When you’re studying, money can be one of your biggest concerns: can I get a loan? Will I earn enough to fund the lifestyle? How much money will I need, exactly?
Before starting your studies, it’s a good idea to figure out how much money you’ll have and how much money you’ll need to spend. Making a budget will (hopefully) ensure that you don’t end up in any sticky financial situations.
Here are four top tips that will help you make – and stick to – a student budget.
1. Be realistic when listing your outgoings
Sit down and make a list of all the outgoings you will likely have while at university. Here’s a list of possibilities we’ve compiled to help you out:
- Bills (mobile phone, water, heating, electric, internet, TV licence)
- Course fees
- Supplies (books, notepads, pens, etc.)
- Flights (if travelling to see family for holiday periods, for example)
- Contents or gadget insurance
- Special occasions (for example, birthday presents)
When deciding on monthly amounts for each, be as realistic as possible. Telling yourself you’ll only spend £50 a month on food when in reality you know it’ll be closer to £100 will only render your budget pointless. It’s always better to overestimate how much you think you’ll need – then you can only be pleasantly surprised when you have some money left over.
2. Once you’ve decided on a budget, stick to it
Budgeting may not be the most exciting thing you can do, but it is sensible and it will pay off. Sticking to a strict budget will require a certain amount of willpower, but there’s no point making one unless you intend to use it.
At the same time, make sure that you don’t deny yourself a little money to spend on the things you enjoy. Being overly strict risks making you feel unhappy, and will eventually make you more likely to deviate from your budget.
Allow yourself some money for eating out, a few drinks, or whatever else you like doing in your spare time.
3. Use a budgeting app to help you keep track
It’s a good idea to keep track of everything you spend, so you know when you’re getting close to going over your budget. Luckily, there are a lot of apps to choose from that can help you do this. Here are just a few:
MoneyDashboard – you can use this handy app to keep track of your incomings and outgoings across current accounts, credit cards and savings accounts. MoneyDashboard also uses your data to predict future expenditure.
Home Budget Calculator – this easy-to-use app lets you move sliders to indicate your expected income and expenditure. Home Budget Calculator allows you to recall your balance on any given date with ease, and your financial information can be presented in charts and graphs, making it easier to digest.
Goodbudget – this budget tracker allows you to plan your finances using the envelope system. You can create your own categories (or ‘envelopes’), and designate a certain amount of money to each one.
4. Keep an eye out for discounts
Everyone knows that student discount is one of the great perks of being in education; this is one of the best ways to save a few pennies. It’s probably worth investing £12 in an NUS extra card, which can get you discount at more than 200 companies across the UK including ASOS, Topshop and Topman, Odeon, Amazon and Pizza Express.
If you don’t want to spend money on an NUS card, there are other ways you can access student discounts. Student Beans, Uni Days and Save the Students are just three websites which offer links to great deals and discounts exclusive to students. The more money you can save, the more successful your budget will be.