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What first year students spend their money on

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    First-year students are spending more money than their senior-year counterparts ahead of the new academic year. That’s according to recent UNiDAYS research into Gen Z’s spending habits. To be precise:

    • British freshers will spend 18% more: £1,214 ($1,470 USD)
    • US freshmen will spend 13% more: £1,255 ($1,533 USD)

    Targeting first-years for the back-to-campus season could be a wise move. Let’s look at where they’re going to spend the most money to help you decide where to focus your marketing.


    38% of UK and 40% of the US students we surveyed will be purchasing computers or hardware.

    Among these students, it’s first-years who are spending the most money. £326 ($391) is the average spend for UK students. This increases to £463 ($565) for freshers.

    In the US, the average spend for students is £353 ($431). It's £478 ($585) for freshmen.

    There’s an opportunity here for brands to help students set themselves up with the best equipment for their studies. Students also value great prices, superior quality and discounts

    What’s more, freshers and freshmen are the most likely to buy smartphones, tablets and fitness trackers ahead of the new academic year. In the US, 46% of freshers say they’ll buy an electronic gadget vs. 32% of their senior counterparts. In the UK, it’s 39% vs. 35%. 

    Targeting all students is a safe strategy, but if you want to be more competitive, honing in on first-years could make you stand out.

    Kitchen and Home 

    This one is for UK retailers. Because UK freshers intend to spend £65 each on kitchen and bedroom items in the first month before starting uni. This drops to £35 for their senior counterparts. The picture is more balanced for US students £41 ($51)  vs. £44 ($54).

    UK freshers will shop at IKEA, Tesco, ASDA, Dunelm and Amazon, with a small portion of students shopping elsewhere (perhaps a second-hand marketplace or a smaller, local shop). 

    Whether you’re a big or small brand, focusing on providing high-quality products that are reasonably priced and often discounted will help win freshers’ hearts. 

    Subscriptions: the old switcheroo 

    Subscriptions is the only category where second, third and fourth-year students plan to spend more than first-years.

    Across all subscriptions, 33% of US freshmen will sign up for a subscription service compared to 41% of their senior counterparts. In the UK, it’s 35% vs. 37%. 

    Perhaps this is because more experienced students have a better understanding of costs and budgeting, acknowledging the benefits of ‘subscribing to save’. Convenience might also be a bigger priority, making them opt for subscription services in greater numbers than first-year students.

    To appeal to this audience, subscription services would benefit from focusing on ease of use and cost savings. 

    Hungry for more insight into students' back-to-campus spending habits? Feast your eyes on our Back to Campus 2022 report >>>


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