You probably got your packing at least a bit wrong in September…but there’s a second chance as you head back to campus after the coming Christmas break. Here’s how to stock-up on essentials but save on time, money and stress.
First, what NOT to pack
Unless you have a Heavy Goods Vehicle and a team of Sherpas at your disposal, luggage (and living) space will be at a premium – so be selective!
Clothes you don’t wear: “If you didn’t wear something while you were at home, you won’t wear it at uni either,” 2nd-year Julia advises. Save yourself the pressure and pack a basic wardrobe and a pile of pants instead. Two week’s worth of smalls and socks gets you further between washes, too, meaning fewer laundry costs.
Stationery: you’ll always be able to lay hands on cheap student stationery at uni, so don’t waste suitcase space on basics. You can fill your boots with free pens and post-its at freshers’ fairs, too.
Niche kitchen gadgets: go for multi-purpose items instead of stuff that’s only good for one job. Pizza wheel, coffee maker or lemon juicer? We’re talking scissors, kettle and a fork!
Supermarket staples: ask your folks (nicely) to take you for a big shop before leaving you to settle in – it’s much easier than hauling tins and squashed bread along with the rest of your gear.
Computer kit/gadgets: once enrolled you’ll be entitled to a student discount, as well as bargains via Amazon Prime (free for the first 6 months) or cheap deals through your uni, AND you’ll be eligible for academic prices at big name brands like Apple. So hold your horses!
Text books: Like carrying coal to Newcastle. Grabbing second-hand or library books on or near campus is cheaper (and lighter) than packing ‘em. You’ll have more options once your student discount kicks in, too. Lots of students confess they don’t use all the books on their reading list, either, so it pays to wait a while.
You can always buy (or re-stock) student essentials cheap-as-owt online or from discount shops. When it comes to packing, prioritise the stuff that makes life easier, or that money can’t buy.
Your paperwork: passport or ID, bank details, and anything else you’ll need to get on your course, get housed, or get hold of Student Finance.
Personal knick-knacks: photos of friends, family and the dog, or whatever staves off homesickness and helps you feel cosy. Pack your Gran’s lasagne – or whatever munchies make you happy – and stick them in the freezer when you arrive, too.
Prescription meds and bathroom/beauty kit: make your first week about setting in rather hunting out the nearest Superdrug.
Kitchen basics – but don’t go OTT: if you’re moving into uni or shared accommodation, scope out what’s there first, then allocate who gets what. It’s really easy to end up buying the same gear every year because you can’t be bothered to cart it all around – so buy with moving in mind.
Bedding: laundry can be a major drag, so this is one time packing extras is worth it. You can wash and leave one set to air dry, and still be snug in bed the same night.
Multi-plug adaptor: stuck with a single wall socket? You need an adaptor. “I bought three for my flat,” graduate Tom remembers, but they were so useful he “ended up lending them out to everyone else.”
A bag of tricks: pack of cards, drinks or snacks – anything to kick-start the house-warming party.
Cash: Student Finance can take a while to arrive, so make sure you can get by in the meantime.
Toilet roll: worth keeping one to hand!
First-year Jack tips an Ethernet cable as a surprise staple: “We all had a socket in our rooms and I was sick of having slow broadband so I used mine. It sped everything up and nobody else twigged to get one and speed up their connection.”\
Wishlist: everything else
It’s fairly impossible to nail everything you need in one go. It’s also tempting to see what others bring and convince yourself you can’t live without a novelty tea strainer in your life – and that can make the first few months at uni wallet draining! If you don’t have a Lotto win to breeze through, put everything on a wishlist first, then see what you can get from friends, family and freebie sites.
Even if do you end up coughing up, wishlisting buys you thinking space – you may well find you’ve already got something that does the job and, in the meantime, you won’t be caught short on unavoidable costs like rent and bus fares. Happy packing!
Guest blog written by Ruth Bushi, an editor at Save the Student – the UK’s largest student money advice site.