Looking after the veterinary profession

Spend Less

Strategies to Spend Less


If you've done a budget you should have a pretty good idea of how much you spend and on what. It's essential that you keep a roof over your head, have enough to eat and keep up to date with a gas/electricity/water bills but what you do with the rest is negotiable.

Budget the luxuries first

The idea is to go through your expenses and make some strategic nip-tucks. This takes ruthless honesty ... how strong is your willpower when your first student loan instalment (£1,000+) is sitting in your bank account? Do you have a tendancy to splurge on clothes or mad nights out? A weakness for skinny frappamoccacino lattes? Or maybe there's no way on earth you'll give up your gym or sports team membership?


Economising is not about giving up everything you love - it's about compromising and finding cheaper alternatives so that you can still enjoy yourself. See our top tips below for making savings in many different areas but first, for those items you know are a waste but you just can't help yourself ... try moneysavingexpert.com's The Demotivator.

10 cigarettes a day will cost you over £900 a year.

Spend Less Day-to-Day

  • Take a packed lunch and save £400 a year. If sandwiches don’t appeal, pasta or rice leftovers can be made into salads.

  • Buy fewer teas and coffees or take a thermos – the small daily savings soon add up.

  • If you smoke, 10 cigarettes a day will cost you over £900 a year.

  • Don’t carry too much cash: if you have it you’re likely to spend it.

  • Try paying for things with your debit card, so that you only spend the cost of the item. If you pay for something that costs £7 with a £10 note it’s likely you will spend the remaining £3 unnecessarily.

  • Alternatively, you might find it suits you better to use cash, but only withdraw each week what your budget allows you to spend. Once this is spent, you’ll have to wait until next week to take out more cash.

  • Only use cash machines that offer free cash withdrawals. The ones that charge you will state this before allowing you to complete the transaction.

Don't go shopping when you are hungry

Spend Less on Utility Bills

  • If you move into rented accommodation you may be able to save money on water, gas and electricity by switching to a cheaper supplier. Check out some price comparison sites:
    Energy Watch

  • Take meter readings when you move in (and also when you move out) and write to utility suppliers with a copy of your tenancy agreement if necessary so that you don’t get charged for previous tenants’ usage

  • Make savings and spread the cost of bills by paying by direct debit or pay your bills on-line

  • Turn off lights and appliances at the mains. Save money and the planet

Help with Utility and Domestic Bill Arrears

Charis Grants

It is important not to ignore gas, electricity and water bill arrears as you could face being cut off without a supply. Unpaid arrears can also affect your credit rating. If you are having difficulty paying your utility bills, check if you are eligible for a Charis Grant. These are for arrears of utility and domestic bills for a number of utility companies. Grants are for arrears only – if you have already paid the bill you can’t apply.


Charis Grants
The Trustee
PO Box 42

Telephone – 01733 421 050/060 for an application form.

EDF Energy Trust

Help with arrears for electricity and gas bills (and some other domestic bills) for customers of EDF Energy brands: London Energy, SWEB Energy, Seeboard Energy, Virgin HomeEnergy.

Anglian Water Trust Fund

Help with arrears for water and other domestic bills for customers of Anglian Water or Hartlepool Water or by another water company where sewerage services are supplied by Anglian Water. These water companies are: Cambridge; Essex and Suffolk and Three Valleys.

British Gas and Scottish Gas

Help with arrears for electricity and gas bills (and some other domestic bills).

EoS Foundation

Help with arrears for water bills for customers of Bournemouth and West Hampshire Water, Folkestone and Dover Water, Mid Kent Water, Portsmouth Water, South East Water, and Tendring Hundred Water.

Unpaid arrears will affect your credit rating.

Spend Less on Phone and Broadband

  • A pay-as-you-go mobile will save you any nasty surprises as you can only spend to a pre-paid limit. Call costs are higher but there is no monthly fee.

  • If you use your mobile a lot (e.g. more than 150 minutes of calls and 100 texts a month), a contract deal will work out cheaper than pay-as-you-go but shop around for the best deal on moneysupermarket.com or Uswitch.

  • To reduce your mobile bill, stick to the free minutes and texts included in the tariff. To find the best mobile phone package check out onecompare. Look for deals on your landline phone e.g. weekend and evening cheaper or free calls, friends and family discounts.

  • If you have a BT phone line, it’s often cheaper to use a different provider for phone calls. It means 2 bills (one from BT plus another for your calls) but the savings can be significant.

  • If you live in a shared house and phone bills are escalating, think about installing a line which allows incoming calls (and 999) only.

  • Alternatively, request an itemised bill and ask everyone in the house to keep a record of their phone calls.

  • Paying bills online can be cheaper.

  • Search the best broadband deal website but always check the minimum contract period before committing to a package. Look for providers of cheap international calls and consider using prepaid calling cards.

