Money-Saving Tips for New Students

Next month, a whole new intake of students will be starting at university – and this new intake includes more young people than ever before. One of the most famous aspects of the student life is the need to get by on a budget, and new students often spend a lot of money unnecessarily as they try to adjust to their new, frugal life. Here are a few useful pieces of advice that new students might benefit from as they begin their academic endeavours.

Don’t Buy New Books

So you’ve arrived at university, and you’ve seen a big sign outside the nearest chain bookshop offering 10% off to students. You walk in, and find a big display dedicated to your subject which has all your required reading neatly laid out. Great deal, right? Not really. Head online to Amazon Marketplace or eBay, and you’ll find perfectly good second hand copies for a fraction of the price of the brand new ones, with or without student discount. You may also be able to borrow a good chunk of your reading list for free from the university library. It’s best to do this as soon as you can after you get your reading list though, as other students will have the same idea and copies might disappear fast. Being a new student will give you a slight advantage, as a lot of those doing the same modules as you will still be pulled in by the bookshops instead before catching on in a semester or two.

Choose Your Student Bank Account Carefully

If you haven’t already, there’s still time to sign up for a specialist student bank account. These tend to offer useful features – most commonly a large and affordable overdraft facility – but they also tend to carry useful and money-saving incentives targeted towards student needs. Often, that overdraft facility will not just be affordable but interest-free, in combination with a more concrete incentive such as Amazon vouchers or a free student railcard giving you a third off train travel.

Shop Around (for Everything!)

Shopping around really pays off for students, and should be done for just about everything. It’s not uncommon for students to split their weekly food shop between two or three supermarkets, picking up each item on their list for the shop that sells it most cheaply. You’ll soon get the hang of this, and some students have picked up a seemingly encyclopaedic knowledge of which shop offers the best value for which item. Even nightlife can be something you shop around for. Lots of local venues will offer discount nights specifically targeting the student crowd, and these don’t all fall on the same evening. It’s easy to learn which places have student discounts and when, so that you can choose the appropriate venue for any given night out.

What to do if You’ve Paid too Much Tax

For some people, a letter from HMRC saying that you have paid too much tax and owe them money is quite simply their worst tax nightmare. However, some people find themselves in the opposite position; they’ve paid too much. If this is the case for you, then obviously you will want to claim back the excess. Often, at the end of the tax year HMRC will pick up on it themselves and send you your refund of your own accord, but if you don’t want to wait that long or don’t want to risk it then claiming it back is much simpler than you might think.

When Might you Pay too Much Tax

The most common situations in which people overpay tax are:

  • Their employer has used the wrong tax code, or they have been on emergency tax for a time after starting a new job.

  • They have lost a job, finished a seasonal job, or moved into a lower-paid position and have been paying tax through PAYE as though their previous earnings would have remained steady throughout the year.

  • You have made a mistake on your tax return and overstated your earnings or failed to claim an allowance or expense.

HMRC provides an online tool to help you work out whether you might have overpaid.

Talk to Your Employer

Your employer may be able to claim a tax refund on your behalf. Employers will most often do this if the overpayment is the result of a mistake they have made, such as using the wrong tax code. This can be the simplest and quickest way to reclaim tax, as if your employer is able and willing to do this then it can be as simple as verbally asking your boss.

Talk to HMRC

The standard process is simply to contact HMRC, explain to them why you think you have paid too much tax, and request your refund. You can contact them over the phone or in writing, and the process is pretty much as simple as just asking. They will work out how much excess tax you have paid and return the balance to you. Alternatively, if you are mistaken and you have not overpaid, they will write to you explaining why.

If you Complete a Self-Assessment Tax Return

If you complete an annual self-assessment tax return, either because you are entirely self-employed or because you have other earnings alongside your employment, then the process may be different. In this case, HMRC might ask you to wait until your earnings are reported on your next tax return, or complete your tax return earlier than you otherwise would, and include the overpayment in their tax calculation. If you are reclaiming tax due to a mistake on your previous tax return, it should be possible to amend this for a period of twelve months after the submission deadline rather than submitting a new return.

