Back to Zopa Blog

Back to Uni – how the sharing economy can help your finances

Whether you’re about to head to university for the first time or are going back for a second or third year, saving money is likely to be one of your priorities.

Recent changes to the student fees system means that today’s undergraduates are on average likely to accumulate more debt than any previous generation.

So what are the best ways of keeping expenses under control?

If you haven’t had to plan and stick to a budget in the past, now is a great time to learn: work out what money you have coming in on a week-by-week basis and set this against your expected outgoings and overheads.

Keeping a record of what you spend is a good way of identifying areas where you can cut back or seek cheaper alternatives – for example by teaming up with flatmates to invest in your own coffee-making equipment rather than spending £2.50 a day each at Starbucks.

Choosing the right bank account can also help: there may be a number of tempting freebies on offer, but what you really want is the largest and cheapest overdraft you can find. Most student accounts offer interest-free overdrafts up to a certain level – as much as £3,000 in some cases. As it is likely you’ll have to borrow at least some money to stay afloat, it makes sense to do so at the cheapest rate possible. But bear in mind that if you exceed your overdraft limit, you’ll face penalty charges and high interest rates.

Using peer to peer to save and earn

A number of new sharing economy services give students the chance to cut down on expenses or make some extra cash, so these are well worth checking out.

Getting home to see friends and family every now and again will be a priority for many undergrads, and lift-sharing services such as or can help you slash the cost of these trips: all you have to do is sign up on the site, put details of your journey in and wait to be contacted by someone who is driving on the same route at the right time.

You’ll be expected to pay your share of fuel, but this is likely to be a huge saving on a rail or even coach ticket – and as an added bonus your driver may even be able to drop you at your door.

One asset you may have as a student is spare time, particularly in the early stages of your year or degree course. The likes of Taskrabbit let people who need help with minor jobs, from assembling flat-pack furniture to moving home or clearing a garden, ask for short-term assistance. You can sign up with your Facebook or LinkedIn profile, stating what kind of jobs you could carry out and where you would be able to work.

You may even be able to make extra money outside of term time by letting out your accommodation on a site like Airbnb, but bear in mind that your tenancy agreement may prohibit sub-letting.

Financially, times are tougher than ever for today’s students. But by taking advantage of the sharing economy wherever possible, you can reduce the amount of debt you end up graduating with.