  • You can now make free national and international phone calls via the internet. You’ll need a computer with broadband internet access and a hands free telephone headset – and so will the person you’re planning to talk to. To find out more visit www.skype.com.

  • But don’t be persuaded to call someone’s normal phone through your computer, as you may not get the best deal. If you want to ring a normal phone then visit the ‘Phones and Utilities’ section of www.moneysavingexpert.com for the latest prices from different low cost providers.

Spend Less on Food

  • A little local knowledge is very useful so try to familiarise yourself with your new surroundings – is your local shopping centre all Waitrose and Marks & Spencers or more like Lidl and Morrisons? If you shop in up-market shops you’re more likely to spend more.

  • Use supermarkets and markets instead of expensive local convenience stores.

  • Buying fruit and veg at a market is often cheaper than in supermarkets.

  • Get into the habit of checking prices and go for supermarket own brands if cheaper.

  • Do one big shop a week, don’t go shopping when you’re feeling hungry and always take a shopping list – you’re less likely to get tempted by expensive treats.

  • Shop with a friend or house-mate to take advantage of 2 for 1 special offers.

  • Larger packets work out cheaper so bulk-buy basics (pasta, rice etc).

  • Look out for local shops selling South Asian, Turkish, Chinese, Thai or Caribbean foods at low prices.

  • Cook at home and avoid buying expensive ready meals and takeaways.

  • If you live with other people, consider cooking as a group as this can be cheaper.

  • Make eating out an occasional treat not a regular event.

Cook at home

Spend Less on Entertainment

  • Invite friends round rather than always going out.

  • If you do go out for a night, just take the amount of cash you can afford to spend and leave your cards at home so you’re not tempted to take out more cash later in the night.

  • Take advantage of the discounts available with your NUS card (remember to register your NUS card on the NUS website, via the related site, for updates of all the latest offers and competitions).

  • Check if local cinemas offer cheaper tickets at certain times e.g. Monday nights and Orange's 2 for1 offer on Wednesdays.

  • See if your Students’ Union puts on movie nights or organise one yourself.

  • Check if your local sports centre or swimming pool does discount cards for students. You may have to pay initially but if you use it regularly the savings add up.

  • Make the most of cheap activities offered by your Students’ Union.

  • Join a club or society to enjoy your leisure time without spending loads.

  • If you’re out on the town for the night, meet at someone’s house or the Student Union bar for a couple of budget drinks before heading on to normal priced pubs and clubs.

  • Look out for student nights at local clubs with free or cheap entry and cut-price drinks.

Make the most of your Student Union

Spend Less on Textbooks and Equipment

  • Don’t buy any books before starting the course or during the first couple of weeks. Borrow first if you can, then only buy the essentials.

  • Use the library more and return library books on time to avoid expensive fines.

  • Ask students in other years for recommended key texts which can be supplemented with library books for more specific areas of learning.

  • Check out reputable online education resources.

  • Buy 2nd hand books from your university bookstall, department noticeboards, senior students, bookshops or try the websites below (for on-line auctions always check the date / edition number and price of postage).

  • If you’ve finished with textbooks, sell them to recoup some of the costs.

  • Medical equipment suppliers often offer discounts for bulk orders. Search for suppliers on-line and ring around to find the cheapest deal for an order of, say, 50 stethoscopes. Collect cheques from all the interested students in your year and arrange for the order to be delivered to the medical school (check with a member of staff first).

Spend Less on Travel

  • Use the cheapest mode of transport that is practical. Walk instead of taking the bus, get on a bus or tram instead of a train or the underground or ditch public transport altogether in favour of cycling.

  • For longer journeys, book coach and train journeys in advance for cheaper tickets.

  • Check out the Megabus website for very cheap journeys between some UK cities.

  • For cheap flights and international bus and rail passes go to the STA website. Here you can also buy the International Student Identity Card for discounts worldwide.

  • Students in London should apply to Transport for London for a Student Discount Oyster card to save 30% on all travelcards for bus, underground and local rail services. The card costs £5 and forms will be available from your university when you enrol – apart from the student savings, it important to remember that if you don't have an Oyster card, you could be paying more than twice as much to travel.

  • For travel in London visit the Transport for London website, where you can download bus maps and routes and order free cycle route maps. Bus travel is substantially cheaper than the underground.

If you don't have an Oyster card, travel in London will cost you more than double.

Spend Less on Health Care

You don't have to pay for most healthcare under the NHS and, even if there are charges, you may not have to pay them – see below.

What will I normally have to pay for?

While most health treatment is free under the NHS, there are charges for some services and treatments which, even as a student you would normally have to pay. Some of these are:

  • Prescriptions

  • Sight tests

  • Glasses/contact lenses

  • Wig or fabric supports

  • Dental treatment

Try to find an NHS dentist if at all possible - private dental treatment is very expensive. For help in finding an NHS dentist:

  • Visit the NHS Choices website in England

  • Phone NHS Direct on 0845 46 47 in Wales

  • Phone NHS24 on 0845 24 24 24 in Scotland

  • Check the Northern Ireland Central Services Agency website

Are there any exceptions to this?