What to do if You are Being Underpaid

The government recently made headlines by naming and shaming 70 companies that have been paying their workers less than the minimum wage. If you have fallen victim to this kind of scheme, or have not been paid for all of the hours you have worked, then your household budget will have been unnecessarily tightened and you could be owed money. Paying under the minimum wage is illegal, and it is your right to be paid at least that amount and for all the hours you work.

Even if you do not earn below the minimum wage, you may be underpaid for a person in your position. If you think your employer may be paying you less than you are worth, search job sites for roles that are very similar to yours and see what the average pay is. While you won’t have the same legal recourse as somebody who is being paid under the minimum wage, you could still take steps to rectify the situation.

Illegal Underpayment

If you are being paid less than the national minimum wage, your employer is breaking the law. Your employer is also breaking the law if you are paid by the hour but pay for some of the hours you work is being withheld. For instance, some employers try to set arbitrary and often unrealistic timescales for your work, and then say they will only pay you for the time they think it should take even if it takes longer.

The one bright side to this kind of situation is that because your employers actions are illegal, rather than simply unfair, you have relatively strong opportunity for recourse. It is usually recommended that you talk to your employer first, informing them that you are being paid less than the minimum wage and that this is illegal. If they are not willing to resolve the issue with you, then you can call the Pay and Work Rights Helpline to report them anonymously, or seek an employment tribunal.

If your employer should go so far as to dismiss you for requesting you be paid the legal minimum, this will constitute unfair dismissal.

Underpaid for Your Position

The situation is very different if you are not earning below the minimum wage but are simply being underpaid compared to others in equivalent roles and with similar experience. If your pay is substantially below that earned by your peers either within or outside the company (remember, simply being under the average is not unusual) then the situation may be unfair. However, it is probably not actually illegal and so you do not have the same level of recourse as somebody who is being paid below the minimum wage.

Once again, the first step is simply to talk to your employer. Explain to them that other people doing essentially the same job as you are earning a lot more, and substantiate this with some of the figures you have found. It may be that they are willing to discuss a fairer wage with you. If they are not willing to do so and you are not willing to work under your current wage, it may be time to simply look elsewhere. However, it is usually best to remain in your current role and on the best possible terms with your employer until you find a new position.

Quick and Easy Ways to Boost Your Cash

Sometimes, it can be nice to get a quick cash boost. There are many reasons you might want to do so. You might want to gather up a little extra money to buy yourself a treat or to ease an approaching financial burden. In more financially tight circumstances, you may need help meeting a sudden expense or a bill payment. Whatever the case, there are a few ways you may be able to give a little boost to your available stash of spending money.

Check for Forgotten Money

Sometimes, you might find that there is a chunk of money you already have and simply forgot about. Usually, this will be quite small but can still be a pleasant boost or a vital help in some situations. Places where you are most likely to have forgotten about some money include:

  • Credit With Utility Providers: If you have been paying a monthly direct debit for gas and electricity and this regularly exceeds your usage, you may have built up a good chunk of credit on your account and you are entitled to request this be paid out. Bear in mind that it is normal to build up credit in the Summer and this will usually be used to offset higher costs in winter, so consider this before withdrawing.
  • PayPal: If you have ever sold anything on popular websites like eBay, you will likely have built up money in your PayPal account. Many people never get around to withdrawing money to their bank account, and some don’t realise this is necessary. Even if you have never actually sold anything, if you regularly use PayPal to pay for things and have sometimes be refunded it is still worth checking if you have money in your account.
  • Cashback Websites: Cashback sites are a popular way to get money back when you shop, but it isn’t paid directly to your bank account. Instead, you amass credit and, as with Paypal, have to withdraw it manually. If you use cashback sites and haven’t withdrawn recently, check how much you have waiting for you in your account.

Extra Work

For some people, it will be possible to boost pay by simply taking on more work. The obvious trade-off is that it requires commitment in your free time, often quite significant, so it can leave you with less leisure time and even put a strain on family and social life. However, when it is possible it is a definite way to boost your finances.

