UK University Students: Pound Shops for Financial Survival

Pound Shops

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Attending university has always been a costly endeavor and considering next year’s escalating course fees and the ever-increasing cost of living, budgeting has never been more important for students. Thankfully, many UK high streets now contain pound shops such as Pound Land, 99p stores (OK, not quite a pound), and many other independent £1 stores which means that students can acquire many of the things that they desire and need for their new home on the most modest of budgets, whilst leaving them with enough money for a few post-lecture ciders by the close of each week.

Bargains for students that are available at pound shops fall into the following categories:

  • Food;
  • Homewares;
  • Cosmetics and
  • Items for parties and all-night study sessions

I also warn you of a number of the mistakes (‘Pound Shop Pitfalls’) that one can make when shopping in a pound store at the end of this post.

Although this is written from the perspective of a UK resident, the same advice is applicable to US college students and dollar stores.


Admittedly, I would not recommend that anyone live solely on a diet of items that are stocked by your local pound shop for the majority of these edibles are of the crisps and chocolate variety (*). You can find other essentials for your food cupboards in pound stores, however; including Heinz baked beans, cereals, tea bags, and coffee as well as the student stable that is the Fray Bentos pie. 4-pint bottles of milk are also available in the chilled section of Pound Land stores.

*If you want to save yourself some money by taking a packed lunch with you to university every day instead of buying lunch in the student union or cafes then your pound shop will be an absolute God-send!


Until you move out of your parents’ home and into your own, you won’t quite realize just how many items you will need to buy just to live comfortably and hygienically – cleaning products and kitchen items don’t simply appear out of thin air! Pound stores usually boast an impressive itinerary of homeware, including leading brand cleaning products like bathroom and kitchen bleach, washing up liquid/sponges, shower curtains/mats, laundry hangers, mops, dustpans and brushes, brooms, and even cups, plates, and cutlery!

It is definitely worth popping into your local pound store before visiting any other high street shops to acquire the things you require for your new home.


Pound stores are usually filled with makeup from previous seasons and so it can be a bit “hit and miss” in terms of the colors available but you can find suitable items from time to time so it is always worth having a quick browse. Whereas you are likely to find an array of well-known brands of cosmetics and shampoos, you will also come across some brands specifically created for pound shops – I would avoid these for they rarely offer the same value for money as items from leading brands.

Regular stock rotation can see some cosmetic and beauty items which are usually very expensive appear on the shelves and so you should be sure to visit your local store on a regular basis. In my time I have been lucky enough to find a deep conditioning treatment that has the usual RRP of £8.99 and mascaras which one would usually expect to pay over £6 for elsewhere.

Parties and all-night study sessions

Unfortunately, you are not going to find a liter bottle of Jagermeister or Vodka on the shelves of your nearest pound shop but you will find an array of other items useful for those many parties you will no doubt throw/attend during your time at university. Bendy straws, banners, and balloons aside, you are also likely to find £1 packets of Pro Plus and ‘2 for a £1’ energy drinks which are usually priced at more than this individually – useful for both parties and study/deadline related all-night sessions!

Anything can happen when a whole lot of alcohol is involved and as such, you may also wish to purchase a pack of Durex condoms from your local pounds store, just to be on the safe side. You’re probably alarmed right now and thinking that such a purchase should be listed under the ‘Pound Shop Pitfalls’ section but as long as a condom packet contains the necessary Kitemark and a suitable ‘Best Before’ date, they will offer you the correct protection from both pregnancy and STDs/STIs (the pounds shops would be in tremendous trouble is they were selling rubbers that do not meet these criteria!)

Pound Shop Pitfalls

It is important to remember that not everything in your local pound shop will actually be worth the £1 price tag – there are many items that will be available for less in other stores. The assumed psychology of pound store shoppers is “It’s only £1” *Throws item in basket* but wise shoppers are no less frugal regarding their purchases in the wake of a seeming bargain price tag. Shop around so you know that you really are only purchasing the true bargains in your local pound shop.

You should also keep in mind that sometimes you are better off paying more for an item elsewhere because of quality issues. For example, I recently purchased myself several can openers from my local Pound Land, neither of which was actually capable of opening a tin and so I had to purchase a more expensive one elsewhere. The rule is the same for £1 batteries if you are planning to use them for anything else but powering a television remote!

Kat Whitmarsh has seen her parents forced to declare themselves bankrupt and is therefore determined to fall into colossal debt herself during her time at university. The best place for anyone to turn to for bad credit repair advice is Vanquis Bank.