Worried about getting through university on next to no income, or just keen to learn how to make your Student Loan stretch further? You’re in the right place.
77% of students revealed to us in our National Student Money Survey that they wish they’d had a better financial education before coming to uni. So if you don’t have a clue how to budget, you’re definitely not alone.
We know, it’s not the most glamorous of subjects – but the next few minutes you’ll spend learning how to manage your money is basically a lifetime investment.
We’ve got a budgeting spreadsheet for you to download, a list of the best student budgeting apps, and a budgeting hack that could save you hundreds of pounds a year. Let’s get cracking.
Student budget planning
Why you need a budget at uni
Budgeting might seem pretty boring and dull (something your parents told you to do but you never quite got round to), but there are loads of benefits to tracking and controlling your spending.
Imagine your bank account is like a leaky bucket. Every now and then a tap opens to fill it up – this is your income.
Annoyingly, your bucket is full of holes which are leaking your money. The water level will constantly be changing, but as long as there’s always enough water in the bucket at any one time, there’s no problem.
However, there is a problem if the water level gets too low. Then you have to start plugging those holes (your spending habits) – which is where budgeting comes in. It helps keep the water level consistent so you can continue to spend money on the things you need and enjoy (within reason, of course).
Whether you’re trying to save up for a big spend like a summer holiday or a new video games console, or whether you just want to be prepared for emergencies (we’re talking broken laptops and smashed phone screens), a strong budget is exactly what you need.
Calculating your student budget
Your basic budget is as simple as listing all the money you’ve got coming in, tracking how much you spend, and seeing how they balance out.
Once you’ve done that, you can set goals to help curb your spending and start saving more money. Here’s how to plan your budget in four easy steps:
1.Establish your income
First up, you need to work out much money you’ve got to play with. This will set the parameters of your spending, so think carefully about every possible source of revenue.
Remember that your Maintenance Loan will come in three big instalments throughout the academic year, so it’s up to you to budget this out across the year.
Estimate your outgoings
Next up you need to figure out where all your money is going. You can either look back at your bank statement to tot up all your previous purchases, or simply input a rough estimate of how much you think you spend on each category.
Use our data on the average student living costs as a guide to how much you could be spending.
Essential student expenses
- Bills (insurance, gas and electricity, water, broadband, TV Licence, mobile phone)
- Transport (bus, train, car fuel, car insurance)
- Course materials (study textbooks, specialist equipment).
Non-essential student expenses
- Nights out (alcohol, club entry, taxis, takeaways)
- Eating out
- Hobbies (cinema tickets, gigs, music festivals, books)
- New clothes
- Gym membership
- Haircuts and other beauty expenses
- Subscription services (Amazon Prime, Netflix)
- Travelling (flights, hotels)
- Gifts and charity.
Calculate your weekly budget
Once you’ve got all your expenses laid out before you, it’s time to break it down into a weekly budget. Brace yourself, as this is where it starts to get real.
- Work out your total income for a term at university
- Minus your essential expenses for the same period
- Divide the number you’re left with by the number of weeks in a term.
You’ve now got your weekly student budget – in other words, how much money you’ve got to spend on all those non-essential things each week.
For example, if your income across the first term is £3,000 and your essential expenditure adds up to £1,500, you would have £125 a week (across a 12-week term).
It’s better to budget your expenditure per week rather than per month, as it’s easy to go overboard at the start of the month and be penniless by the end.
Set yourself some goals
If you follow the steps above and come out with a reasonable weekly budget, then great! But what if you’re left with a tenner to live off each week (it can actually be done!) or no money at all?
Whether you need to budget to get by, or you’re trying to cut back, it’s all about setting goals to either reduce your spending or boost your income.
You may realise you’re spending £50 on takeaways each month, in which case you could try reducing it to half of that amount.