Cost of living advice on University Mental Health Day

Thursday 9 March is University Mental Health Day – we’ve been asking folks for their top tips on how to save money...

Thursday 9 March is University Mental Health Day, and this year we (at the Association) are focusing on the cost of living. We’ve been asking students, staff and volunteers for their top tips on how to save money, which you’ll find below. Big or small savings, pennies or pounds – they all add up. Perhaps there are one or two things that you’re not already doing that could help you save! 

Discounts and reward schemes

  • Take advantage of various store in-house savings / membership cards, e.g. ASDA rewards, Nectar Points and Tesco Clubcard (can be gained from a massive range of shops and on Petrol). Matalan card holders regularly receive discounts across the whole store (up to 20%) etc.

  • – a free website where you can sign up for cashback on everything you spend on, e.g. groceries, tech, pet care, appliances and even holidays. Money back can be taken as a bank transfer, or as vouchers (with bonus credit added on).

  • Regularly shop around for quotes on insurance, phones, TV, contracts – many providers will offer discounts to stay with them.

  • Always check online banking for any associated benefits that you can use, some can include cashback offers when you buy from certain providers. Check your bank account for any subscriptions that you may not be aware of as these can sneak in at the end of a free trial and you could be paying for a service you do not use.

  • Airtime Rewards ( – free sign-up to earn rewards on your spending in linked shops (e.g. Boots) and earn cash that can be used to pay your mobile bills.

  • See the website, a free website run by Martin Lewis, where you can sign up for weekly emails. These are full of ways to save on everything from household bills to groceries, insurance, pet bills, best bank accounts etc. It also has free tools/calculators that will find you the best mobile/SIM prices, hidden deals on Amazon/eBay, secret sales, complaint and ‘resolver’ templates, haggling advice.

  • Earn rewards on the YouGov website for completing surveys on politics, sport, entertainment and more.

  • Never buy anything full price – always look for discount codes or vouchers, buy things on sale and, if you can, buy in bulk (so you have plenty in when the prices shoot up and it isn’t on offer for a while). 


  • Having a second bank account to limit spending makes me more aware of what I’m spending money on.

  • See what bits of your shopping go on sale, and only buy when they’re on offer.

  • Use Save the Change® if applicable to your bank account. This will round up card payments to the nearest pound and the additional money is deposited back into a savings account, e.g. £10.20 is rounded up to £11 and the 80p is put in a savings account. If you use your card a lot, this can really add up over a month.

  • Consider buying books second-hand to reduce financial costs and to reduce impact on the environment (for instance, World of Books).

  • Evaluate each physical and/or digital bookshop (including second-hand booksellers) as some used books can be more expensive than a brand new book.

  • For big sales events like Black Friday, don’t impulse buy, but instead use them to your advantage. If you know you are needing to make a big purchase (new phone, TV, a subscription etc.) then wait (if you can) until these events to see if you can get something to match your requirements with a big discount.

  • Purchase groceries in more than one supermarket or shop (for instance) to save on items being sold for less costly prices.

  • Buy second-hand clothes and make those you have last longer, with tips like these.

  • Buy in bulk: things like beans, chickpeas, lentils and legumes can be bought dried and cooked at home. This works out a lot cheaper than buying in tins.

  • Use cash and don’t swipe your card.

  • Hit the charity shops (“I’ve found them a lifeline since the electric companies have crushed my bank account!”).

  • Stay out of stationery shops!

  • You can save a lot of money on food by meal planning so we only buy what we need – it’s saved a lot of waste too.

  • Make use of the reduced section in local supermarkets. At Heron Foods, they have a great section called ‘Too good to go’ where stuff is reduced (because its after its BB date) but still safe to eat.

  • Try your local freecycle groups and charity shops. Shop in cheap supermarkets, and don’t get fooled by brand names.

  • Create and stick to budgets, and be prepared for emergencies. 


  • Always update your meter readings if you have a gas and electric meter. A monthly meter reading update can stop large bills from piling up!

  • Energy and vegetables are really expensive just now. Save money by batch-cooking vegetables when fresh – make them into soups, stews. Don’t leave a few sprouts or half a swede to wilt – cook the whole lot, eat the rest the next day or freeze for later. Frozen cooked veg are great mashed into bubble and squeak, which makes a tastier (and more nutritious) topping for cottage pie.

  • Cook all your vegetables in one pan. If you don’t have a steamer, cut them into even-sized chunks. Cook the carrots first, after five minutes add sprouts, after another five add broccoli – another five mins should do it. Use the drained vegetable water to improve the flavour and nutritional value of gravy or soup.

  • Don’t boil potatoes for one, microwave whole for six mins. Wash first, remove any black bits, pierce all over and wrap in kitchen paper.  Turn at least three times to prevent that nasty fibrous bit at the bottom. Eat as a jacket potato, or mash with a little butter.

  • You can turn off your oven with 10 mins to go on your cooking time and as long as you don’t open the door and lose heat, the residual heat will finish cooking your dinner! This is recommended in Nany Birtwhistle’s book, Green Living Made Easy.

  • Turn off the heating where it’s not needed, for example in rooms you are not using.

  • Check out these recipes for dishes that come in at a cost of £1 per portion, written by TV chefs including Chetna Makan, James Martin, Prue Leith and Aktar Islam.

  • In light of anthropogenic climate change and elevated levels of inflation, perhaps replace a few meat-oriented meals (including takeaways) each week with vegetarian/vegan options using plant-based options.

  • Freeze anything that can be frozen before it goes off – cheese, fruit, egg whites, etc.

Upcycling and reducing waste

  • Think outside the box and upcycle items in the home (which reduces landfill).

  • Freecycle (“I got a cross trainer from the fire brigade off Freecycle today”). The NUS card gives 10% off Co-op which is our local for-emergency store. Hunt for discounts in food shops in the evening. Study sitting in blankets.

  • Use the Too Good To Go appFood waste is a big problem, and we can be a solution. Too Good To Go is an app that lets you rescue unsold food from an untimely fate at your favourite spots. 


  • Instead of using a personal vehicle when travelling to your chosen destination, use the bus, cycle or walk part of your journey (where feasible to save fuel costs). Factor in some of your time and structure in some exercise as part of your daily routine away from screens.

  • Try to walk anywhere within walking distance – even small trips in the car add up!


  • Review whether your gym membership is viable, and exercise at home or use the natural environment for less cost.

What money saving tips do you have? Let us know in the comments! 

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Tom Mitchell

Tom is a member of the Students Association staff team.


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