- 20 Sep 23
Riccardo Dwyer offers his tips on surviving a tight budget in college.
Cheap student living
In Ireland the cost of living is climbing steeply, and the narrative of the perpetually broke student isn’t just a cliché, it’s a relentless reality.
The fiscal challenges facing the country’s best and brightest, be they fresh-eyed first-years or weathered returnees, are unprecedented.
However, within these tight confines, there’s a wealth of experiences that are affordable or even free for those willing to find them. The trick is to be savvy and look out for money-saving activities that won’t drain your wallet, and will instead enrich your student life.
Socialising/things to do on a budget
Mindset is key. Try to see cheaping out as a positive thing, a challenge forcing you to seek out new and different ways to entertain yourself as a student.
Consider national treasures like the National Museum of Ireland and the Museum of Modern Art. These are free gateways to culture that offer, at the very least, a bit of respite from hectic student life if you’re not so artistically inclined.
Swapping the club for the pub is a great option if you’re looking for a night out on the cheap. Live music staples like Dublin’s Cobblestone pub and Galway’s Carroll’s, or newcomers like Dashi in Smithfield are constantly playing host to live music of different genres. A pint or two might be your only expense, but the returns are worth it.
If you’re into a bit of competition, the humble pub quiz could be the place for you. Bring some of your brightest classmates and a little trivia might even win you a free round.
University societies will throw events at the start of the year, luring students with the promise of free pizza and perhaps some booze. It’s not just about the freebies though. These are genuine opportunities to mingle, and perhaps discover a new interest.
Money saving hacks – feeding yourself on a budget
College is about learning how to look after yourself as much as it is about attending lectures and heading on nights out. Here are some tips that will help stop your belly and bank account from running empty.
Late-night supermarket trips can be surprisingly rewarding. Those discounted sections sometimes offer near-gourmet ready meals and other products at a fraction of the initial cost, proving that a tight budget doesn’t mean sacrificing taste.
The arts of couponing and club-carding are underrated. Hold on to every receipt and sign up to your local supermarket’s club card scheme. The discounts will save you a lot of dough in the long run.
Restaurants and takeaways are always offering good value deals. The issue is that they’re often aimed at meals for more than one person. Found a buy-one-get-one-free deal but dining alone? The freezer is your ally, preserving that extra serving for a time when you’re hungry and low on funds.
Speaking of food, mastering bulk cooking can transform your dining habits. A big pot of something delicious, portioned out and frozen, ensures you eat well and avoids the financial strain of ordering out. Frozen homemade meals will be a godsend on those inevitable nights when you don’t have the energy to cook something up.
Lastly, the world of apps offers tools for budgeting. While there’s no worse feeling than checking your account after a heavy one on the town, tracking where your money goes is an eye-opener and will make you think twice before your next impulse buy.
Read the full Student Special in the current issue of Hot Press – out now: