Expensive Edinburgh: tips on how to make it to the end of the month

Undoubtedly,  Edinburgh is one of the best student cities in the United Kingdom. Nearly everywhere you go you’ll find a nice pub or a fancy bar, a quiet place to study – and, due to the capital’s manageable size, there’s a good chance you’ll bump into someone you know every day. It’s super pretty with plenty of variation, but unfortunately, super pricey too.

Edinburgh ranks 10th in the list of cities with the highest cost of living in the UK. Yet, unlike students in London, students in Edinburgh cannot expect an adjusted maintenance loan. And since maintenance grants will not be available from September 2016 anymore, times are set to become even harder for low-income students in Scotland’s capital.

Even though student discounts are available for some amenities such as party venues, cinemas, and travel cards, full prices are still charged in most shops, restaurants, and letting agencies. Let’s face it, rent in Edinburgh is extortionate. £350 inclusive of all bills for a room in a shared flat is an absolute bargain as more expensive rooms cost up to £700 a month (yes, this is for one person).

Some first year or exchange students might be really lucky and be offered cheap accommodation close to the main campus on a nine month lease by the university. Others might be really unlucky and end up paying a good £5,000 rent for the academic year, even though their accommodation is right in the middle of nowhere. Actually, a lot of freshers complain about the poor value for money of the newly built halls located right at the end of Leith walk. The walk to University from there takes no less than 40 minutes and a bus pass is a necessity, costing around £45 a month.

So who wouldn’t want a tall latte with an extra shot and lots of vanilla syrup after such a long journey to class. What a pity that coffee is also ridiculously expensive in Britain’s second most popular city – £3 for a Mocha is not even seen as outrageous anymore.

However, the coffee layman can always get a hot bev for a reasonable price in the library café, DHT café or any other university venue; you will easily get a drink for under £2 there, but it is questionable whether this comparably little amount is worth paying for – in most cases – burnt coffee.

As a matter of fact, living in Edinburgh on a low budget is fairly difficult. But it is not impossible. It is all about comparing the options. For your next grocery shop, why not go to Scotmid? The supermarket chain gives students 10 per cent off their shopping. Lidl, too, is a cheap alternative – watch out for their home brands! This actually applies to every bigger chain. A bar of chocolate from Sainsbury’s home brand for example is no more than 30p. Also, a Sunday night food shop at Tesco will save you huge amounts. As they need to get rid of all the food from the previous week, they’ll sell perfectly ripe avocados, a number of ready meals and lots of other random single items at incredibly cheap prices.

Rent-wise, it is definitely worth making the effort to find a flat with more than four bedrooms. Finding such a place is a stressful experience and will take a while, but in the end, utility bills will be a lot less when shared between more people.

When it comes to coffee, sadly, the best advice would probably be to switch to cola. But for real coffee lovers looking for reasonably priced drinks, why not invest in a French press and do it yourself? This will save you money in the long run.

General advise for smart spenders can be found in the helpful Food Shopping Guide on the University’s website and in EUSA’s Budget Planner online. If you need more information about funding, the student Advice Place in Potterow will be able to help.

Image: GOTCREDIT @flickr

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