift than anything else. When you do not have a lot of funds available it’s easy to think it doesn’t matter, so why bother trying to save. Or to think “I’ll just do that when I graduate and get my big girl job”.

But hey… something is better than nothing. I have a few small ways I contribute to my piggy bank.

Cash does not exist

I do not use cash anymore. I just don’t. So now, if I ever come into any cash for any reason, I put it all in my piggy bank. If a friend pays me back for a drink in cash – savings. I took out cash for a specific reason – the change goes to savings. I find a tenner on the ground – savings. You get the idea.

This is such a rare occurrence, maybe once or twice a month and is a small amount, but I would rather let it accumulate than impulsively spend it on things I do not need. I tend to have an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach, so it’s incredibly easy to forget that money exists until I need it.

Using budgeting and savings apps

Most banks have the feature to round up your credit card payments to the nearest pound and add that to your savings automatically. (For example, your Tesco food shop was £12.35, so your app adds 65p to your savings). It is such a small amount that you never really feel the loss when it leaves your account, but it can accumulate over time. You can also decide to multiply how many times the round-up is applied (e.g. If you selected the 2x round-up it adds £1.30 in savings instead) and I can usually save around £50 every month this way without thinking about it.

If you find yourself regularly withdrawing from your savings account, you can look into sending your deposit into a separate account entirely. I regularly use a pre-paid card as it serves as my “allowance” account. The only money I have in it is a weekly deposit for food and pocket money. It is the only card I have on me on a daily basis.

If you want to do a deep dive into savings, you can also use the saving pot feature on money apps. You can set up rules to set aside small amounts every time you get paid, or when it rains, or if you are “naughty” and have takeaway too often etc. I have been able to save a lot with little amounts here and there that I never would notice missing but since it is all automated, I never have to think about.

Some apps can also split your savings into several pockets for different intended uses. I have set up my app in a way that it sets up 10% of everything I set aside in a separate pot labelled “treat yourself”. For every £200 I save, £180 goes towards a rainy day fund and £20 goes towards a small treat!

It was important to me to associate savings with positive experiences. I have used it on anything from, buying a book or make-up, to buying concert tickets and having solo dates in St Andrews to recharge.

Small changes big impact

Savings are not about needless frugality and stripping joy out of your life. It allows you to prioritise your mental well-being and stability over impulsivity – and saves you a lot of stress when emergencies come up.

And there is no amount “too little”. Even if you put away a couple of pounds a week here or there it helps build a great habit long term. Setting aside tiny amounts now and again is better than giving up altogether and spending everything you have. Adapt this to your life and it may make a difference over time.

For more information on budgeting, check out the University’s guide on managing your money

Danila Petrova

Originally from Bulgaria, studied Digital Interaction Design.

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Student voice category Campus life, Money and finance