Columns Lifestyle

Money Matters: Savings and Discounts

Why pay full price? 

I’m a student with no regular income (bar those payments from my tutoring side hustle) and this, coupled with the fact that I was brought up in a household that lives for a discount, means that I love a good deal. Who doesn’t?

Don’t get me wrong, discount blindness is definitely a thing – you get so caught up in that fact that you’re saving 15% that you never question whether you even need what you’re buying. Like when my mum decided to buy a 24-pack of glue sticks from Costco as it was ‘cheaper than buying them all individually’, nevermind the fact that both my sister and I had most definitely moved on from the cutting and sticking portion of our academic lives (despite what my peers might say about Geography). 

Regardless, in the world we live in today there are so many ways to get a good deal, so I think, if you’re paying full price, you’re doing it wrong. To help you out, here are my favourite discount hacks in my top 5 spending areas: 

Clothing and Accessories 

  • Firstly, do you really need what you’re buying:
    • for the majority of my retail decisions I save the picture or link of what I like in my notes for at least a week, if I still want it after a good chunk of time has passed then I can buy it. 
  • Secondhand Clothing/Clothing Swaps
    • Shopping in charity shops, your friend’s (or in my case, my mum’s) wardrobe or using online apps like depop means you get clothes cheaper than the original price as well as being more ethical and eco-friendly. 
  • Rent your outfits
    • Need a new outfit for that once in a lifetime event (say a certain postponed white tie ball) but don’t want to spend even more money after shelling out for that £200 ticket? Try sites like Hirestreet where you can rent beautiful outfits normally priced between £60-300+ for a fraction of the cost. 
  • Cashback 
    • Try sites like Quidco and TopCashback to get a percentage of money back on your purchases. It takes little to no effort to do and you automatically save some money. 
    • Many bank accounts offer cashback with purchases such as with HSBC Visa Cards or Santander Retailer offers – check with your bank!

Food 

  • Grocery shopping: 
    • Most supermarkets reduce their prices significantly on food that is close to or just past its sell-by date in the last few hours of opening, so the evening is a great time to go. 
    • Plan your meals in advance and DO NOT shop hungry, so you buy only what you need.
    • Shop at local farmers markets, the produce quality is really high and the prices are very budget friendly. The one in Gloucester Green on Wednesdays and Thursdays is amazing – I once got six avocados for £2! 
  • Restaurants: 
    • Always check before you go out whether the restaurant or bar you’re going to has a student discount. Or if you are a Union member, check whether they offer a member’s discount.
    • If you’re in Oxford, use the app The Dealer to get discounts at loads of different local places like 30% off at Skogen Kitchen or 25% at the White Rabbit. 

Entertainment

  • Going Out: 
    • If you’re in London, try the app Dusk – you get one free cocktail every night as well as discounts and location-based recommendations. Dating and catch-ups over drinks are expensive and quickly add up – now you won’t have to waste £10 on a G&T during a lukewarm first date off of Bumble.
    • Look on sites like Groupon or TimeOut for discounted cocktail offers – I once saved £21.50 at Ballie Ballerson by using a combination of a £5 TimeOut voucher for entry and a free cocktail as well as a free drink from Dusk. That was £86 saved between the four of us!
    • Don’t take your regular card on a night out if you know you are an overspender when drunk. Try taking only cash, a prepaid card with limited funds or deactivating your contactless payments on your cards and mobile phone payments. Trust me, tomorrow you’ll thank yourself – nothing is worse than waking up the next day to a terrible bank statement AND a hangover. Of course make sure that you keep yourself safe, have enough money for an emergency and always bring your (charged!) phone just in case. 
  • Activities
    • Figure out what free (or free for students) things there are to do in your area; museums, galleries, botanic gardens, deer parks, hiking…
    • If you are a particular fan of art, get a student Art Pass (£5) and a Tate Collective Card (free) to get highly discounted or free access to exhibitions and galleries around the UK. 
    • For cheap theatre tickets in London try the sites TodayTix or Break A Leg; they often release unsold tickets for a discounted price to try and fill seats a few days before.

Travel 

  • Public Transport 
    • If you travel by rail or bus often, its worth looking into getting a Railcard or Young Persons Coachcard to save a ⅓ on ticket prices.  
    • Work out your average total public transport cost each month and compare it to the cost of getting a season ticket/extended period ticket for the service you use most. Look on the transport provider’s website for details appropriate to your area/mode of transport. 
  • Holidays
    • Use Rome2Rio to compare different ways of getting from A to B as well as the price. It’s always a trade off between time and money, and at this stage in my life I have more time than money so I usually opt for the more time intensive option. I have come to regret this at times; spending 10 hours alone in Dubai airport after two flights through eight time zones was definitely not worth the saving I made on that trip. 
    • There are multiple articles on how to save money on flights so I’ll just review the greatest hits: 
      • use a flight search engine like Skyscanner, Kayak and Expedia 
      • Find error fares, layover flights and other great deals on sites such as Scott’s Cheap Flights, Airwander, Skiplagged and Secret Flying 
      • If you’re booking as a group, you might miss out on some deals as there are often only a limited number of tickets at each discounted price so search for one traveller first. 
  • Spending Abroad
    • I am basically an unofficial brand rep for Revolut; it is truly such a useful way to avoid foreign ATM fees, pay in any currency without charges and to hold money in separate currency accounts (so you can buy currency when the rate is good ahead of your trip!). It also has spending analytics and great security features like disposable virtual cards for when you’re shopping online.
  • Insurance
    • If you’re planning to travel abroad make sure you have insurance! Insurance can prove invaluable in saving money on unexpected cancellations, damaged or stolen property and health issues abroad. Make sure you check that your policy covers the kind of trip you’re going on – the price and type will change based on the activities you plan to do (winter sports and SCUBA diving is usually extra), where you’re going to go and how long your trip(s) will last. 

Healthcare 

  • Prescriptions
    • After the age of 18 (unless you meet certain other criteria) you will need to pay for your own prescribed medication such as antibiotics in England (free everywhere else in the UK) but you can apply for a medical exemption certificate using an FP92A form from your Doctor to get free prescriptions. 
      • If you have a long term health issue but don’t qualify for MedEx prescription, you can get a prepayment certificate (PPC). A three month PPC is £29.65.
      • There are also provisions for those with low incomes; to apply for an HC2 certificate (full help with health costs), complete a HC1 form, which is available from Jobcentre Plus offices, most NHS hospitals or by calling 0300 123 0849. You may instead qualify for HC3 – for limited help with health costs. 
  • Over the counter Medicine 
    • By own-brand medication rather than branded. The mark-up is genuinely ridiculous, for example a 16-pack of 200mg Nurofen tablets is £2 in Tesco, whereas a 16-pack of own-brand 200mg Ibuprofen tablets is only 55p. They both contain the exact same amount of Ibuprofen and do the same thing.
    • Check the ‘PL number’ on medication packets; this is the unique licence number given exclusively to a particular drug made by a particular manufacturer. The packaging (and price) may be different but if the PL numbers match, it’s the same drug.

Sarina Chandaria

Sarina Chandaria is a Senior Editor for Lifestyle and a weekly columnist at The Oxford Blue. She reads Geography at Christ Church, and is going into her third year. She has a particular fondness for travel writing, chats about personal finance and buying more books than she could ever possibly read.