Having an effective and realistic budget is crucial to enjoying your time at University.
One way of ensuring that you get the most out of your money, particularly with regards to utilities bills, is to 'shop around'. Be mindful of the fact that there are a number of utilities providers offering competitive rates and wide-ranging incentives, such as cash back and free gifts for signing up. Switching to monthly direct debits can offer savings of up to 10%. Where possible, try to ensure that you are not on pre-payment meters, as these will often result in you paying inflated charges for your utilities. To ensure you are not being over- or under-charged for your utilities usage, take monthly meter readings and compare them to your bills. Make sure that your rent is not inclusive of bill - you do not want to be paying double what you should be.
Shopping for Food and Household Products
Planning a budget is part of a wider strategy to gain control of your spending, and food and household shopping forms an integral part of this. As a shopper you are encouraged to purchase premium brand products with ever-increasing prices. As an exercise to see how much you could save, without compromising on quality, swap a premium-branded product for a standard or even value product. Not all brand swaps will be to everyone's taste, but you may be surprised at how much you can save and what little difference there is between premium and standard brands.
Another useful tip is to try planning your meals for the week in advance. This will give you a better idea of what you need to buy when you go shopping, rather than buying things that you might not get round to using, or making expensive, spur of the moment, purchases. Avoid ready-meals and fast food where you can. Home cooking is better for you, more nutritious and ultimately cheaper. You may even find that you have enough left over to take into lectures with you, and save yourself some money on meal deals.
An important part of your student experience at Cardiff will probably be socialising. However, this does not mean that you have to make it to every single social event. Remember: you're here for at least three years, so there's plenty of time to try everything. Don't cram everything into one semester and end up with no money for the next one, or worse, in debt.
Instead, make the most of mid-week student nights, where you'll find drinks offers and cheaper door prices. You might like to consider arranging to cook a meal with your friends, having a film night, or throwing a house party on the weekends, which will save you money on inflated weekend drink prices.