Student Finance

Student budgeting tips to help you save smartly

Sarah Jones  · Aug 25th 2023  · 5 min

Save yourself the headache later and get ahead of budgeting at university. By understanding your incoming budget and outgoings, you’ll get a grasp over what you have to spend on student living term to term.

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The words "budget" and "university" rarely find themselves together in a sentence. Especially when you're caught up in the whirlwind of studies, keeping social, and part-time jobs. Yet, you'll be thanking yourself later! Let's share some practical tips and tricks to help guide you through budgeting at university.

Why you need to budget as a student

Ahh, the excitement you feel when student finance day strikes and your maintenance loan makes its way into your bank account. But, if you've seen Confessions of a Shopaholic, you'll know this doesn't end well! Instead of spending it all within the first few weeks, you'll be grateful when you've created a budget for yourself.

University can be stressful enough without worrying about running out of money. Getting ahead of your finances and creating a budget will help ease some of this stress. This is also a great chance to look after your finances independently - test yourself, set boundaries, these are great skills for when you leave uni!

How to budget in your first year at university

Calculating your student budget

There are lots of approaches you can take in calculating your student budget. Looking month-by-month is one of the simpler ways to assess the breakdown of your spending and allows you to regularly check in with how you're doing.

Establish your incoming budget

The best place to start is understanding your sources of income. This could include, but not limited to, your maintenance loan, allowance from your parents or guardians, money from bursaries or scholarships and part-time jobs.

Understand your outgoing expenses

Next is understanding your outgoing expenses. The cost of living as a student can vary depending on where you study, so you'll have a better idea of your situation once you've started your course.

Keep an eye on the main expenses you have. From grocery shopping to utility bills and streaming subscriptions, this will give you an idea of what you'll need to account for in your budget. You could break down your expenses into essentials and non-essential items. This will help you see where you're eating through your budget. In some cases, you could quite literally be eating through your budget with takeaways and dining out. Unfortunately, club nights are non-essential, but we'd consider that pretty binder from the stationery shop a downright essential, even if it is a little less fun!

Work out your budget and set your budgeting goals

Once you have an idea of your incoming budget and outgoing expenses, you can budget yourself monthly. By subtracting your outgoings from your incomings, you'll get a sense of how you'll end the month if you spend within these budgets. It's then up to you to keep yourself accountable for your spending.

How to budget in your first year at uni

Some more tips and tricks to help you budget at university

Set up a spreadsheet to keep track

It can be off-putting to sit and work out with a calculator how much you're spending. Keep budgeting quick, make it easy, and automate your budgeting with a spreadsheet. There are so many helpful videos and guides to help you set up a dreamy spreadsheet.

Look after yourself

It can be tempting to help your friends out by buying them a drink when they're low on funds, but make sure you put yourself first. You could end up paying for two or three mates' nights out, and it soon adds up! It is a nice gesture, but everyone has their own problems when it comes to financing. You could support them in other ways, like helping them set up their own budget - the onus shouldn't be on you.

Keep track with apps

Internet banking apps are a great tool to help you keep on track of your spending and the money you have available. It is best to check it regularly, as after a night out down at the Student's Union you may not remember how much you spent the day before! There are also plenty of budgeting apps out there for you to try. Download a couple and see which work for your budgeting type.

Give yourself room to treat yourself

Don't be too hard on yourself, you don't want your budgeting stopping you from enjoying your time at university. Impulse purchases are inevitable, and we all have hobbies we need to fuel. Just add it to your budget tracking so you can see how it may affect your budget for the rest of the month or term and don't forget to make the most of student discounts!

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