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Living on a budget in the UK – yes it is possible!

I still remember the first few months when I first arrived in the UK from Poland back in 2004. I constantly calculated the prices of everything and compared them with prices back at home. Everything seemed to cost more and I felt like my babysitter salary could not stretch far enough for me to do all the things I wanted to do.
It took me a good few months before I learned how to save money and live on a budget and, believe me, there are many of them!

Today, I work as an International Officer at the University of Chester and although my then babysitter days are long gone, I still keep my ears and eyes open to every possibility of saving.

Here are some of my tips on how to save money on food and travel while in the UK:

Don’t be shy!

Go to the reduced section in supermarkets. Here in the UK the big stores make great reductions on the products that near the expiry date. You will need to experiment a little bit to get to know when these stores reduce the prices, but with a little bit of patience you can grab some great bargains.

Shop and cook together

Once you make some new friends at the University, you can arrange to share the cost of shopping and cooking. This is not only a great way to save, but also a great way to socialise and try cuisines from all over the world.

Use supermarket loyalty cards
A number of supermarkets offer loyalty programmes where you can collect points for shopping and receive discount vouchers every few months. It is not unusual to get £10 off when you spend a £30 coupon in Tesco, for example.

Make use of vouchers
If you want to treat yourself and eat out, there are also a number of websites such as VoucherCodes, kgbdeals and Groupon where you can find two-for-one vouchers on food and much more. In Chester, a number of shops have discounts for students and two-for-one offers on certain days. For example Wok&Go, offers two large boxes of noodles for £6.60 on Tuesdays. Some restaurants will also have cheaper menus before 5pm on weekdays, for example Pizza Hut offers pizza, salad bowl, side dish, drink for £6. I tried it once and really struggled to clean my plate.

When you come to the UK to study, make sure you put some money away to get to know Great Britain or maybe even Europe. There are so many cheap airlines – with Ryanair leading the way – that you can travel to many European cities for less than you can think. For example, a flight from UK to Poland may cost you as little as £40 (or less if you book in advance) return. If you prefer not to venture too far, then you should try Megabus – it has great offers and if you book in advance you can go from Manchester to London for less than £5! And once you get to London, why not sign up to Coachsurfing, a very popular hosting programme where you can get in touch people from all over the world and stay for a few night with them for free, just make sure you check their references! If you prefer something more traditional, then backpacker hotels are great for students on budget –you can stay at Chester Backpackers Hotel for as little as £15.95.

Ela Siddiqui
International Officer
University of Chester

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