University can be the most enjoyable and liberating experience you’ll ever have, but it’s also an eye-opener and will last for at least three years, so it’s important to make sure your budget stretches over each period of student finance.
There are various ways students can budget to and manage finances to ensure funds are lasting without having the stress of dipping in to your overdraft, which can be a scary experience.
Firstly, and perhaps most obviously, it is important to create a clear plan of income and expenditure, including the source of this, and the time and date it will come or go.
Student budgeting depends on income, which can come from various sources. The most important is student finance, which is a government maintenance loan given to students to pay for the main essentials such as rent, bills, food and travel.
This is determined by your household income, which will give you a yearly balance up to around £8,000 paid in three instalments. Being paid instalments has its benefits and drawbacks. Firstly, getting paid a lump sum at once is great, however, making this last until the next instalment can be a challenge, and one that many students struggle with.
Successful budgeting can be achieved by understanding the source of all income, therefore as a student it is important to make sure that all income is accounted for. Services such as student finance, university loans, grants and scholarships will help to form a clear idea of how much money is coming in.
When this is established, a budget can be determined by calculating how much can be spent each month. The simple maths suggest that if the expenditure is lower than the income, then the budget will work effectively.
Ahh, expenditure. This is the fun part, but also the expensive part – obviously.
Anyone who’s been to university knows that bills can come out of nowhere, and be pretty devastating, but there are ways to prepare and account for these bills. It is important to work out what will be going out each month, this includes a range of necessary expenses such as:
- Utility bills (such as gas, electric, water)
- TV License
- Course material
- Phone contract
- Home/contents insurance
This list may seem long, and yet it is still exhaustive, depending on everyone’s individual requirements. It doesn’t account for social expenditure such as alcohol, eating out or activities, in addition, nor does it consider unforeseen necessities such as medicine.
Budgeting at university really is a minefield, which is why it is important to work out what is going in, what is going out, what is left and what can be saved.
One way to boost your income if your expenditure is too high and you’re a student struggling with budgeting is to get a part-time job.
Though it isn’t ideal to be working evenings and weekends, this will provide a steady income that will help to manage finances.
In addition, working a part-time job can increase work-related and social skills, as well as future employability.
The NUS Card partners with businesses to provide discount across a range of outlets and retailers, giving students the opportunity to save money on loads of brands, TOTUM claims the average member saves £153 a year with this card!
In addition to this, businesses, especially those in student cities, are aware of student budgeting and the need to save money, so it is always worth asking if they provide discounts to students. Saving money on a drink, haircut or meal could all contribute to monthly expenditure and budgeting.
There are occasions where, despite your best efforts, expenditure is greater than income. If this becomes an issue where your overdraft is taking a hit, then there are options for advice and help.
- Your employer
- Your parents/family
- Your university
Whether this is asking for increased hours at work, asking your parents for a loan or your university financial advice service for help, there are means to help with budgeting at university.
There are also some great websites and posts, similar to this, that provide advice, help and support.
Some of our favourites include:
If you are struggling with student finance or budgeting, create a plan, seek help and speak out, but do not get a pay-day loan, as these can have hidden clauses and attract high rates of interest.