Students are famously a bit short on cash. Of course, some people have more disposable income than others due to having a job or an allowance, but in my experience, most people (myself included) rely on the maintenance loan to get through term.
I personally find that my maintenance loan covers everything I need it to. I think your preferences for social activities does affect this, though – my friendship group tends to do house parties rather than nights out, which makes it cheaper.
I like to write a shopping list before I go to the supermarket because I find that it stops me from picking up random items that I probably don’t need. I do still pick things up that I’ve forgotten to put on the list, but it generally stops me from picking up a duplicate of something I already have.
Cooking in bulk helps me to keep costs lower. I like to cook four portions of a meal (for example curry, chilli, or bolognese), eat one, and freeze the rest – which also means that I don’t have to spend ages cooking from scratch every evening. Cooking in a group could also be good for your budget as you could divide the cost between everyone, but I’ve always found it to be a lot more complicated in practice than it seems in theory because of everyone’s different schedules and dietary requirements.
But you don’t have to eat in all the time – it’s relatively easy to find cheaper places to eat out, especially on campus. The SU food outlets in particular are definitely cheaper than what I’d expect to pay for a meal out at home. When I lived on campus, my friends and I would go to an SU food outlet for breakfast or lunch around once a week, and it didn’t harm my budget.
Lastly, I’d recommend using the washing machine and tumble dryers on campus as infrequently as you can get away with to still have clean clothes. When I was in first year, the washing machine in my accommodation block was about £3 per wash, and the tumble dryer was around £1.50. I barely ever used the tumble dryer (I had a clothes airer and opened the window in my room to stop condensation), and always made sure I was putting on a full load of washing when I used the machine. If you don’t have that much to wash, it might be worth considering sharing with a flatmate to reduce the cost for both of you.
I hope that’s helpful! If you have any questions about student finance and budgeting, feel free to send me a message!