Student Life, Students

Everything YOU need to know about money at university

The Importance of Budgeting

Budgeting is so important, especially as a student. For many people, this is the first time that you’ll be responsible for your own money and living costs, and that can be scary, but hopefully, this post will be able to help you out with the basics of budgeting as a student.

If you have applied for a maintenance loan, you should know what your yearly amount is going to be and this will be given in three instalments corresponding to your three academic terms. When your first loan instalment goes into your bank, the temptation to blow it all straight away is REAL, but that’s where your budgeting plan comes in. The last thing you want to do is get yourself into bad debt by spending all your loan within the first few weeks of term and then having no money for the rest of it.

If you’re here because you’re starting university soon, check out my post on 10 things you should do to prepare!

Calculating your budget

Income

The first part of calculating your budget is determining your income amount. Your income could be coming from a range of sources including a maintenance loan, a job, money from family, savings, or scholarships/bursaries. Total up how much money you’ll have to live on from any income sources for the complete academic year.

Expenses

Now you need to work out your outgoings, these are the essential things that you HAVE to pay for, such as rent, insurance, utility bills, bus passes etc. It’s a good idea to calculate these as annual amounts. So some bills may be paid monthly or quarterly, but calculate how much this is going to cost you per year.

Your budget

Once you have your total income and expenses, subtract the expenses from your total income to work out how much money you have in your budget. From here it’s personal preference whether you want to work with a weekly or monthly budget. I would recommend having a weekly budget just because I found that easier. For a weekly budget, take your total budget (Income – expenses) and divide it by 52, but if you wanted a monthly budget you would divide it by 12.

It’s important to remember to budget for your holidays as well. In the first year of university, my income was my maintenance loan, and I made the first installment cover my first term of university but not the Christmas holidays, leaving me with no money to buy everyone’s Christmas presents, so don’t make that mistake!!

Once you have calculated your monthly or weekly budget, you need to work out what else you need to pay for. This includes: food shop, socialising, clothes/beauty, gym, birthday presents, entertainment, books/magazines etc. Some of these things will vary month to month and week to week, so it’s important to look ahead when planning your budget (Four of my family members have their birthdays in August, so I have to budget a lot more for their presents and cut back in other areas). 

Once you’ve worked out how much your essentials cost e.g. food, you can then see how much you have left to spend on non-essentials e.g. netflix subscription (okay that may actually be essential). It might be really tempting to buy that new £50 jacket, but please make sure you can afford to pay for your food shop the next week.

How to keep track of your spending

Spreadsheets or written 

The most basic and oldest way of tracking your spending is physically writing out what you’re spending and on what. One step up from that is using spreadsheets to track your spending. Spreadsheets are really good because you can categorise your spending, and with some simple formulas they can do all the maths and make it look visually appealing as well.

Luckily I have just the thing for you! My Budget Planner Packs are perfect for students who are learning to budget and want to track their weekly or monthly spending!

Budgeting apps

There are a few different budgeting apps that make budgeting really simple and then you always have it with you so you can track your spending on the go. Please make sure that if you do use an app that it is secure and creditable because you are giving them you’re banking information. A popular one is the app Yolt which you might have seen advertised, I have never personally used it so I can’t give my full opinion of it, I would always recommend you do your own research.

Having two bank accounts

Another way of tracking your spending is by having two bank accounts: a savings account and a current account. The way I budget is by having my savings/income in one account, (my expenses go from this account as well) and then each week I have a set amount of money transferred from my savings account to my current account and this is my budget for the week. This is for food, entertainment, socialising, gifts, pretty much anything that I need to buy.

Money-saving tricks

There are lots of money saving tricks, some of which you’ll pick up whilst living out at university or from your friends and family. Here are some that I’ve picked up in the last few years.

  • Buy in bulk – in most cases, buying bigger packets of products will work out cheaper than buying lots of smaller packets. There are some cases where this might not be true (if the smaller pack is on offer but the larger pack isn’t). It can be quite common for people to just grab the cheapest option each time, spending £1 on a small bag of rice may feel ‘better’ than spending £5 on a bigger bag. But most supermarkets have a price per 1kg on the product label on the shelves, so make sure you check this to see which is actually more cost effective.
  • Buy non-branded – when I first went to university I was adamant that I would only eat Cathedral City cheese, and that I didn’t want to buy supermarket-own brand. This didn’t last very long when I worked out how much extra I was spending on cheese and that non-branded cheese tasted pretty much the same. (however I do still only buy Heinz baked beans and refuse to buy any other, you’re allowed to have some luxuries in life)
  • Make your lunch/coffee at home – this is a big one! Buying lunch (even just buying meal deals) works out at costing soooo much more than if you had bought the ingredients and made it at home. I’m not saying don’t eat out ever, just don’t do it regularly. The sam
  • e goes for coffee, spending £3 on a coffee everyday, or multiple times a day, just doesn’t make sense money-wise in the long run. Even buying a cheap coffee maker for home and a leak-proof flask works out cheaper in the long run than buying a Costa everyday. Again, I’m not saying never treat yourself, just don’t make it an everyday occurance.
  • Don’t be tempted by other peoples extravagant purchases. Even if your flatmates or friends are going out and buying expensive things, doesn’t mean you need to. Everyone has different circumstances, so don’t feel pressured into spending more on something that you don’t really need/want
  • Don’t buy your textbooks new – you might be able to buy them second-hand, they might be available online or in your university library for free, or you might not even need them. Ask people in the year above on your course about whether certain textbooks are necessary and even if they’re willing to sell you them if they don’t need them anymore.
  • Use your student discount – there are literally so many shops that offer student discounts, so make sure you always check before making a purchase. You can google it easily, or if you’re in store just ask the cashier. I used to be really awkward about asking places if they did student discounts, but when you think about the money you could be saving, it’s so worth it!!
  • Shop at international supermarkets or the world foods aisle – it’s actually crazy how cheap you can get some cupboard staples, especially herbs and spices! You can get larger packets, for a lot cheaper.
  • Use physical cash – it’s so easy to buy things now using contactless or apple pay, and it doesn’t really seem like we’re spending real money. If you take out your weekly budget in cash, and spend in cash, you can physically see how much money you have left. Trust me, you’ll be less willing to hand over actual cash than just tapping a credit card on a card machine.

Big Money No-nos

  • Payday loans – DO NOT take out a payday loan, their interest rates are astronomical, and you will just get into an endless cycle of debt. Just don’t do it.
  • Borrowing excessively from friends – borrowing small amounts is okay but personally I would never loan/borrow LARGE amounts of money to/from my friends, as it has the potential to cause some problems further down the road (I’m taking in the thousands). If you really do need to borrow/loan that amount, then I would really consider making it a formal loan and having some kind of terms in writing. I don’t know the full legal requirements, but just don’t be naïve about giving away large sums of money to people who might not really be your friends.
  • Illegal activity – this one is pretty obvious but don’t get yourself into trouble trying to make money to get yourself out of trouble, there’s always another way.

Don’t forget to check out my other planners on my Etsy Shop.


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