Mostly, this option is open to those who work in jobs where overtime is available. Volunteering for more paid overtime will quite simply result in more pay at the end of the week or month. Some people who have in-demand skills may also be able to take on freelance work outside their day job, but bear in mind this income is liable for tax which will not be taken through PAYE.

Have a Clear-Out

A lot of people would be surprised, if they checked in the backs of cupboards or the depths of the attic, just how many unwanted things they have that other people would happily pay for. Selling online, setting up a stall at a boot fair, or placing classified ads can turn these items into money and clear space at the same time.

Gadgets, such as old mobiles left over after a free upgrade, can be among the most lucrative items to clear out. However, they also depreciate fast as technology moves on so it is best to sell them as soon as possible.

Using Smartphone Apps to Save Money

Smartphones are a wonder of modern technology, and through the use of apps they can accomplish a wide range of things. This includes a range of apps to help you save money in various ways. Some of these relate directly to your phone – such as reducing the size of your bill – and some help you to manage other aspects of your finances more effectively.

Bill-Cutting Apps

There are several apps that can help reduce the cost of using your smartphone. For instance, messengers such as WhatsApp can serve a similar function to text messaging, but they use your phone’s data (mobile internet access) allowance rather than text messages. Since they use such a tiny amount of data, this usually works out far cheaper for pay-as-you-go customers, and easier on the allowances of contract customers. Skype serves a similar purpose for voice calls. The downside is that you can only contact people in this way if they also use the app and are connected to the internet.

Money Management

There are a number of budgeting apps out there to help you manage your outgoings. These include apps to help you keep track of your utility usage and the size of your bills, some provided by energy companies, as well as apps to help you manage the cost of things like fuel shopping and car usage. This type of app does actively cut your spending, but rather serves as a tool helping you keep track of your finances and manage them more effectively. This helps you identify ways of keeping your spending down, and to better realise when small expenses are mounting up, and often this will leave you better off.

Replacing Other Gadgets

With certain apps, a smartphone will be able to replace other gadgets and therefore save you the expense of buying them. Straight out of the box, a smartphone should be able to serve as an excellent MP3 and MP4 player, and many people have already stopped buying new music players because their smartphone does the job perfectly well. Another excellent example is using a smartphone as a SatNav. Most have an app for this installed as standard, but this is not always very good and a lot of people therefore assume that smartphones do not make good SatNavs. However, there are a number of much better apps available to download, free or very cheap. There are even apps from major manufacturers like Garmin and TomTom, which tend to be more expensive but still cheaper than buying a separate device. You will probably need some kind of in-car holder for your phone, but these are widely available for very little money.

Could You get Cheaper Rent as a Property Guardian?

For young people who are just starting out with living independently, rents can be pretty steep. However, there is one way you may be able to live in a place for far less. What’s more, that place could potentially be a country mansion or a large, disused public building such as a church. This could be achieved by becoming a property guardian.

What are Property Guardians?

Property guardians are sort of a cross between tenants and housesitters for empty properties. Property owners, companies and organisations allow people to live in empty and disused properties for knockdown prices in order to discourage squatters from setting up there. The average rent paid by guardians is somewhere around £250 a month or £350 in London – far below the standard rate of a rented residence.

In return for their low rents, guardians not only serve the purpose of deterring squatters but also have a few basic responsibilities. These include keeping the building reasonably secure, reporting any problems you come across, and generally looking after the area they occupy and keeping it clean.

What are the Catches?

The extremely low rents that guardians pay form the obvious advantage, and the duties expected in return are very light. However, the situation is not without its disadvantages.

If you occupy a larger property (such as a country estate, which is not entirely unheard of in the guardianship world), it will probably be shared with others. Usually you will have your own private bedroom, but share many facilities.

