Budgeting as a student

Me and my uni friends having the time of our lives at the end of first year!

Money, money, money. It seems like everything, because you need it to be able to do almost anything. Money is not something a typical student has an abundance of. In fact, it is almost the exact opposite. The stories of people stealing toilet roll from public toilets, and packets of salt and sugar from café’s are all too real when you’re at university.

However, university is the first time most people learn about its vitality, and you really need to get to grips with spending strategies quick, otherwise you may find yourself in some deep debt. I have friends at both extremes of the scale; complete penny savers, and real big spenders. I think a happy medium is somewhere in the middle.

I’ve gotta save so I can afford to party the night away each week

I’m currently in my second month of my second year at uni so I am fresh out of first year spending and straight into second year bills. If you are in first year at the moment, soak up the freedom of having bills included. Have those 30 minute showers, put your radiator on all day, because the saying is true – you have never experienced cold until you live in a student house (we have a smart meter in the house, and watching the price jump up every time the heating turns on makes us all die a little).

But back to the budgeting. In first year, I (like most other students) lived in halls. I moved in on September 15th and by September 17th had my first big lump sum of money come in from my maintenance loan to last me the next 3 months. I had a direct debit set up to to immediately take out my rent payments for the next 3 months in one go. This direct debit came out the very same day so you almost never actually see the money at all. This makes budgeting slightly more straight forward because whatever was left in my bank is my “spending money” – the money I would blow on drinks, clubs and clothes, but was really meant for food shopping and every day needs.

In second year, it’s a little bit different. You are in privately rented accommodation, so the rules are a bit different. Halls are like a safety net. You know that the people at reception will help you out if you ever get anything wrong. Student houses are literally normal houses. You pay rent monthly, rather than in chunks of 3. You are often on the tenancy for 12 months rather than 9. The rent is not individual, it is as a house so you have to divide up the payments yourself. You have to sort your own bills and monitor the spending on those too. Of course you can set up a direct debit so the money can go out easily, but you have to make sure there is enough in there each month.

I know, sounds stressful, but honestly, everything works itself out as long as you aren’t stupid and don’t constantly buy everyone rounds of jägerbombs on a night out.

I know it may seem like all we did was party, but really it’s just that the pictures of us chilling and having a movie night, are very very ugly.

My top tip for managing your spending is to set up a saving account if you don’t have one already. Doing this means that you can split up your money and also have a savings account ready to save anything left over.

For first year, once my rent had come out and I was left with my small amount of money to last me for 3 months, I divided it up into 3 and kept 1 month in my current account, and transferred the remaining 2 months worth of money into my savings. Then on the first of each month I would transfer anything that was left (usually nothing) back in to my savings, and put in the next months money. I do this for second year too, by splitting my maintenance loan into 3 and then having direct debits set up on the first of the month for my rent and bills to go into the bank of the lead tenant in my house so that whatever is left is “spending money”.

From there I set budgets on my spending. For example:

  1. £25 a week for food shopping
  2. £50 a month for going out/drinks
  3. £30 for clothes

These are just examples, you can alter them based on your own habits, if you don’t go out very much, allocate more money to clothes shopping or to food shopping etc. Once you’ve been at uni for a few months you can get to grips with your habits and your social life and adjust your budgets accordingly.

You do not have to be dead strict with this. If you are food shopping and you pick up a 30p broccoli which takes your food shopping over by 10p, you don’t have to put it down. 10p will not matter that much. The budgets are just a general guide to keep an eye on your spending and make sure that you are not being too excessive.

You do have to remember that everyone is different. Some people have the maximum loan whilst others have the smallest – their budgets would be very different. Some people have parents who are able to help them out, some people work 20 hour weeks in part time jobs. Try not to constantly live by trying to keep up with your friends. Live within your means and never apologise for having more or less money than someone.

I hope that these tips can help you in some way and that you have the best year at university regardless!