Money Saving Tips for International Students

Blogs 16 Jan 2023 / 7 mins read

By Owen Redman

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Tips for international students

Each year, a growing number of students leave their home countries to study at one of the UK’s universities. The UK is becoming an incredibly popular choice for overseas students thanks to its esteemed higher educational institutions, great career opportunities, and multiculturalism.

Moving to the UK as an international student is a fantastic experience, but living costs can be high and university fees do not come cheap! However, with a bit of planning and thriftiness, staying in control of your finances is pretty doable for overseas students.

Here are our money saving tips for international students:

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Check your eligibility for loans, grants and scholarships

Studying in the UK is expensive, but luckily there are a number of grants and scholarships to help international students with the costs of tuition and living.

If you are an EU national and started studying in the UK before or during the 2020/21 academic year, you are entitled to a government student loan to cover your tuition fees which will be capped at £9,250 (the same as UK nationals). You may also be entitled to a maintenance loan, to cover your living costs. This is not the case if you started studying from August 2021 onwards; you will not be eligible for a student loan from the UK government, and there will be no cap on your tuition fees.

All hope is not lost if you aren’t able to take out a student loan! There are plenty of other options.

  • Study abroad programmes

If you are really set on studying in the UK but are concerned about your finances, a more affordable option could be to enrol on a study abroad programme.

This would mean going to a university in your home country, and studying for a semester or a year at a university in the UK through an exchange programme.

Check which universities in your home country have partnerships with UK universities.

  • Loans for international students

In some countries, students can apply for a loan from their home government to study in the UK.

This is true in the US where students can apply for a Study Abroad Loan for a shorter stint abroad, or a Foreign Enrolled Loan for those who want to complete their entire degree in a foreign country.

Each country will have different rules and eligibility requirements, so make sure to check if your home country offers an international student loan!

  • Scholarships

There is a wide range of scholarships available to international students! You can apply for these on the basis of merit in areas such as academia, sports and music. Scholarships can reduce or even fully cover the cost of study.

Scholarships in the UK come in many forms. Some are available to students studying on a specific degree course, some are for students from a particular country, and some are offered by universities to attract international students to their institutions.

To find out which scholarships are on offer, check out this search tool by the British Council.

Open an international student bank account

Opening a British bank account should be one of the first things you do once you move to the UK. Having an account with a British bank will:

  • Allow you to set up recurring payments for things like rent or subscriptions
  • Save you from being charged currency conversion fees when you make a purchase or withdraw cash
  • Make receiving payments from a UK employer easier

Some banks in the UK offer accounts specifically for international students. For example, Santander’s Basic Current Account is designed for those who have moved to the UK for study or work purposes, and allows you to send money abroad in euros for free.

Take a look at Save the Student’s comparison of bank accounts for international students in 2022.

Create and stick to a realistic budget

One of the best ways to save money is to create and stick to a budget! To do this:

  1. Work out your income (how much money you have coming in from a job, any loans, scholarships or grants, your family, etc).
  2. Determine your essential outgoings (rent, bills, insurance, tuition, groceries).
  3. Estimate your non-essential outgoings (eating out, partying, subscriptions to streaming services, gym membership, etc).
  4. Decide on a realistic, manageable budget that works for you based on these figures.

Take on a part-time job

If you’d like to make a bit of extra cash, you could take on a part-time job whilst studying in the UK. A student visa permits you to work for up to 20 hours per week, which is plenty of time to earn some decent money.

Part-time jobs are not too difficult to come by in the UK, particularly in university areas. Look for jobs in sectors such as retail and hospitality, where contracts with fewer hours are more common. Use websites like StudentJob and Indeed to help with your search!

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Opt for cheaper accommodation

Student accommodation can be expensive! There are a number of different choices, and you should do your own research to see what suits you best. Here are a few options:

  • University halls of residence. This is a popular choice for first year students and students studying abroad. Halls are usually located on campus, which is convenient. Bills are often included in the price of rent. You also might be given the choice between catered and non-catered accommodation, with the latter being the cheaper option.
  • Private sector halls of residence. These are similar to university halls, but owned by private companies. They are generally modern and comfortable, and often include amenities like gyms and co-working spaces. Private halls can be very expensive!
  • Privately-rented accommodation. You can also choose to rent privately from landlords or letting agents. You can live alone or with others. This can often be a cheaper option than living in halls, but not always.

The Roome website has more help for finding student accommodation.

Find deals on travel

As an international student, you will likely be travelling by plane more often than the average student. Air travel can get extremely expensive, so finding the best deals is crucial. Check out StudentUniverse for cheaper flights and tips for saving money on air travel.

You can also make savings on domestic travel whilst studying in the UK! For discounted rail travel, invest in a 16-25 Railcard which will give you a third off of the price of your train journeys. The National Express’ Young Persons Coachcard will also save you a third off of coach travel, which is already a more cost-effective method of travel around the UK.

If you’re studying in London, the 18+ Student Oyster is a must for getting around the city’s bus and tube networks on a budget!

Depending on where you study, it might also be possible to get around by walking and cycling. Driving will probably be a more costly option, due to the high prices of fuel and car insurance.