The biggest disadvantage, however, is probably the fact that property guardians do not have the same rights as regular tenants. They are essentially there to look after the property until it is needed again. When it is, you may have to move with just a couple of weeks’ notice. Some guardians manage to find cheap accommodation for years, but there is absolutely no guarantee of this. It is best to have a back-up plan such as returning to your parents if becoming a property guardian.

One aspect of becoming a property guardian may be seen as an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on the individual property and your own spirit of adventure. The range of properties on offer is extremely wide. Examples include everything from small homes to country estates, and many are non-residential buildings such as churches, schools and warehouses. Former hotels and care homes also sometimes employ guardians. Semi-empty large buildings and disused churches can be eerie, while non-residential properties such as warehouses may offer only very basic living standards. Country estates may turn up from time to time, but it is important to note this is not the norm and many properties are a world away from them.

How to Become a Property Guardian

You can become a property guardian by searching for properties with guardian companies such as Camelot and Adhoc. Some companies may have restrictions on acceptance, such as a minimum income threshold.

Which Things Really Push up Your Electricity Bill?

Bills are the bane of households everywhere, so saving electricity (and therefore money) is a popular pursuit. But it can be hard to know which things really use enough electricity to make a big difference, and this can make it difficult to work out where it is most important to economise. Knowing which things waste the most energy can help you target your efforts and bring down your bills.

Kettles, Ovens and Heating

Heating something up with electricity is one of the most energy-hungry processes of all. Anything that involves heating can be a good place to look when you want to economise. Kettles, electric ovens, toasters, and electric heaters will all use a lot of energy, so avoid using them unnecessarily. Even little things like not putting more water than necessary in your kettle can mount up to a noticeable difference. If your central heating uses an electric boiler, you can even potentially make savings from just turning the thermostat down a couple of degrees.

Light Bulbs

Light bulbs, by contrast, do not use nearly as much energy as many people think. Even old-style, non-energy saving lightbulbs are not that power hungry in the grand scheme of things. However, this does not mean that you should pay no attention at all to lighting as you aim to cut your bills. Over the course of a year, unnecessarily leaving lights on can still mount up. If you are also concerned about the environment, lots of households being careful with their lighting can also add up to a big cut in emissions. Leaving a light on by accident now and again is likely nothing to worry about, but you should still aim to turn them off when not in use. Bear in mind that, while old-style lightbulbs do not use a vast amount of electricity, modern energy-saving ones still use less by far and so can still save you money over time.

Standby Gadgets

Things like TVs and computers do not use a huge amount of energy while on standby, especially if they are fairly new as energy-efficient standby modes have improved in recent years. That being said, if you leave things on standby most or all of the time they can still lead to a noticeable increase in your electricity bill. Like lightbulbs, the relatively small difference can mount up over time, especially if more than one device is left on standby. It is easy to be lulled into complacency by the relatively small amount of energy used and let it mount up more than you expected, so make sure you turn devices off properly when they are not in use.

Ways to Make Cash This Summer

Switch bank for a £100

Building societies and banks are looking to open as many new current accounts as they can which means competition has never been higher before. This means many of them are offering lucrative deals to switch where you deposit your money. Why not take advantage of witching accounts and benefit from some of the perks offered. The Co-op Bank, Halifax and First Direct are currently offering £100 in cash for moving your account to them. What more, Co-op are even offering a £25 donation to a charity of your choice.

Cashback offerings

Foursquare and American Express have joined forces in order to offer its customers cashback when you spend money at a selected number of shops and restaurants. The offer is valid from now until the end of the year or until such time where 15,000 people have taken up the deals, whichever comes first. The way this works is that you need to sync you American Express car to your Foursquare account and then press the check in button when you reach the desired destination in which you want to benefit from cash back. Following this the offer will be sent to your account and once you have made a purchase your account will be credited! Simple!

However, if you are not currently the holder of an American Express card and this offer is luring you into getting one then you have plenty of options. The American Express Platinum Cashback Exclusive card offers you the chance to benefit from an interest free period if you would like to spread the cost of a big purchase. The card will offer you a 16 month interest free period on purchases in addition to 1.25% cashback on every pound you spend. The cost for these benefits is a £25 annual charge in addition to a representative 18.7% APR. 

