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How to Find Student Accommodation on a Budget

Updated: Dec 13, 2023

Are you looking for affordable student accommodation that fits within your budget and lifestyle?

Group of 5 students preparing to move into student accommodation.

Seeking Accommodation and Stretching your Student Budget

Do you want to save money, live close to campus and its facilities, but still be independent from the 'school' environment?

We've got 8 tips for finding student accommodation on a budget, whether it's in the city or the suburbs. Read on to find out what to look for and how to get the most affordable student housing.

Female student in red sweater and blue jeans holding moving box

8 Tips to Finding Student Accommodation on a Budget

One of the first things you need to consider is who you're going to be living with. Choose carefully!

The second is to have calculated your budget.

Student dressed in a trench coat and satchel walking with coffee in hand

1. City or Suburbs? Consider your options

The location of your accommodation will be a major factor in calculating your living and commuting costs.

In the city, you'll enjoy the convenience of being close to campus and amenities, but you'll also face higher rents, noise, traffic and charges.

In the suburbs, you may have the benefit of lower rents, less pollution and noise, and more green space, but you will also have a longer commute every day and, if you are dependent on public transport, the frequency (or lack) of some routes may be an issue. You may even prefer the relative feeling of 'safety' in the countryside rather than in the city.

Consider the pros and cons of each option and think about what is most important to you.

2. Travel and Transport: Finding the best way to get around

When looking for accommodation, find out where the nearest public transport stops are, and how far they are from the campus, shops or social areas.

Also check the frequency of public transport, as some buses or trains may not stop as frequently in some areas outside of rush hour times.

Research the distance and availability of a cycle route, which would be ideal to help you save time and money on your commute and also reduce your carbon footprint. .

A student ID badge with lanyard on a table

Be sure to use your Student ID card to get student discounts on travel passes to help make public transport more affordable.

Research the cost effectiveness of getting a monthly (or longer) bus or 16-25 Railcard to save costs. As a student, it may not be worth buying an annual pass, particularly as you may not be on-site the entire year. However, it would be worth looking into a monthly, 3-monthly, or 6-month travel pass, to reduce the overall cost of transport.

Don't forget to check the availability of on-street parking in the area you're considering for student accommodation if you own a car or are planning to. You don't want to waste time and money trying to find a parking space or having to pay parking fees.

Built up traffic next to a railway track

Think about the amount of traffic in the area and how it might affect your day to day life. You may want to avoid areas that are prone to traffic jams or delays, especially at peak times of the day.

Keep in mind that while having your own car may be convenient, it is not so convenient for your wallet! Insurance, fuel, parking, maintenance and road tax all add up and should be factored into your student budget if this is your preferred mode of transport.

If the campus is not too far away for you to cycle, then biking will be the most economical transport option. Apart from walking, of course! However, you should make sure that you have a good bicycle lock (or two) and that you can secure your bike in a safe way both during the day and at night.

It is a good idea to check that you have sufficient insurance cover with a fast payout to enable you to replace your bike in the event of theft. It happens!

Girl with a silver backpack pushing her bicycle

3. Facilities: Stay healthy and happy

Being close to the supermarket, medical facilities, the gym and other shops is a big plus for students. It will help you stay healthy and happy, as well as making your life easier and more convenient. You'll be able to get regular exercise, buy your own food and cook your own meals without having to spend too much time or money.

Do some research into the availability of these facilities in the area you are considering for your student accommodation and how they suit your needs.

Remember that the supermarket closest to you may not be the cheapest one!

4. Bills: Shop around utility suppliers

Renting student accommodation also comes with additional expenses such as electricity and water bills, the rent deposit, Wi-Fi, etc. These costs can add up quickly and put a strain on your budget.

To prevent that from happening, think smart about your bills and find ways to keep them down:

  • Check to see if the landlord includes utility bills in the monthly rent

  • Shop around for the cheapest service provider and the best deals on the market

  • Use energy-efficient appliances and equipment to save on electricity bills

  • Switch off lights and unplug equipment when not in use.

Pay your utility bills on time, and use a bill-splitting app with your flatmates, so that no one person is responsible for the whole cost.

5. Property Management Agents: Choose wisely

If you are thinking of renting through a property management agent, make sure you do your homework and choose wisely. A reputable and trustworthy agent can make your rental experience smooth and stress-free, while a dodgy or unprofessional one can cause problems or be unresponsive if there are problems with the property.

Before signing a contract, research the agent's reputation, read online reviews from previous tenants and ask questions about their fees, policies and services. Ask about their service policy and response time for maintenance issues.

Man feeding a woman in front of kitchen stove

6. Living at home: Consider the pros and cons

For some students, living at home can be a cost-effective option. It eliminates the stress of finding and paying for student accommodation. However, it's not always the best choice for everyone.

Living at home can also affect your independence and possibly your relationship with family members. Despite becoming an adult, and enjoying your new independent life as a university student, you may still be required to follow certain rules at home, share space with others, or deal with conflict or distractions.

Having said that, you would have access to a well stocked fridge, home cooked meals, and all the comforts you enjoy living at home.

Compromise is the name of the game - think about the pros and cons of maintaining your comfort level at home vs the opportunity to start an independent life. Discuss with your family members an acceptable arrangement and decide if it's worth it for you.

A home study set up with desk, chair, computer, plants and wall shelves

7. Furnished vs Non-Furnished Accommodation: Convenience vs Cost

If you have some spare furniture that you can take with you to decorate your rented accommodation, then look for 'unfurnished' accommodation as the monthly rent will be cheaper than for 'furnished' accommodation.

If you don't, look for furnished accommodation.

It's not worth the extra cost of buying new (even second-hand) furniture for a temporary home. You may be able to find cheap furniture on local social media groups and then sell it on the same sites once you plan your move-out. This would especially make sense if you plan to live in the same accommodation for your second, third and fourth year.

You could also look into furniture rental services, although this would probably cost you as much, if not more, than the additional rental charge for furnished accommodation.

8. Rental Agreement: Negotiate and Read the Small Print

We learned the hard way during the COVID-19 lockdown that the rental agreement for my daughter's accommodation was for a 12-month unbreakable lease, with no possibility of negotiation.

This meant that we had to pay the full rent - not only during the lockdown period, when most of the students had fled back home and the flat was therefore unoccupied - but also during the summer months when the academic year was over!

My advice to you is to negotiate your rental agreement!

Ask for the rental period to cover the academic period only (September to June). And ask if there is a 'pandemic preparedness' clause allowing a discount on the rent if the place is not being occupied, should another pandemic such as COVID-19 occur.

It could happen again!

colourful terraced houses


I hope these tips will help you find student accommodation to suit your budget, lifestyle and needs. Whether you're in the city or the suburbs, make sure you take the time to research your options and find the best location.

Follow our step-by-step guidance on finding accommodation, moving in and out, and much more in our essential guide for students, available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Waterstones, Book Depository and many more bookstores online.

Testimonial and book review of From High School to Uni
Testimonial from a student

Don't forget to visit our website and download all our packing lists for students. They will make your packing process easier and faster, and ensure that you don't forget to pack anything important. In addition, our Member Resources provide accommodation guides, student budget calculators and much more to help you settle in stress-free!

Good luck with your move to university! Get in touch if you have any questions on finding affordable student housing. We are happy to help.


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