Many claim that university is the best time of your life, but in reality there’s a lot more to it than going out every night and staying in bed until the early hours of the afternoon.
In fact, uni can be a stressful time for many. From coping with exam stress to maintaining a healthy work-life balance - and budgeting only adds to the mix…
According to one survey, 74% of students revealed they wish they’d had better financial education before going to uni, which just goes to show, if you’re unsure on how to manage your money, you’re not alone.
Knowing how to budget at uni isn’t exactly the most glamorous subject, but it’s definitely something every student should be clued up on. Besides, nobody wants to be living off Pot Noodles, right?
So, if you want to get to grips with student budgeting, you’re in the right place.
WHY IS BUDGETING IMPORTANT?
We know how tempting it is to blow your student loan the second it hits your bank (trust us, we’ve been there, done that!), but it’s always a good idea to set aside some of your loan for a rainy day or unexpected costs. Yep, that goes for those mammoth textbooks you read for a semester and then never again!
You’ll also need to budget for your accommodation costs, as well as any other living expenses, such as food.
The key to budgeting at university is planning, forward-thinking and most importantly, making it last. Student loans aren’t a game of how fast you can spend them!
HOW TO BUDGET AT UNI
1. CALCULATE YOUR INCOME
First things first, you need to establish exactly how much money you’ve got coming in. This will allow you to gauge how much you have to spend - although, don’t forget you don’t need to spend every last penny just because it’s there.
Think carefully about every possible source of income. This could include your maintenance loan, additional grants, money from family, savings and anything you earn from a part-time job.
Top Tip: Your maintenance loan will arrive in three big chunks throughout the academic year, so aim to budget across that period.
2. ESTIMATE YOUR OUTGOINGS
Now that you’ve calculated your income, it’s time to figure out where all your money is going. This is the true act of adulting, girls.
One way to do this is to look back at your bank statement and add up all your previous purchases. Alternatively, create a spreadsheet and work out roughly how much you might spend on things like rent, food shopping, bills, transport and study materials. This will help you calculate how much disposable income you have left over each month to spend on the ‘non-essentials’, such as nights out, a gym membership and clothes.
3. ESTABLISH A WEEKLY BUDGET
Once you’ve worked out all your expenses, it’s a good idea to break it down into a weekly budget. Brace yourselves, this is where it starts to get real.
The simplest and most effective way to do this is to calculate your total income for a term/semester at university. Subtract your essential expenses for the same period from this total and then divide the number you’re left with by the number of weeks in a term.
It’s far better to budget your money per week rather than per month, as you don’t want to risk going overboard at the start of the month only to have nothing left by the end of it.
4. SHOP SMART
One of the best things about being a student is that you get exclusive access to a whole world of discounts. From money off your favourite clothing brands to discounts on tech, there are plenty of savings to be made as a student.
If you’re a student in the UK, you can also buy the 16-25 Railcard to save a third on rail fares.
As well as that, we recommend shopping at budget supermarkets, like ALDI and LIDL, to get more bang for your buck. It’s all about shopping smart, ladies!
5. KEEP TRACK OF YOUR SPENDING
When you’re a student, it can be easy to get ahead of yourself and splash the cash unnecessarily.
Before you buy something on impulse, ask yourself “Do I really need this?” Write it down on a wishlist and come back to it a week later. If by then you still want it, at least you’ve given yourself time to really think about it. If you don’t, it just goes to show you never really needed it in the first place and behold… more money saved!
If you find you are struggling to make ends meet, it may be worth taking on a part-time job to boost your income - although, try not to let it get in the way of your studies. If this isn’t suitable, most universities offer financial help, so it may be worth getting in touch with an advisor.
Student budgeting doesn’t have to be a minefield. With our top tips, you can make the most of student life without putting your finances at jeopardy.
Best of luck!