This article is written by QMUL alumni, Kim Wan, who has been working on a Savvy Student Guide to help students save money at university.
Life is expensive. Especially when you’re a student living in one of the costliest cities in the world.
And as a student-turned-alumni at Queen Mary’s University, I know what it’s like to want to live the good life on a student loan in London all too well. But it is doable – QM, East London and Mile End particularly offer a myriad of ways to make it work – and through a lot of trial and error during three years in the Tower Hamlets borough, I finally found out a few ways how to not only get by, but to thrive…
From course books to cheap eats and many a night out, cutting costs doesn’t have to mean cutting corners (or missing out on the mass of things to do!). So if you’re after a few tips on how to be a savvy student at QM, read on…
Course books on a budget
With so many experiences to be had, you don’t want to blow all your budget on course books – but there’s no getting out of needing them.
John Smith’s: This is just by the SU on campus and has most books you’ll need for the semester, as well as lots of bits and bobs like stationary and supplies. It’s got loads of helpful stuff to help you save money such as the selling and buying of second-hand textbooks but be warned – brand spanking new ones can be a bit pricey.
Facebook groups: One of the ways I got around the expense of books was joining Facebook groups for my course where students from the past year sell their old ones for half the price. Considering you might only need each book for a maximum of one semester, it makes sense – and if your course doesn’t have one, consider setting one up. It takes two minutes and is totally worth it.
Second-hand websites: Alternatively, the likes of Amazon and World of Books often have ‘used’ bargain books. Just be sure to get the right editions or you’ll be the embarrassed person who can never find the right page during readings (there’s always one)!
The Coffee Room: This place has delicious coffee and home-made cakes as well as plenty of choice for breakfast and lunches on the cheap. Fuel up on breakky for under a fiver with anything from salmon and cream cheese bagels to bacon and cheese melts. If you’re having a pit stop at lunch, choose from soups, salads and sandwiches for around £5, too (the chorizo, cheese and truffle oil sandwich is something else…).
The Pizza Room: If you’re in need of some Naples-style cheesy, cheap and cheerful goodness, there’s no dough-‘t about it – this is the place. You’ll find this gem on Grove Road by Mile End station and it makes equally good grub whether you’re looking for a lunchtime treat or a late-night pizza (open till 11pm most nights). They do a lunch deal from 12pm-5pm, so you can get yourself a pizza and a drink for as little as £8.95.
90 Degree Melt: For the veggies and vegans amongst you (or meat lovers with an open mind), this American diner has everything you could possibly want from gooey vegan grilled cheese sandwiches to veggie burgers with a twist. With super-filling sides from vegan mac ‘n’ cheese to jalapeno cornbread, you don’t need to spend a ton to satisfy your carb-heavy cravings.
The Half Moon Wetherspoons: It’s an unspoken rule that every student should be able to navigate their nearest Wetherspoons blindfolded and spun around for good measure. Why? Because it’s the best there is for those on a budget, whether you’re going for some grub, a few pints or a full-on night out. The Half Moon even has a terrace for sunny days, too.
Roosters Piri Piri: If you fancy a Nando’s without the niggling guilt of spending twenty quid on chicken and a few chips, head to Roosters. It’s way cheaper with copycat flavours like classic Peri Peri as well as their own including Lebanese, Mexican and Tikka. If it’s a night in with housemates, go for a mixed platter with something for everyone, or if you’re feeling extra hungry, the mega platter has 2 whole chickens, 8 wings, 8 strips and 4 sides.
Drapers Bar & Kitchen: How could I leave out the SU when it comes to being student savvy? Honestly, this place is a lifesaver and makes eating out easy at prices not dissimilar to the supermarket. Find your lunch in a flour tortilla wrap for as little as £2.50 or go ‘all out’ with the likes of the cheese and bacon burger or triple-cheese pizza for no more than a fiver. The extra bonus is that this not-for-profit ploughs everything you buy back into the university, making your experience better all round.
Dixie Chicken: Dixie’s on Mile End Road is like a rite of passage for any QM student. It’s also like a light at the end of the tunnel when you leave the club bleary-eyed and beer-filled, dreaming of greasy goodness to soak up the booze (despite the fact it’ll probably make you feel worse-off the following day.) Still, it’s worth it at the time… when you spot the blue and red sign in the distance, walk onwards my friend, as golden-coated chicken awaits. This one’s guaranteed to hit the spot for any drunk post-midnight cravings at a price as cheap as the chicken is crispy…
A night on the tiles
A night out can rack up a bill that doesn’t bode well on a student budget, but whoever invented pre-drinking – we thank you. Post pre-drinks however, it’s time to hit the SU again (I swear they’re not paying me for this!), but the student deals are next to none:
- Monday’s calling is free entry and Pound Stretcher on a Wednesday is only £2
- The last Wednesday of every month is Hail Mary – this is one of the major events at QM’s as the sports teams go to celebrate their successes or drown their sorrows!
- Drinks are cheap – £3 for a double (and £2.60 for a pint of red beer on non-Hail Mary nights)
- If you’re truly dedicated Drapers Queen, you can buy a Drapers card for £120 which gets you free entry and queue jump to all events throughout the year
Exercise for less
With all the good stuff above, here’s how to sweat it out…
Qmotion: The student gym is a good option for fitness fans, allowing you to be among fellow students and situated right on campus. You can pay a monthly £30 direct debit, but the longer you commit the cheaper it becomes – so three months is £84 and six months is £147, or £210 for the whole year. Or, with students being the best able to attend at off-peak times, you can go between 7-3pm and 8pm-close for as cheap as £21 per month.
Cycling: It probably comes as no surprise that cycling is the cheapest way to travel. QM has around 500 bike spaces on campus with most at Whitechapel and Charterhouse Square (see the full map here: https://www.qmul.ac.uk/about/sustainability/campus/transport/cycling/). If you don’t have a bike, the Santander cycle hire is a good option for getting around instead.
Student Oyster Card: If you’re getting the tube, train or bus, make sure you apply for the student Oyster Card which will get you 30% of all your travel.
And for a wider look at staying student-wise, check out this Savvy Student guide for all the best tips on everything from entertainment and technology to travelling on a budget.