Whether you’re heading off to college for the very first time or you’re a seasoned cynical senior, one of the best perks of being a student is the many deals and discounts on offer. In this article, we share some of our top tips on how to be a savvy student saver this academic year.
One of the most exciting aspects of freshers week has undoubtedly got to be the freebies! College societies, brands, banks and various other companies alike all cry out for your attention and try to draw you in with tempting discounts, demos and of course, freebies.
As wonderful as free stuff is, it can sometimes be hard to work out where the real value is - who’s offering you genuine value and who’s just dangling something shiny in front of your face just to get you to sign up?
That’s where we come in! Below you’ll find a selection of tips that will help you be smart with your money when it comes to practical day-to-day student living; such as advice on how to choose the best student bank account, who has the best deals when it comes to broadband, which mobile network will go furthest with your last twenty quid among other things…
Choosing the best student current account
The reason why lots of businesses love freshers and are happy to give out freebies galore is because they know that if they get students interested now, they could keep them as customers well after they finish college.
This is especially true when it comes to banks because they know that most students they sign up now will become customers for life! This is no understatement - despite the fact that the switching process is relatively straightforward in the banking sector, the percentage of customers who switch current accounts remains incredibly low at just 0.06%.
Banks also know that future graduates will become profitable customers indeed because they earn more, and they take out mortgages and loans and they pay fees. Those future graduates tend to be pretty sensible, stable folks after they finish college too, and the banks love sensible stable customers. Consequently, the banks send hordes of reps with clipboards to the gates of campuses across the country during freshers week with the mission to sign up as many students as possible.
Some banks will give out freebies, some will tell you they’re brilliant, and others will offer you cold hard cash. So how do you know which bank has your best interests at heart? And which bank will be the best fit for you in the long term?
Our advice is to take every advantage while the going is good! It’s a very small window in which you’re going to be offered such great incentives, so by all means, go for whichever bank is offering you the best freebie or offer.
Most banks offer fee-free banking to students, meaning that the difference between them is quite small regardless of who you choose. Just be mindful that when you finish college fees will more than likely be introduced and you should definitely reconsider your options when that day comes, to make sure you’re still getting the best deal.
If you're still not sure where to start, check out our 2017 review of the best student bank accounts.
Student-friendly broadband deals
Starting student life for many of us means moving away from the family home and into student accommodation, which though obviously very exciting, also comes with its own set of problems. In a time where WiFi seems to be more important than adequate shelter for a lot of us; finding the right broadband deal for you and your housemates is likely to be on the top of your to-do list.
Nearly all broadband providers out there want to lock you into a 12 or 18-month contract, which can be problematic if you only plan on staying in your accommodation for the academic months of the year. No one wants to have to pay costly contract breakage fees, so what’s the solution?
Luckily, Virgin Media has stepped in to fill the gap in the market and now offers what it calls “Freedom” broadband which offers an unlimited 240Mb connection, on a very appealing 30-day rolling contract. That means you can cancel anytime without the fear of contract breakage fees. Super!
The only downside is Freedom Broadband runs a little more expensive than its longer term contract competitors, coming in at €55 a month - still - that’s much better than having to pay out the rest of your contract months if you want to leave your contract early.
Freedom Broadband is just one student-friendly option - here are a few more to choose from.
Talk to your landlord about energy options
On the subject of keeping accommodation bills down; as a tenant, you are well within your rights to choose which gas and electricity suppliers you get your energy from. It could be in your interest to check with your landlord to see what plan you are on to make sure that you are on the cheapest plan available.
Comparing and switching suppliers using bonkers.ie couldn’t be easier and the whole process only takes a few minutes. Switching at the beginning of your tenancy could end up saving you and your housemates hundreds of euros in home energy bills if they aren’t included in your rental price.
Student travel essential: The Student Leap Card
Once you’re all settled into your new digs, how to get around town will most likely be your next port of call. Nothing is more invaluable to the student commuter than the Student Leap Card. It can save you a bomb not only on your travel costs but also gives you a range of discounts on everything from fashion to entertainment, to the best grub deals in town.
The card covers nearly all public transport links including DART and train services, Dublin Bus, Bus Eireann, Luas as well as some private buses including Swords Express, Wexford Bus, Matthews Coaches and City Direct.
By buying tickets using your Leap card you’ll instantly make savings by profiting from its discounted rates on regular fares, but the biggest benefit is probably the special caps that come with the Student Leap card which are much more generous than the caps on standard Leap cards.
Your Dublin Bus spend will be capped at a rate of €5 per day or €20 per week (Mon - Sun) compared to €7.00/€27.50 on regular Leap cards. Exclusions apply to Airlink, Xpresso and other premium services.
Your DART/Commuter Rail spend will be capped at a rate of €6.90 per day or €27.00 per week (Mon to Sun) compared to €9.50/€37.00 on regular Leap cards.
Your Luas spend will be capped at a rate of €5 per day or €18 per week (Mon to Sun) compared to €7.00/€27.50 on regular Leap cards.
Once you’ve reached these caps, you can travel for free. Just tag on and off as usual. For a full list of fares see the Student Leap Card site.
Get the most out of your phone
Once out and about, you’ll need a way to keep up to date with your mates and everything social media related (they don’t call it the “always on” generation for nothing!) so what’s the best deal for students when it comes to mobile networks?
The answer to that question ultimately comes down to your own personal budget, usage preferences and handset ambitions - but we have some tips!
We recently investigated and compared prepay and billpay plans to see who comes out on top when it comes to value; and we also had a look to see what’s the best and cheapest way to buy a brand new iPhone (for those of us who’ve set our sights on the more premium end of the spectrum).
If you’re really looking to make your money go further on a student budget, 48 and iD Mobile have some great student-centric deals.
48 is Ireland’s first “online youth mobile network” and it was designed with students in mind (the “48” of 48, refers to the 48 months that you spend being a student from ages 18 to 22). 48 have three sim-only plans with monthly price packages ranging between €10 and €20 making them a great budget option.
iD Mobile is another great option because it allows you to custom-make your own package according to your own needs, meaning that you only have to pay for what you actually use; so, if you’re a heavy data user with little need for calls and texts, you can design a plan that reflects that usage behaviour.
You’ll find the best deals at college
Remember that you’ll likely find the best deals and discounts in your actual college during freshers week. Societies and clubs use deals as tempting bargaining chips to get you to join them for a small fee. Try to only sign up for organisations that you’re actually interested in though because all those small fees can really add up!
Make sure to check in with your student union - the hub of student deals. They’ll usually have a student deal card that you can get free of charge with your student ID. These discount cards usually collect the best deals you’ll find across campus and last for the academic year.
Have any tips you’d like to share?
We hope you found our student saving tips useful but did we miss anything? Do you have any top tips you wish you’d known when you started college? Leave them in the comments below and we’ll get back to you.