Yes, if you fall into certain groups:

  • If you’re under 19 you can get free prescriptions, sight tests, vouchers for glasses and dental treatment wherever you study or live in the UK.

  • Prescriptions in Wales are free for people registered with a Welsh GP or Welsh patients who have an English GP with an accompanying entitlement card who get their prescriptions from a Welsh pharmacy. Wigs and appliances are also free in Wales.

  • The cost of prescriptions in Scotland has been reduced to £5.00 from 1 April 2008. If you study or live in Scotland you can get a free NHS eye examination and a free dental check, if you’re examined in Scotland, whatever your age.

  • If you fall into some other groups you may receive full or partial help with health costs. The NHS webpage Help with Health Costs is a useful place to explore as is the GOV.UK site on Benefits. Check to see if you are in one of these groups.

What if I don't fall into one of these groups?

If you don’t fall into one of these groups you may be able to get help through the means-tested NHS Low Income Scheme:

  • You may be able to get full (an HC2 certificate) or partial help (an HC3 certificate) through this Scheme.

  • EU, EEA and international students can also apply for help under this Scheme.

  • This Scheme may also help with necessary costs of travel to receive care under an NHS consultant.

How do I apply?

Apply on Form HC1:-

  • In England, Wales and Scotland ask for a Form HC1 on the Social Development website.

  • In Northern Ireland get a Form HC1 from the nearest local social security office to your University.

  • The student specific FAQS on the NHS Business Services Authority website are useful wherever you live or study in the UK. They will help you in filling in the HC1 Form and also give you tips about the best time to apply according to your circumstances.

  • The HC1 Form is less daunting than it looks to complete. Go through it systematically – you will probably find that you answer ‘no’ to most questions.

  • Remember to supply any documents for which you are asked.

How Do I Get Refunds?

  • If you’ve already paid for health costs and you become entitled to help under the Scheme you can claim refunds, except for prescription charges, on Form HC5. Ask for receipts after treatment.

  • For prescriptions you must get a receipt at the time you collect the prescription - Form FP7 in England, HCS(R) in Scotland) or PS7 in Northern Ireland – you can’t go back and get one later. The receipt tells you what to do to get a refund.

My income is too high?

  • If your income is too high to get help under the NHS Low Income Scheme and you need a lot of prescriptions you might be better off by buying a Pre-payment Certificate (PPC).

  • This will be the case if you need more than 3 prescribed items in 3 months or 14 items in 12 months.

  • The NHS Business Services Authority Prescription Prepayment Certificates webpage tells you how to apply for a PPC wherever you live in the UK and how much it will cost. But you won't need one if you are in Wales because prescriptions are free there.

  • You must have treatment from an NHS dentist to get help under the Low Income Scheme. Register with a NHS dentist as soon as you arrive at University, if you can find one. Don’t wait until you need treatment.

Finding deals on the Net

It's really worth doing some research on what deals there are out there – beware, however of the sites which want you to subscribe and pay a monthly fee – it's all too easy to see that amount disappear from your bank account each month when you are not making any savings.

Here are some suggestions…

  • www.studentbeans.com - new self-styled online provider of deals and discounts for students. Sign up for an account and print off personalised discount vouchers for entertainment, dining out and more.

  • www.vouchercodes.co.uk - free voucher codes and exclusive discounts.

  • www.stuwd.com - a free student only service that sends subscribers twice-weekly offers via text message.

  • The National Union of Students Extra card offers students cut-price dining deals, Virgin Experience Days and many discounts abroad - check out the offers online to make sure you'll use them before you buy a card!

  • www.isic.org - an International Student Identity Card will get you discounts on everything from theme park admission to gym memberships and cinema tickets to paintballing! It's also valid abroad and incorporates proof of age. Get either an NUS or an ISCI card and make a point of asking about student discounts wherever you go. You'd be surprised at the number of places that offer unadvertised discounts - if you don't ask, you won't get!

  • www.studentfreestuff.com - a collection of 'free' deals for students with some time to mess about on the net - some require sign-ups, taking surveys and so on.

  • www.freeguestlist.co.uk - a free service enabling you to queue jump and/or get into clubs for free in London - perfect for birthdays. Stop getting caught out by extortionate entry charges!

  • www.lastminute.com - possibly the most famous site on the web for eleventh hour deals - perfect for students.

Do your research - there are plenty of savings to be made but read the small print intelligently!

We hope you'll find these links useful but please be aware that Vetlife cannot accept responsibility for the content of external websites.

Part content of this page is reprinted with kind permission of the Royal Medical Benevolent Fund