Tips For Students: How To Budget Your Money at University

Thursday 23 August, 2018 Budgeting

As September fast approaches, the idea of late nights on the beach or lounging by the pool in sunny Spain with a sangria in hand seem all a distant memory and the reality that summer is officially over is confirmed by the sound of the rain beating of your bedroom window; which you try desperately to drown out with the sound of ‘summertime sadness’… oh the irony. For many students the month of August was likely spent refreshing UCAS and hoping for the status update - ‘Conditional offer firmly accepted.’ YES! This is the moment you have been waiting for, it’s time to flee the nest, spread your wings, the beginning of the best years of your life. True.

However, amidst the frenzy of sorting accommodation, packing up your childhood bedroom and deciding which colour of fairy lights you plan to drape across every possible piece of furniture in your new uni room, it’s easy to lose sight of reality. Are you prepared to budget your student loan? Can you afford to fund your social life as well as affording the essential academic materials and your three meals a day, you know, priorities and all that… In most cases, no, the transition from the cushy lifestyle provided by your adoring parents to managing on your own in student digs is a shock to the system which is why many students find themselves firmly in their, dare I say it, (overdraft), within the first few months. According to a survey published by TheNationalStudent, 70% of students to be exact. Not to worry though, setting a realistic budget and adjusting your lifestyle a little will help you to avoid this.

With some research and three years of personal experience I will provide you with five of my top tips for coping on a student budget.

Number 1 – Calculate your incomings

Make sure you know exactly how much money you have coming into your bank, consider your;

  • student loan
  • any grants or bursaries you are entitled to
  • work earnings if you have a job.

UCAS budget calculator is a useful tool to help you with this. Knowing exactly how much money you have allows you to manage it better, which leads us nicely onto Number 2.

Number 2 – Calculate your outgoings

Outgoings are a bit more complicated as the chosen lifestyle at uni varies, however, in this blog we will discuss only the necessities. Some examples are;

  • Tuition fees (given that these are not funded)
  • Course supplies (books, stationary, printing etc.)
  • Rent
  • Food shopping
  • Utilities (electric, gas, broadband, phone bill)
  • Car insurance/maintenance/fuel if you have a car and require it for commuting purposes.

When you have calculated your bills, you can then remove the total from your incomings to calculate what you have left as spare, and with this you can do as you wish; to a certain extent, it is always smart to save some of this money for emergencies if possible. The money leftover is often spent on things such as;

  • Social activities (in student lingo – late nights at the local)
  • Eating out
  • Hair appointments
  • Gym memberships
  • Clothes
  • Holidays

Being aware of exactly how much of your incoming you actually have to spend on yourself allows you to avoid splashing out on unnecessary things and ensures that you don’t live a champagne lifestyle on a beer budget.

Number 3 – Avoid brand snobbery

You are a student now, the time for brand snobbery is over! It is time for you to branch out, try new things, like switching from good old trusted coffee brands to more affordable alternatives. Nescafe Gold Blend 200g = £7.49, Tesco Gold Brand 200g = £2.99 winner winner! By switching brands and estimating two jars a month, you could save £108.60 per year on coffee alone (need I mention that take out coffee is a big NO NO).

Which? is a website which allows you to read product reviews to help make the best decision and see which products rate the highest. This simple change can make all the difference, we are students now and needs must, indulge in all those branded luxuries when you visit home for the weekend.

Number 4 – Be savvy when it comes to food shopping and cooking

Now that you’re an expert on cheaper alternatives you’ll know exactly what to look out for when doing your shopping, however we have all found ourselves scraping leftovers into the bin at dinnertime because we’ve made too much. There are ways to avoid excessive waste and spending money on food which we don’t need.

  • Planning your meals for each day of the week allows you to save on buying unnecessary food
  • Bring lunch with you to avoid spending money on takeaways at lunchtime
  • Anything left over from dinner can be stored correctly and used later in the week
  • Make cooking meals a social activity within your student digs, this is not only a fun way to get to know people but also a great way of saving money.

Number 5 – Grab the best deals

Along with a new term at uni comes the floor length reading list often consisting of 100 different books which are required. Yes, they may be a requirement of your course but, you are not required to splash out and purchase all of these books; rooky mistake. Instead, be aware that your library will often have copies of these books, both as a hard copy and as an ebook, some books can be rented and instead of buying books from new, help out your fellow peers and buy them second hand. Keep an eye on your student forum/noticeboards around campus as well as searching on amazon and ebay for a good deal.

One of the greatest advantages of becoming a student…UNiDAYS. UNiDAYS gives you exclusive access to the best college discounts both online and in store with many leading brands and merchants, so make sure to make use of this whilst you can.

Final words

As a third-year student having learnt from my own mistakes I do consider myself an expert when it comes to living off of a student budget and living the best uni experience whilst doing so is most definitely possible; I stand as proof.

University can be a very daunting experience as for most people it is their first experience of living away from home and being in charge of your own finances for the first time in your life. Never worry though as support is always close at hand. If you feel like you are struggling to manage your finances there are places you can turn to for help;

  • The student guidance centre within your chosen university is always there to assist you with such matters and can offer you advice on any hardship/financial options available to you
  • Your family and friends. A problem shared is a problem halved and with support from the people closest to you there is no problem too big. The people you chose to confide in may be able to help you draw up a new budget plan to help you get on track for your next semester.

Farrah Farren
Placement Student