How to budget as a student

How to budget as a student

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Budgeting as a student can be tough as for a lot of students, it’ll be the first time they’ve ever had to take care of their money on a broader scale. Even if some students do have experience in budgeting their funds, it’ll likely be the first time they’ve done so on a day-to-day basis without the support of family.

What’s more, because your loans tend to come in lump sums, it can be hard to make them stretch across entire terms without a proper budget. In this student budget guide, we look at a few simple tips that show you how to budget as a uni student and how to set up your own student budget planner.

How to budget as a student

Work out how much money you’ve got coming in, from both your loans and grant and any part-time work, and weigh up against how much money you expect to spend each month on rent, bills, food and any nights out.

How to budget as a student

Work out how much money you’ve got coming in, from both your loans and grant and any part-time work, and weigh up against how much money you expect to spend each month on rent, bills, food and any nights out.

List your income and outgoings

Starting with your income and outgoings is a must for any budget, and a student budget is no different. Where the budget does differ is the period of time you’ll be budgeting for. While most people working can organise their budgets by weeks or months depending on how they’re paid, students will need to factor in maintenance loans, bursaries and grants which are often given at the start of each term.

It can be daunting to try and budget for an entire term - especially if you’re unsure of how your other income or spending might change. For this reason, we recommend looking at when your next payment is due (it’ll usually be the start of the next year) and making a monthly budget based on the split cost of your loan and any bursaries or grants.

At this point, many students often realise that the loans don’t offer as much as you might think. You might feel flush upon seeing a few thousand pounds in your account in September, but stretched across four months, this can work out to be around £100 a week. And if this still seems like a fair amount to be getting on with, remember that you’ll need to factor in bills and possibly rent before landing on how much you’ll have to spend each week.

Your main outgoings throughout the month are likely to be:

  • Rent
  • Bills
  • Food shops

For help getting started with your budgeting, download our budgeting spreadsheet.

Set out due dates for payments

Once you’ve figured out all of the monthly payments that you’ll owe, make a note of the dates each payment will be due on. Depending on when you’ve moved into a house or set up a bill after moving in, these dates might vary and won’t necessarily come at the end of the month. You can usually change the dates of bills like water or electricity if that suits you better - you’ll just need to get in touch with the supplier.

Rent and bills are often taken care of for you if you live in student accommodation, but once you move out, you’ll have to set this up yourself. One person will generally be responsible for an account, so make sure everyone knows when the bills are due so you don’t end up chasing people for money. But whether you’re paying bills yourself or sending the money to a housemate, we’d recommend setting up a direct debit so you always pay on time.

Council Tax

Reminder - if you’re a student, you don’t have to pay council tax, so if you get a letter asking you to pay, get in touch with them to tell them. Even if you’re living with people who aren’t students, you should still be exempt from council tax.

Council Tax

Reminder - if you’re a student, you don’t have to pay council tax, so if you get a letter asking you to pay, get in touch with them to tell them. Even if you’re living with people who aren’t students, you should still be exempt from council tax.

Open a current account to separate bills

Following on from the previous point, having a current account that allows you to separate your bills is really handy. By setting up a bills account, you never have to worry about overspending and missing a payment date. The thinkmoney Current Account lets you set up all your bills and then keeps money aside for when they’re due - the rest is yours to spend as you like.

Cut costs while studying

Plenty of places have student discounts that you can take advantage of while you’re studying. Here are just a few things that will help you cut costs while you’re at university:

  • 16-25 railcard for train tickets
  • NUS cards discounts
  • Free medical prescriptions
  • UNiDAYS discounts

In addition to using these cost-cutting measures, you can also save money by watching what you spend from day to day. For example, as lovely as it might be to study in a coffee shop, the average coffee costs more than £2.50 in the UK, so even if you only get one a day, you’ll still be spending close to £50 a month. In this situation, you’re better off saving the cash, loading up your thermos and heading to the library.

Plan your meals

When you’re working out your budget, you’ll probably account for a food shop either each week or every few days. If you’ve not done food shops in the past, you may be surprised at how expensive they can get. As a result, planning your meals - and by proxy, your food shop - is a great way to budget your money.

Take a look at our guide to planning your weekly food shop to get started.

Don’t opt for overdrafts automatically

When you first hear about overdrafts, it might seem like a great way to get “free” money. But the reality is that overdrafts always need to be paid off, and you could put yourself in a tricky situation once you graduate if you’ve got a hefty overdraft to pay off at an expensive rate.

Added to this, if you’re only getting by thanks to an ever-extending overdraft, your budget isn’t sustainable and you’ll get to the bottom of the overdraft eventually. At that point, you’ll no longer be able to afford your outgoings and could end up in a bit of financial trouble. That’s why we’d recommend thinking carefully before deciding to get an overdraft.

How to make money whilst at university

There are usually lots of part-time opportunities for students looking to work while at university. Most places will recognise that you might have a slightly different timetable due to your studies and will look to work around that. If possible, try to get some experience before heading to university in some of the more sought-after lines of work (e.g. bar work) as this will make your CV stand out.

Added to part-time work, being a student also means you can get work in a few different areas. You can sign up for market research or online surveys as a way of making money, and depending on your course, you might be able to work as a freelancer for companies looking for help with a project.

Need a hand budgeting your money as a student? Sign up for a thinkmoney Current Account today and we’ll take all the hassle out of paying your bills.

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