Looking into a tin of coins

When you leave school or university and start your first job, it can be really overwhelming and exciting having money for the first time. However, you will quickly realise that you do not have as much money as you thought. If this has happened to you, see our guide for how to save while working.


After your first real paycheck, you will think you are an oil sheik for about two weeks. That is until you discover that somehow all the money has already been spent. You probably won’t  be able to understand where all your money is going, especially if you are still living with your parents, but before you call your bank complaining of fraud and hackers have a little look at what you spend everyday.

There are a number of expenses associated with working that you might not have thought of. If you travel even a short distance by train to get to work, you will be spending at least £30 on travel a week and this figure skyrockets when you go anywhere near london. Furthermore, even a cheap lunch everyday will set you back at least £15 a week. Once you add on £20 or more a week spent on after work drinks, you could find yourself spending nearly £70 a week (or £300 a month) without even having bought anything.

This is problematic because as soon as you got your big fat paycheck you probably went out and bought yourself a treat, something big, that you have wanted for a while but have never been able to afford. Not taking into account day-to-day expenses means that you think you have far more money for “treats” than you do and this can lead you straight into your overdraft by the end of the month.

To avoid this, check out our helpful hints and tips on how to save while working:

Reign it in

This is the most important thing to remember. Just because you have £1000 in your account, you do not have to spend it. That money has to last you for the whole of the next month, so don’t blow it on a couple of nights out, an ipad and a new pair of shoes. Set yourself a weekly allowance and, if you want to buy something big, build up to it. Put a little bit of money aside each week or month and go back to buy it once you’ve saved enough. Nine times out of ten, once you come back to it a few weeks down the line, you will realise that you don’t really want or need to thing anyway.

Bring in Lunch

As I said even buying in a cheap lunch everyday will cost you around £15 a week. Bringing in lunch 3 or 4 days out of five will make a big difference. You will probably eat more healthily and you’ll definitely save money, especially if you are living at home because your parents will probably provide you with sandwich ingredients. If you bring in lunch every other day, you can give yourself a little treat once a week as well, and get a nicer £6 lunch. I’d much rather this than a boring meal deal everyday.

A woman in a red jumper packing their lunch into Tupperware boxes

Imahe Credit: Rubbermaid Products/ Flickr.com 

Buy Travel in Advance

If you have to travel into work by train, tube or tram everyday it is a good idea to get a monthly travel card. This way you can pay for it just after you have been paid and you don’t have to worry about it for the rest of the month. It may seem like a huge expenditure every month but it will save you lots in the long run. Having said this, always double check that a travel card will  be cheaper because very occasionally it is not. In London, if you get the bus twice a day, for example, you only pay £15 a week whereas a travel card costs £32 a week. In most cases though, getting travel in advance is the way to go.

Walk, Cycle or Bus in

If you are really looking to save a few pounds it is a good idea to look at alternative ways of getting to work. Some people have a really long commute so getting the train is the only option. If this is the case, you could still cut down on costs though by walking or grabbing a city bike from the train station to your place of work. If you have a shorter commute, it is always a good idea to look into getting the bus rather than a tube or tram, or even walking in, because often at rush hour, it takes about the same amount of time to walk as to get the bus. In London, a single tube journey costs £2.90 but a bus journey costs only £1.50, in Manchester, the tram costs over £2 for a journey but most buses charge £1. By switching modes of transport, therefore, you could almost halve your travel costs. Cycling is another good option especially in London as the city bikes are free if you use them for less than half an hour. Lastly, it is worth remembering that if you are an apprentice you get a reduced rate on travel.

A female student cycling

Image Credit: Tejvan Pettinger/ Flickr.com 

Have a Few Nights In

When you and all of your friends are working it can be tempting to grab a few after work drinks or some dinner in the nearest bars/restaurants to your office. This, however, will see you paying really inflated prices. You can still have really good nights out when saving but it is a good idea to move the party somewhere cheaper. Meet your friends at your local pub every now and again rather than in touristy or upmarket inner city bars. Even cheaper, is to have drinks at home; get in some wine or beers and have a nice night in. Don’t waste money eating out all the time either, make dinner for friends at your house or go over to theirs. The food will probably be much nicer and a hell of alot cheaper. 

Get an Online Savings Account

One of the best ways to save money is to set up a savings account. Most banks offer an “online saver” option, which can be set up easily, with as little as £1. Then you can instantly transfer money from your saving account to your current account and visa versa but you can’t access the money at the cashpoint or in shops. This will help you save because you can instantly transfer most of your wages into your savings and leave yourself a small weekly budget.

A close up of a student working on their laptop

Image Credit: Stocksnap.io


Save on Monthly Costs

When you consider how much money you have for the month, often you will forget all the monthly payments that come out. These payments may be for your phone, insurance or spotify or netflix. It is a good idea to sit down and add up all your monthly direct debits before you start to think about things you can buy. If you are really struggling to save money, you should look at cutting down these payments. You could look for a cheaper phone contract; there are really good deals out there if you look beyond the major companies. Equally, you could ask someone to share your netflix account and share the cost of it. Also, if you have insurance for things like your phone, it is a good idea to check your parents’ home insurance policy because often it will cover damage or loss of contents even when they are outside the home. 

Batt your Eyelashes and Ask for a Helping Hand

If you are really struggling with money. Ask your parents for a bit of help. They probably won’t be that sympathetic if you have spent your entire paycheck on a new phone and an x box but they will definitely understand if things like travel and food are taking away all of your money. Many parents help their kids to pay for these things during their first jobs because a lot of the time they are just pleased that their children are working, even if they are not earning that much.

Written by Tilly Embling for ELUCEO