Saving on the cost of alcohol for your summer parties

If you’re the type of person who enjoys an occasional barbeque or partying with friends, then you will be well aware of the cost of alcohol. While drinking responsibly is always advised, so is drinking on the cheap! If you join TopCashback as a new member they will offer you a fantastic deal of purchasing two four backs of beer worth £7 and receiving the cashback of £7 within several weeks.

How much a lifetime of commuting costs?

According to a recent survey, a career-long commute is likely to set a worker back an average of£50,000.

The investing service Nutmeg has carried out a poll where it estimated that for a Londoner who starts work at 18 and retires at the age of 65, his cost for commuting will reach as high as £66,000.

Furthermore, the hours that an individual commuter will spend travelling to and from work are nearly 11,000, which is the equivalent of 443 days. Both the length and the cost of a commute are highest in London, compared to other regions.

The daily time that it takes for a commute to and from London is an hour and 14 minutes, with estimated travel costs of £118. However, the Liverpool commute is in contrast with the London one. It is only 42 minutes and costs £72 a month on average. This means that workers in Liverpool spent around 7,532 hours of travel in a lifetime. Furthermore, comparing with Glasgow where commuters travel for 52 minutes a day which is more than those in Liverpool, they pay the least expensive prices for travelling- £63 a month which adds up to £35,500 on average in a lifetime.

From the commuters that participated in the survey, 20% pointed out as a reason for their commute that it was too expensive to buy or rent closer to their workplace. Indeed, 51 % of commuters in London agree that the cost of travel is too high. The poll showed that the most satisfied commuters are in Birmingham where only 25% of them complain about the expense of travel.

When asked about the most annoying things about their daily commute, participants in the survey pointed out jams, cost of travel, delays, and dangerous or bad driving. Other problems were the length of the journey, the crowds in the trains, music-playing fellow travellers and those commuters who take up too much seat room.

Nevertheless, what people spend on train journeys is still half the equivalent of commuting by car. On average, people travel around 10,000 miles a year on an annual season ticket and the average price of a journey is around £5 or 24p per mile.

How to make money in unusual ways

Everyone would like to have more cash but however, this is not so easy to happen. It is hard to find ways to increase your income, besides the obvious ones of finding a second job or selling your stuff on eBay or Amazon. Here are a few interesting ways to earn some extra money.

Get paid for your old car

Scrap metal prices are rising and this means a lot of companies will be interested in your old car and will be willing to pay a good sum for it. Examples for such companies are or Their scheme is that you get paid beforehand £100 for your broken-down car. The rest of the money that you will make out of this deal depends on the kind of car you have and where you are located in the country. Just for a quick comparison, com will pay £160 for a 1999 Renault Megane Scenic in Glasgow, but only £115 for a 2001 VW Golf GTI Turbo in Bristol.

It is important that you get a Certificate of Destruction from the scrap firm you have chosen if you decide to sell your car. Fill section 3 of your V5C certificate and send it to the DVLA. This will serve as a proof that the car is destroyed and is no longer your concern.

Sell your hair

There is a high demand for wigs and hair extensions and this means many companies will be willing to pay for your hair. You need to put it into a ponytail, cut it off and then send it to the company. Prices depend on the length and the health of your hair. Just to get a understanding of how prices vary, pays up to £60 for hair that is 12 inches in length or up to £200 for really long (19 inches or longer) locks.

Become a Model

You do not have to look like the models on TV in order to earn some money out of modeling. Adverts look for all kinds of people so it is worth having a look around in websites like in order to find a modeling job that is suitable for you.

Move your direct debits

The usual way people set up their direct debit is to pay everything, like rent, bills, etc. at the start of the month when our wages arrive. However, if you move all the direct debits for the end of the month and then use a current account with a decent rate of interest, you will earn interest each month before you pay your bills. It is an option worth checking out.

Explore these options and you might find yourself earning extra cash in no time!