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How to Save Money when Studying Abroad in the United Kingdom

Updated on June 1, 2015

The United Kingdom is one of the most popular study abroad destinations in the world, but can be an expensive place to study abroad. This is especially so if you are staying in one of the major cities like London, Edinburgh, Manchester or Birmingham. Here are some of my tips on how to be pound and penny wise so you can make the most of your budget to enjoy your time abroad.

Do your grocery shopping at ALDI and LIDL

Grocery shopping is one of the inevitable expenses you will incur when studying abroad and depending on your eating habits is likely to be at least a reasonable chunk of your overall expenditure.

ALDI and LIDL are the 2 leading discount supermarkets in UK and Europe. With origins in Germany, both have taken the UK supermarket industry by storm and driven down prices collectively across the 2 major UK supermarkets – Tesco and Sainsburys. Whilst ALDI and LIDL might not have as wide a range of products as Tesco, Sainsburys, ASDA and Waitrose, they have all the essentials in terms of groceries and the quality of their vegetables, fruits, meat and dairy is often just as good as major supermarkets if not better for a reduced price. Even when you are backpacking around Europe you should be able to find them in many locations, which will help keep your food and drink spend down and give you more to spend on entertainment and additional travel.

Find your local ALDI here.

Find your local LIDL here.

Take the coach

Unless you are from Europe, backpacking through Europe is something you will most likely do when. Even if you are from Europe, you will likely do. The cheapest way to travel in the UK is often by coach. For European holidays, whilst budget airlines, such as Ryanair, Easyjet and Aer Lingus offer some great prices, they may not be as cheap as you think once you take into account airport transfer costs. Coach travel will invariably take you to a central location within the city so transfer costs will be lower and occasionally even non-existent if you plan so your accommodation is within walking distance from the coach station or drop-off point.

The main coach service operators in the UK are Megabus and National Express. Megabus. Both companies offer a number of local and international routes, with Megabus servicing over 60 destinations in the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Belgium, Netherlands and Spain.

Even when you are travelling through Europe coach is an excellent option for inter-city travelling if you are trying to save some money. Eurolines (part of the same network as National Express) is the major coach operator with stops in 48 European cities, but many countries also have local companies that offer excellent coach services such as Czech Republic’s Student Agency, which offers free hot drinks, comfortable seats and in-coach entertainment (movies, TV shows and games) at an extremely budget-friendly price.

Rome2Rio is a very good resource to compare the approximate cost of travel across all forms of transport.

Buy a 16-25 railcard

If you are planning on doing a lot of travel within the UK, a National railcard could offer substantial savings. The 16-25 railcard costs £30 for 1 year and gives you 1/3 off all rail fares within the United Kingdom. So that means after more than £90 worth of train journeys, the card will have paid itself off.

If you’re a student over the age of 25, no need to worry. As long as you are in full-time study you are still eligible for the card.

The 1/3 off rail fares also extends to the London Underground when you attach it to your Oyster card. So no more expensive tube fares too if you planning on staying in London for a while.

Hop on the bus in London

Even if you are not studying abroad there, as the biggest city in the United Kingdom and Europe as well, London is most likely going to be a destination you will visit during your stay. Whilst your coach or train trip to London might be reasonable, the price you pay for a few nights’ accommodation will most likely make a bit of a hole in your pocket. Once you add in meals and a few trips on the tube, it is easy. One way to keep your London budget in check is to use the bus for travel - at £1.50 per journey and maximum of £4.40 for a day (prices as of June 2015) it is easily the most economical option for travelling within in London. So, if you are doing more than 3 journeys during the day, which you most likely will, all subsequent trips will be free of further charge. Not to mention it is a great way (better than tube) to kill two birds with one stone, by travelling to your destination and seeing the city at the same time, if you get a good seat on the top deck!.

Plan your travel well in advance

This almost goes without saying - the early bird catches the worm! Whilst you may find some great last minute offers on occasions they are usually to the less popular destinations and you will typically make much greater savings from planning your travel earlier than later. Whilst I understand flexibility in your schedule is an important thing to have at times and to you may even be worth paying extra for, I would suggest planning major trips at least a month in advance, ideally even earlier, if keeping travel costs down is a priority.

Go to Gumtree for second-hand sales

Gumtree is the United Kingdom’s answer to Craigslist and is the nation’s number one ranked classified advertising platform. It is a website where sellers can post online classified ads for free and buyers can meet face to face with sellers to exchange. It is a great way to get hold of things like kitchen appliances, sports equipment, textbooks and even event tickets on the cheap. You can even use it to find temporary jobs in your local area to bring a bit of cash in!

Have you lived in the United Kingdom or studied abroad there? If you have, I welcome you to share your own money saving tips with other readers.

Where did you or are you going to study abroad?

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