Time zooms pass so quickly! This time, last year I just touched down in the UK and now a new batch of students is going through the same thing! This money saving tips blog post will be useful for anyone who has just came to the UK, so scroll down!
- Choosing the right grocery store
There are quite a handful of major grocery stores (supermarkets as we call it in Malaysia) in the UK. The one that we Malaysians are most familiar with is probably Tesco and maybe Marks & Spencer! I think we students in Southampton are quite lucky because we have almost if not all the major ones right here. At Burgess Road (5 mins walk from Highfield) we have the smaller versions, i.e. Tesco Express and Sainsbury’s Local. In Portswood (10 mins away by bus U1C) there are Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Farmfoods and Iceland. There is also Aldi which is 15 mins away by bus U6C and others such as M&S and Lidl are in the city.
A brief description of the unfamiliar ones – Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Aldi, ASDA and Lidl are like Tesco. They sell anything from meat and vegetables to pots and pans. M&S here is a lot larger than Malaysia’s and is also just like Tesco. Iceland and Farmfoods focuses on frozen food (YOU WILL BE SURPRISED, ANYTHING CAN BE FROZEN HERE) hence a lot cheaper. I did not mention some of the smaller shops, but for Asian food for example, there is quite a few along Burgess Road and a huge International Food Market in Portswood.
In price descending order I believe it should be:
- Waitrose, M&S
- Aldi, Lidl
Iceland and Farmfoods are not included because I feel like frozen food is another category altogether.
Okay now, on how to choose the right store, myself for example alternately shop at Aldi and Sainsbury’s for most of my groceries. Aldi is cheap but there is slightly less selection and I think its quality is below of Sainsbury’s. So depending of my monthly expenditure I will decide where to go. Waitrose and M&S is completely out of my budget so I almost never shop there. Some snacks and frozen food are cheaper in Iceland and Farmfoods, also their frozen selections are definitely top notch.
So depending on your budget, choose the suitable store because they will be where you spend most of your allowance. Definitely visit all of them on the first few weeks to survey and make a good decision (but Sainsbury’s is a good place to start, price, distance and selection wise.
- Use cashback apps
Cashback concept is a rather new thing in Asia, the recent one that has been all over social media is ShopBack. Two of the cashback apps I use for groceries in the UK are CheckoutSmart and Shoptisize. Scan the barcode and snap the shopping receipt to get cashbacks on certain items, can be anything such as broccoli, biscuits, detergent and many more. It is often just about 30p or so but can amount to a significant figure over time. Occasionally they also have free items and so far I have accumulated about £14 this year, not too bad right?
Otherwise I have tried CompleteSavings where they offered me £15 for my national express tickets. They offer a membership scheme which you can terminate whenever you prefer.
- Keep an eye on freebies
I love freebies! I have obtained so many of them and it is so easy to get them! Usually I get make up and skin care samples, but one of my favourites must have been getting a full-size snack box from Graze. Also got a full bag of grounded coffee for free. How it works is that you sign up for a subscription and you get the first product for free, and you can then choose to continue or terminate your subscription after your first. Always keep a look out for them on http://www.studentmoneysaver.co.uk/, http://womenfreebies.co.uk/ and others.
- Shop online exclusives
Often there are sales and discounts exclusive for online customers. For example, Forever 21, H&M and Body Shop add on an additional 10% on all their sale items. Sometimes there is even free delivery with no minimum spending! Even national express and rail have online offers that you can’t get if you buy your tickets at the station.
- Saving on transport fares
Transport is pretty expensive in the UK (as compared to Malaysia that is). A return trip between Southampton and London by train can easily cost from £40!! By bus is about half the price, but almost twice the time also. So this is where travel cards for students like us come in handy. A 16-25 Railcard costs £30 and it’ll save you 1/3 on rail fares throughout UK for one whole year. A coach card is similar but cost only £10, or you get it free if you open a Natwest bank account. Both cards really do save a lot if you travel frequently, definitely recommended. It should also be noted that buying your tickets in advance online can be cheaper occasionally. Otherwise, there is also this company called Megabus that offers a limited rail and coach options at a really cheap price.