Studying on a Budget: Savings Tips and Federal Aid

When I began considering postgraduate programmes, one of the first issues that came to mind was how I would manage to fund my studies, let alone studies abroad. I had known for years that I’d like to study in the UK, however, the cost of living and the US Dollar to Great British Pound exchange rate worried me. I had studied in London for a summer two years previously and recalled living off of only bacon (British bacon is so much nicer than American bacon) and eggs my last week and a half because I had drained my savings for the trip and didn’t have money for much else. I was determined to not let that happen this time. After research, help from the university, and budgeting, I found that studying at Surrey was not only feasible but potentially even more financially reasonable than studying back home. This post details my findings and will hopefully assure you that studying in the UK, specifically at Surrey, is still possible for money-conscious students such as myself.

Right off the bat, there are a number of financial advantages that studying at Surrey offers international US students:

  1. Postgraduate study in the UK is traditionally one year as opposed to two years or more in the US. Because of this, students pursuing postgraduate study in the UK typically pay less for their programs than US students as they only have to pay for one year.
  2. Tuition for UK university programs is commonly less expensive than in the US. As you probably know, tuition in the US varies greatly depending on the university’s location, whether it is private versus public, and a number of other factors, such as the type of program.
  3. Many UK institutions, including the University of Surrey, accept USA Federal Loans. For more information on this, please visit:
  4. International students are guaranteed on-campus housing their first year of study (subject to meeting application deadlines). On-campus housing is usually much less expensive than rent in Guildford.

Apart from these advantages, there are many budgeting “hacks” that, when used properly, can help you stretch your money as far as possible. The following tips are a few of my favorites:

  1. Take advantage of student deals and discounts. There are many discounts available to students, such as travel, shopping, and restaurant deals. When in doubt, always ask the store or restaurant you are in if they offer discounts. More likely than not, they will! Also, check out discounts such as Surrey’s student bus travel card which offers students more than a 50% savings on bus travel, national rail discount cards, and student oyster cards. If you are into retail, I suggest signing up for UniDays. UniDays is a free service that offers plenty of discounts on many famous high street brand stores.
  2. Utilize your flat kitchen. As tempting as eating at one of Guildford’s many delicious restaurants or ordering delivery pizza may sound, using your flat’s kitchen is an easy way to save money. Once a month there is a farmer’s market on Guildford’s high street. The market is a great place to score inexpensive fresh produce, bread, and more. Closer to home, there is a farmer’s market on campus every Wednesday. Otherwise, a Tesco (brand of grocery store) is in walking distance from both Stag Hill and Manor Park campuses. Tesco and Sainsbury’s tend to be the more reasonably priced UK grocery stores whereas Waitrose and Marks & Spencers are typically pricier.
  3. Swap Starbucks for home-brewed or Lakeside coffee. Do you drink coffee daily? If so, consider investing in a personal hot cup and brewing your own coffee at home. Every flat at Surrey is equipped with a kettle and coffee in the UK is commonly sold in grocery stores as granules that dissolve in hot water (it’s not as bad as it sounds). By using this simple hack, you are likely to save at least £15 a week. If at-home coffee just doesn’t sound as appetizing as that from a cafe, check out Lakeside. Located in the front of campus, in the Surrey Business School, Lakeside offers all sorts of lattes, flavored coffees, and hot and cold sandwiches at a fair price. They also have amazing soup. Students can score a large coffee for easily under £2.
  4. Book travel in advance. Depending on your class schedule, travelling abroad and visiting different areas of the UK may be a frequent occurrence. Avoid ridiculous prices by booking as early as possible. Flight and bus companies, such as Ryanair and National Express tend to spike their prices closer to the departure date. Additionally, you can usually score the cheapest hostel and hotel deals by booking at least a month in advance. Organizing a weekend away weeks before leaving may seem like a daunting task but your wallet will thank you.
  5. Hold yourself accountable. One of the first things I did after arriving in Guildford was put together a budget spreadsheet. In this spreadsheet, I included monthly expenses such as my cell phone bill, groceries, printing credit, and laundry. From there, I allocated money amounts for activities like going out, shopping, and travel. By having this in one central spreadsheet, I was able to hold myself accountable and ensure I had enough money to last me my duration of study. If I overspent one month, I made sure I underspent the next. This not only held me accountable but also eased a lot of personal financial stress.

I hope that you find these tips helpful. I assure you that they have worked wonders for me. For further information on budgeting, check out Surrey’s Student Money team’s website at: . And, as always, feel free to email us at

Until next time –