As a young professional, you can be tempted to upgrade your lifestyle with your first paycheque. But whether you are in debt and want to pay off those student loans and credit cards quickly, or you are in the black but want to get a head start on your finances, living a little longer like a student will help you do just that. And since you can’t miss what you don’t have (yet), you won’t notice the difference with these everyday saving tips.
Instead of eating out, bring your lunch
For as cheap as a sandwich and a drink combo can be at the local deli, you are looking at £4 per lunch, five times a week. That is £960 per year if you work 48 weeks. Bringing your lunch to work allows you to minimize food waste, and if you cook for two you probably have a small economy of scale as well.
Sure, it is not fun to eat the same thing over and over again. So one thing I like to do is cook a batch of stew or lasagne, then freeze it in one meal portions, and choose one to bring as my lunch. Most offices have a microwave so you are all set. You don’t need to be an expert cook, you can make fried rice or noodles with chopped vegetables and chicken, or just pasta and sauce. If you can’t cook at all, a ready meal from the supermarket will still be cheaper than eating out.
Instead of commuting, cycle to work
Cycling helps you stay in shape and is a great way to relax after a long day of work. You just need to invest in a rain coat for those winter days, and a wrist band to use on your trousers so you don’t cover them in grease as you peddle. On top of the health benefits of cycling, you can take advantage of the Cycle to Work Scheme, which allows you to buy a bike tax free and pay for it in 12 instalments out of your gross salary, with zero interest.
Instead of moving out, keep your roommates
As a student, you probably lived with housemates or with your parents. Can you keep that arrangement for a year or two? Moving out on your own means increasing your living expenses by at least 50%, which can be a big drain on a starting salary – for example, you would have to pay council tax and utility bills by yourself. Think long and hard about what you could do with those savings!
Instead of the pub, have your friends over
At £4 a pint, nights out are not cheap. So how about you have everyone over instead, and ask them to each bring something? It’s a great time to try cooking a new dish or prepare an exotic dip (and you can take the leftovers to work the next week, see above!), you can pick your own music, your own sports channel and even have another drink since you are not driving home.
Instead of buying new, repair or shop second hand
When moving into a new place, you can find a lot of gently used furniture on Gumtree, and even some free stuff on Freecycle. The last time I used Freecycle, I got a huge wardrobe and a few kitchen items, and got to give my extra set of pots and pans to someone who needed them more than I did. This sharing economy is great for your finances. Then, once you are comfortable financially, feel secure about your job and have paid your debts, you can then think about progressively upgrading your lifestyle.