How to vacation on a budget
July 28th, 2017 by Felicity Bradstock

You suddenly have a whole summer ahead of you, you can finally breathe! Finals are over and you have so much free time you don’t know what to do with yourself. Friends are visiting home and planning their vacations, but how do they all have the money to do these things? It’s not easy, however, with a few simple steps you can stretch the last of your yearly budget to take a break this summer. So, take a vacation on a budget and forget all the studying and exams until next semester.
There are several ways you can save money on your vacation. To travel on a budget think about doing some research on your destination, managing expectations and planning. Here are just a few ideas to get you started.

Take your time

Never go for the first flight you find, always check out comparison sights such as Kayak and SkyScanner to see which are the cheapest routes, if a layover will reduce the cost of the flight or if there are budget airlines offering the same flights.

Think ahead

You have a whole summer ahead of you, so instead of rushing in to planning a trip a few days in advance do your research, look at airline websites to see when they have special promotions or sales and try to book during these times. If you’re not sure where you want to go then check out the cheapest flight routes and promotions to get you started, you might discover something you never knew existed.

Flexibility

You can save a fortune simply by being flexible. Most people tend to set a specific date and fit their search criteria to fixed expectations. This limits the outcome and often increases the price of the flight. Most websites allow you to select the option of +/-2 days when searching for a flight. By adapting your schedule to the flight availability, you can often reduce the cost of your trip by booking less popular flights. Now that school’s over you don’t have to fly Friday night to Sunday, meaning that you’re holding the winning hand. You can take those cheaper weekday 1pm flights that most people don’t have the right schedule to take.

Hotel alternatives

In a home

Let’s be realistic, you probably won’t be staying in a 5* hotel on your vacation if you want to eat, drink and explore while you’re away. Alternatives such as AirBnB are a lifesaver. AirBnB allows you to rent a room in a great location with the only compromise of sharing a bathroom or kitchen. If you rent with a friend you can even split the price of the room between 2, massively reducing the cost. The filters are excellent, making the search for your stay straightforward and easy to fit around your criteria. Additionally, you can check out previous reviews and the rating of the host to make sure you feel safe and secure during your stay.

Comparison sites

Just because you can’t stay in a high-end hotel doesn’t mean you can’t find a good compromise. Check out Booking.com for some incredible promotions on anything from dorms in hostels to hotels with breakfast and a pool. Other great sites include Expedia and Trivago, which offer both hotel comparisons and package trips with great promotions. Take a look around, and once you find a place you like compare between each of these websites to see which has the best deal.

Eating out

If you’re away with friends you’re likely to eat out a lot, which can be scary and make you think you always have to go for the soup or salad. There are 2 easy ways to avoid this, the first is by renting an apartment to share with your friends. By using AirBnB or local websites in your destination you can often find a place with a kitchen to cook in the apartment. I’m guessing you won’t want to stay in the whole time, but at least you can cook breakfast and keep snacks and drinks in the fridge.

If you don’t have this option then just do your research in advance. Get a guidebook or look online at Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, Trip Advisor or Time Out to avoid the tourist traps. Think about alternatives to restaurants such as markets, where you can often buy fresh ingredients and eat outside. Besides, what’s the point in a vacation if you can’t enjoy the outdoors?

Entrance fees

Some costs you won’t be able to avoid. However, by doing some research in advance you can often save a lot. Find out the best museums and galleries for students – most countries have reductions on tickets for people under the age of 25. Look for outdoor activities such as parks, gardens and festivals. Also, when at the beach, find areas where you can take your own food and drinks. Avoid paying for deck chair rental by taking a towel or blanket to lay on and make the most of the outdoors.

 

Wherever you choose to go on your vacation this summer, make sure you explore the local culture and traditions, take in your surroundings (simply walking around a city all day can uncover some great surprises and help you stumble across hidden gems), and enjoy your break from college.


5 Ways to Stretch your Student Loan Further
July 13th, 2017 by Felicity Bradstock

We all know being a college student means studying, trying out new activities, exploring local culture, partying, basically saying yes to everything offered, right? But how is it that everyone seems to have to money to say yes to everything? These simple 5 steps will help you to stretch your student loan further without having to turn down all the amazing opportunities surrounding you.

    1. Join Facebook groups – what you have to understand is that you’re not the only one. If you’re feeling the pressure to get involved but don’t have the money to spend then thousands of other students are feeling the same way!

A great way to meet like-minded people, learn about local and free events, and explore some alternative options to those being offered on campus, is to join a Facebook group. There is a wide array of groups from the Harry Potter appreciation society or the birdwatching club, to class and college based groups. Each of these groups will have students sharing ideas, events, and generally seeking to socialize in a student-based environment. The great thing about Facebook is that you can see public groups and events, you can follow stories, share ideas, put ‘interested’ in an event without having to pay or attend, just to scope out your options. Additionally, you can join private groups that are full of other students in the area, many with similar student budgets.

  1. Shop smart – if your main restriction to getting involved in student activities is your budget, then be smart in other areas of your student life, like shopping.
    Grocery shopping is a great place to stretch your money without missing out. A few simple rules could save you a fortune over your time in college:

    • Never go shopping when you’re hungry! This is a sure way to give into your cravings and head straight to the Oreo section. (This will also help if you’re trying to balance being a student with maintaining a healthy lifestyle!)
    • Make a list and try to shop once a week – to avoid impulse buys and make sure you have a plan for food throughout the week. It will help you to avoid ordering last minute take-out.
    • Don’t eat out! Ok, maybe now and again after a long day in classes when you just don’t want to cook, but try to avoid it by buying food that you can prepare quickly and easily for those times.
    • Go generic – do you really need those Lays chips and Coca Cola? Maybe you do need the occasional treat, but for the most part why not try the generic alternatives and test the water?
    • Finally, check out the reduced sections, learn the times that stock is reduced each day and make use of your freezer! You can get some incredible deals on meat, fish and other expensive items if you watch these zones.
  1. Avoid buying all the memberships before you decide what you really want.

In a world of sports and societies it might be tempting to join them all, with the best intention of attending every soccer practice, film society showing, hiking trip etc. However, once the semester kicks into gear and you’re attending classes, studying, socializing, working out or whatever your routine happens to be, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to keep up with all those societies. Sample as many options as possible for free over the first couple of weeks of semester to see what fits best. And remember, spending time outdoors is a great way to get some free exercise!

  1. Student discounts – one of the best perks of being a student, and something I promise you’ll sorely miss once it’s gone, is student discount.

Just by having your student ID card you’re ahead of the game and can access a wide number of student discounts from shopping to activities. Big companies are all jumping on the promotional bandwagon including, Amazon, Sam’s Club, Greyhound, STA Travel and Verizon. Student discounts are also a fantastic way to support your education with companies such as Apple and Microsoft offering discounts on laptops and other technology. For events and shopping simply search online for student discounts in your local area or check out UNiDAYS for national offers.

  1. Don’t overspend on educational items. Ultimately you’re at college to learn, however, having a brand-new version of every book on the syllabus for each class simply isn’t necessary.

Firstly, many students before you have made this mistake. That means there is a whole bunch of second-hand (barely touched) books waiting for you to snap them up for half the price. Also try Amazon if you can’t find what you’re looking for on campus. For some books, you might only need to read one chapter and will then cast it aside. Approach your professors, ask what books are vital to buy and what you can find online or photocopy in the library. Finally, think about alternative options such as Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program if you’re likely to need quick access to a number of resources.

If you think that college life might be for you, just take a look at the wide variety of student loans being offered to support your experience. And remember, college is not only about getting an education but about gaining life experience, so use these tips to go out and get involved!