Budgeting whilst at University

You may have chosen to live at home whilst studying or move away and live independently for the first time when you begin your time at University, but whichever option you choose it’s important to learn how to budget.

University might be the first time you have received a large sum of money paid directly into your bank account through your maintenance loan and it might feel like you’ve won the lottery! However, it’s important to understand where this money will need to be spent and to be realistic.

Starting University may be the time where you decide that you want to become more independent and learn life skills to set you up for when you do fly the nest, so here are some top tips to help you when it comes to budgeting:

  1. Calculate your total income:
    Your income might be formed from the following:
    – Maintenance Loan
    – Income from any jobs you may have
    – Bursaries, scholarships, awards or grants
    – Money from parents or family members
    – Investments or existing savings
    = £ ______________
  2. Make a list of your outgoings:
    Your outgoings might be formed from the following:
    – rent/halls fees
    – bills including a TV licence, mobile phone, gas, electricity, water, Wi-Fi etc.
    – books and stationary for your course
    – transport costs to get to and from University
    – food and drink
    = £ ______________
  3. Calculate your ‘spare cash’: Total Income – Outgoings = Money leftover
    Be sensible with any money you do have leftover. If you have any money left over each month be sure to be sensible. As tempting as your student discount might be to go on a shopping spree, try to remember that it’s always good to have some savings for those ‘just in case’ moments. Having a small sum of savings will also be one less worry for you, allowing you to focus on your studies.
  4. Make use of your student discount: Many shops offer various student discount offers so make sure you do your research. You can buy a Totum card, the discount card from the National Union of Students (NUS). Also check out StudentBeans and UNiDAYS for discounts too. 
  5. Consider a part-time job: Some students find it useful to find a part-time job to help support their studies. There are a number of businesses who offer part-time work and you can speak with the University Careers department if you need help with your CV or applying for a new job. You could even look at the jobs available on campus, many students have worked in the University café or restaurant.
    It’s important to remember that if you do decide to work alongside your studies that you should not let your job impact your studies. Find a good work and study balance; research shows that more than 20 hours of work a week can have a negative impact on academic performance. 
  6. Make a shopping list and stick to it!: When you pop to the shops for your weekly food shop be sure to make a list. When you’re in the supermarket, if it’s not on your list it doesn’t go in the trolley. It’s also important not to be tricked by the offers you might see in the supermarket. If you’re looking for a bag of pasta which is buy one and get one half price, work out how much you’ll save and it might not be a lot but you’ll end up spending more than you budgeted and if you do this for more than a few items you might find yourself over budget. Plus, there’s only so much pasta you can eat! 
  7. Buying Course Materials: When you get your reading list, check the University library and also local libraries to see if you can borrow the books you need. There are also a number of places where you can buy second hand course materials – look on amazon or second hand book shops.