A broke students’ guide to surviving on £1 a day in the UK

money-saving expert
You don't need to be a money-saving expert to survive the day-to-day financial struggles of an international student. Here's how you can survive on £1 a day. Source: Justin Tallis/AFP

At times, it can feel like you would need to be a money-saving expert to survive the day-to-day financial struggles of an international student. Saving money is no easy feat when you’re studying abroad in a country with a stronger currency than where you’re from. This is especially true in the UK, which is one of the costliest study destinations.

Being thrifty is an art — it can take a lot of self-restraint and creative hacks to save as much as you possibly can when your budget is tight. Whether you’re saving money for tuition or merely to stretch your money while studying in the UK, we’ve curated some tips from Tọ́ba Courage, the money-saving maverick from YouTube, for some ideas on what you can do.

Tips and tricks from the money-saving expert

Based on Tọ́ba Courage’s video series “Living on £1 a Day“, the money-saving expert shows his viewers some tips and tricks one can do to find ways to save as much as they possibly can. With only £1 equipped as his daily expanse, Courage does everything he can to follow the restriction from being super thrifty in a supermarket to asking for free food at restaurants.

Being thrifty at the supermarket

You may be pleasantly surprised how much you can buy with only £1 at a supermarket. While buying instant meals are convenient, the best way to stretch your money is by cooking your meals using cheap ingredients from any supermarket, such as bread and eggs.

You can even find discounted foods that are sold for a fraction of their original price — these items are usually close to expiring and are often slapped with a colourful price tag, so they’re pretty hard to miss. Some foods are still safe to eat after their sell-by date — read about it here.

Eat free samples from a supermarket

There’s no shame in taking free samples at a supermarket — it’s only shameful if you take another serving from the same booth! Some supermarkets — especially hypermarkets — have a wider selection of free sample booths, particularly on the weekends, so that’s your chance to sample a wider range of goods. While free samples aren’t enough to replace a meal, they can serve as good snacks between meals.

Some might assume that food challenges are inherently American, but the Brits don’t shy away from getting their name on the board too. Source: John Parra/Getty Images North America/Getty Images via AFP

Restaurant food challenges

Caveat: this method is risky if you’re someone without a big appetite. Some might assume that food challenges are inherently American, but the Brits don’t shy away from getting their name on the board too. Most challenges will cover the price of the meal — as long as you beat their goal. If you succeed, it will likely be the cheapest meal that will feed you for the whole day.

Use food sharing apps

There are websites or apps that allow catering businesses, restaurants or common folk to post up foods that they are willing to give away for free. Sure, some foods may be near-expiring, and you may need to go the distance to get the food, but a money-saving expert will need to make some compromises for free stuff if it works in their favour.

OLIO, for instance, are a business that allows anyone to post food they are willing to give away. It doesn’t cost a penny and you don’t need to fill any criteria to be eligible for anything posted. All you have to do is contact the person who posted it and make your way there for a free meal.

Some restaurants would offer free food as long you downloaded their apps on your phone. Source: Joe Raedle/Getty Images North America/Getty Images via AFP

Get deals from restaurant apps

Some restaurants would offer customers free food as long they downloaded the eateries’ app on their phones. If you’re in luck, some might give you a full meal for free. So, explore your app store — you might just score an incredible deal.

Eat at a pay-what-you-can restaurant or cafe

Several restaurants have a pay-what-you-can model that allows all people to spend however much they want or can afford for a meal there. As tempting as it may be to walk out without paying anything, you still should give some money after you have finished your meal. After all, they are still a business and money will go a long way for them to sustain themselves.

More often than not, restaurants like these also offer ingredients like fruits, vegetables or grains that are about to expire for free. Any money-saving expert will take the opportunity to make dinner at home with these free ingredients.

If you’re in Bristol, there’s the Stokes Croft Food Project, Bristol’s first pay-what-you-can cafe. Ziferblat, for instance, is a cafe in the UK where you pay for the time you spend inside the shop. You can also enjoy bottomless coffees and teas.

Although these kinds of soup kitchens may be incredibly rare, they offer up a satisfying homecooked meal for anyone who can’t afford to spend a single penny on food. Source: Dave Chan / AFP

Eat at a soup kitchen

Some soup kitchens don’t turn people away based on their financial circumstances, but they typically aim to feed the poor and homeless and rely on donations, so it would be ideal not to take advantage of them if you can afford to buy yourself food. If you’re tight on cash and need a warm meal, soup kitchens are the way to go.

Ask for free food at restaurants

Ask and you shall receive. On Courage’s final day of the Living on £1 a Day challenge, he went around London asking shops after shops for free food. To his surprise, there were several restaurants, both small-time businesses and fast-food restaurants, that were generous enough to give him some free food. So, if you’re on your last straw in terms of money, you could always try asking for food and they may very well come your way.