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Beyond uni: A saver’s guide

Updated 22 December 2022

4min read

Nick Green
Financial Journalist

You’ll learn much more at university than your chosen subject – it’s also the place where many of us learn to be financially independent. From cashback to mystery shopping, here are our favourite tips from the university of life…

University is a valuable life experience, as well as an opportunity to obtain some top grades and ultimately, help land a better job at the end of it. But, as well as learning about your chosen subject, you should also be picking up all sorts of life skills and ways of getting by once you graduate.

Budgeting from week to week, planning your schedule and managing your debts are some of the key skills that you will hopefully acquire over the duration of your years of study.

It doesn’t take a qualification to know that these are things you can carry over into your life post-uni. So here are some pointers as to how you can capitalise on what you’ve learned away from the lecture hall…

Getting it back

Chances are you’re only aware of cashback via trips to the supermarket or other shops. It’s a handy way of getting funds fast, with the till operator acting as a sort of cash machine. However it goes beyond this, and many people still aren’t aware of the ins and outs of online cashback. These are the basics:

Cashback is offered by websites such as TopCashBack and Quidco. In exchange for advertising a company through an affiliate, they receive a commission, which they then pass back to the shopper. In short, you get paid to shop, albeit in small amounts. While it sounds like a gamble for sellers, the system is proven to attract repeat custom and so a little outlay from a retailer goes a long way in terms of future business.

It can be a bit complicated with regards to how you get a portion of your money back, and what you get depends very much on which retailer you click on. The sites recommend clicking on a specific cashback link before going through online checkout.

You can get an increase in your payout if you opt for vouchers instead of pounds. Companies are happy to boost your return by as much as 5 per cent so it’s worth considering, though as with anything of this nature it can be a minefield.

The best way to look at cashback is as a lot of small amounts that gradually add up. Some skilled cashback users are receiving £100 or more per year, meaning it shouldn’t be taken lightly as a means of making spare change.

Just be aware – the majority of the time, you need to spend money in the first place, in order to get the money back. So, in reality, you are not earning money; just getting some money back on what you spend! That being said, there are some loopholes/exceptions to this, such as signing up to insurance companies and credit cards, whereby you only have to remember to cancel after your trial period.

Lending your voice

Your course should have encouraged you to express your opinions, and if there’s anything companies want it’s your view on their product. There are various sites offering money in exchange for activities such as completing surveys or taking questionnaires. 20 Cogs pays around £10 in exchange for applying for offers. They are called 20 Cogs because you have to complete twenty of their exercises before they hand over the cash.

This is a relatively straightforward way of topping up your bank balance and you can do it from the comfort of your own home. If you wanted to get some fresh air you could operate as a mystery shopper, visiting businesses to assess their services on behalf of companies, though you can also do this from behind the keyboard. 

Flexible working

Fitting bits and pieces of work around your studies is tough, but it prepares you for the gig economy that’s become increasingly prevalent in the modern workplace. Although working as a self-employed person can be frustrating and inconsistent, it does equip you for a fluctuating jobs market and teaches you how to adapt when you leave education.

The opportunities are countless and it’s best to have some solid advice when starting down this road. You can find out more about this here.   

Remember you’re a womble

Apologies if you had to read that heading a couple of times! The word “womble” is familiar to those who grew up with the popular children’s programme about cute little creatures who scavenge for things on Wimbledon Common, but it’s safe to assume that few modern graduates have heard of it.

Nevertheless, it’s been adopted to cover the practice of collecting discarded receipts from supermarkets. Offers like reward card points can be viewed sceptically by some, but they can be worthwhile for others. There’s nothing wrong with taking the receipts out of that abandoned shopping trolley to claim those Clubcard points. You can receive vouchers if the price of your shop doesn’t measure up to your competitor and if you feel like a thief don’t worry… you can always take comfort in the fact you’re saving the environment by picking up litter.

For more information about saving and managing your money, check out our guide.

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About the author
Nick Green is a financial journalist writing for Unbiased.co.uk, the site that has helped over 10 million people find financial, business and legal advice. Nick has been writing professionally on money and business topics for over 15 years, and has previously written for leading accountancy firms PKF and BDO.