10 Tips to Help Budget as a Student

In A-Level, General, University by Think Student EditorLeave a Comment

Being a university student tends to be very expensive, so it is important to save money at the same time. Unfortunately, budgeting can be hard, especially with all of the temptations that come with university. Even when you are at college, money can become tighter than you would like. As a result, many of the tips given in this article may also be useful if you are in college. By learning to manage your money now, you will likely find it easier to live a more financially stable life in the future. So, without further ado, let’s get into it!

1. Calculate Your Budget

In order to find out what you can budget, you need to follow a few steps:

  1. Work out your total income (per month/term) – This will include your student loan, any money your parents/guardians give you, your salary if you have a job and any bursaries, grants, sponsorships, or scholarships that you are eligible for.
  2. Subtract your essential expenses (per month/term) – This will be your tuition fees, rent for your accommodation, bills, travel costs, credit card repayments, phone bill and food.
  3. What is left is what you can spend within that time period. Do not forget about your textbooks, household supplies, toiletries, clothes, social activities and anything else you may need or want.
  4. You may want to divide your monthly/termly budget by the number of weeks within that time period to provide you with a weekly budget.

UCAS has created this handy calculator to make it easier for you to work out your remaining money.

You will come across many students (and people in general) who follow the 50-30-20 rule. This rule suggests that 50% of your income should be spent on the things you need, 30% should be spent on the things you want and the remaining 20% should be transferred into your savings.

Even if you find that your essentials cost more than 50% of your income, you can still use the rule as a rough guideline on how you should split up your remaining income by adjusting it. Perhaps 60-20-20, or 40-30-30 works better for your lifestyle. This way you limit the amount that you can spend on new shoes, coffee and concert tickets meaning that you save money!

For information about university expenses, check out the following article: The (Actual) Cost of University in the UK – Student Guide for 2022.

2. Use Separate Bank Accounts

For organisation, use separate bank accounts to sort out what is needed for your essentials and what you can spend. Have your total income go into one account—ideally you could make this account harder for you to access. From this account, set up a direct debit that transfers your weekly/monthly budget into the second account which you can then use on a daily basis. This way you will not be able to spend more than your budget. For help on finding the best student bank account for you, have a look at this website.

Another way to manage your money spendage is by using cash instead of cards. This way when you go out, you will be pushed to make thoughtful decisions so you can get the most out of your cash. This in turn will limit what you spend.

3. Track Your Spendage

Mobile banking apps made by your bank are useful for certain things. On your online bank account, you could set up weekly balance updates so you can stay on top of things. Alternatively, you could arrange for updates when your balance falls below a certain amount of money.

There are many great apps which can be used to track what you are spending and do various other processes. This way you can see where your money is going and can work out what can be cut out to save.

Emma is an app that allows you to link all of your bank accounts, categorise spending and will analyse your transactions to make suggestions on wasteful subscriptions that you could end. It may also help to avoid overdrafts, track debts and save money.

As Emma has bank-grade encryption, it is safe to use. If you are willing to spend some money for extra features, then check out the upgrades that Emma has to offer. Emma Plus has extra features like giving bill reminders, cashback and fraud detection. It costs £4.99 a month, or £41.99 a year.

Emma Pro allows you to set savings goals, create custom categories and rename and split transactions. It costs £9.99 a month or £81.99 a year.

Money Dashboard (another app) won the British Bank Awards for best personal finance app in 2017, 2018, 2020 and 2021 which says something as to how useful it is! Amongst other features, it allows you to connect all of your accounts, manage your bills and subscriptions, categorise and track your spending, and set budgets all for free.

Money Dashboard Neon is a new version of the app (which has since been renamed Money Dashboard Classic) with bonus features. If you only want the classic version, then do not worry as both apps are supported and are completely free.

4. Minimise Borrowing Money

It is likely that you have taken out a loan to pay for university and the living expenses that come with it, it is advisable that you do not borrow any more money. This is especially important if the loans require you to pay interest.

When choosing a student bank account, take time to consider and select an account with the best interest-free overdraft option. This way if you spend more than you have at a time, you will not be charged interest when you pay it back. Bear in mind though that the less you borrow, the less you will have to pay back later on.

Instead, try putting a small amount of money aside to help repay your loans at a quicker rate so that you can avoid as much long-term interest as possible. If you do not have other more important debts to pay off, it may be worth paying off your student loan early. By paying it off earlier, less interest will accumulate meaning that, in the long run, you will pay less.

5. Use Websites to Get Discounts

Many websites have student discounts allowing you to save money. One website is TOTUM, which is recommended by the National Union of Students (NUS). TOTUM Digital is completely free for all higher and further education students. You can get an NUS extra/TOTUM student discount card which will give you a free International Student Identity Card (ISIC) for 12 months and a Pass Age ID in addition to all of their offers! For more information on the different options they have to give (and their prices), click here.

If you are an international student, then you can get an ISIC which you can use to get access to over 150,000 discounts and benefits. The ISIC is the only internationally recognised proof of full-time status in over 100 countries.

One of the top student discount websites is UNIDAYS. You can get deals with lots of top companies like Samsung, Apple and Disney Plus.

You will also find that many places offer student discounts. This includes retail shops, cafes, restaurants, cinemas, theatres, museums, exhibitions and more! Do not forget to take your student ID for proof.

6. Save on Travel

If driving is your best option, then consider carpooling and splitting the petrol (and parking) costs. If you use public transport instead, then look out for student deals.

For trains, you can get a 16-25 railcard (though you can also apply if you are a mature student in full-time education) to get a discount on train tickets. For details, check out the website. You can pay £30 for a year, or £70 for three years. It also has other offers for hotels, restaurants and more.

Santander also offers free four-year railcards for students and apprentices, so long as you have one of their student bank accounts. Click here for more information.

If your university is located in London, then you can get an Oyster card for discounts on all public transport in London. The card costs £5. You then add money to the card to pay for your journeys. To learn more about Oyster cards, click this link.

7. Cut Down on High Prices

Even though they may be small, all of your regular small payments slowly add up to huge amounts. For example, all of that coffee you may be buying on the way to a lecture, or a smoothie on your way to the library. To save some money easily, either remove those things, or find cheaper alternatives. This could include making drinks at home instead of heading to your local cafe.

Another way to cut down on high prices is by choosing cheaper options for things like mobile data. If you do not always use up your data, then switch to a contract which costs less for less data. If you run out you can always head to a spot which offers free Wi-Fi—such as at your university, a high street café or even a restaurant.

8. Meal Planning

It is much cheaper to cook meals yourself from scratch than it is to buy takeaways and pre-made meals. You could cook big meals and freeze leftovers for other meals. Just make sure you defrost and reheat them thoroughly when it is time to eat!

Food wastage also means money wastage—so cut down on it by saving leftovers and only buying groceries that you know you will eat.

Before you go grocery shopping, make a list of weekly meal plans and only buy the ingredients you need. By sticking to a plan, it will make cooking your dinners easier and will also prevent you from spending money on items that you do not actually need.

If there is a deal on, then staples which have longer expiry dates (like rice, tea and pasta) can be bought in bulk to save money.

9. Control Shopping

Avoid going to sales unless you need something in particular or you will be tempted to buy things that you do not necessarily need. To help with this, keep an ongoing list of things you need/want. You can then check their prices to see if there is a price drop during sale seasons.

By shopping at charity stores, you will both save money and help the environment by reusing clothes and other materials. When it comes to clothes, think about how many you actually need for university before you buy any more. If you are not sure about how many clothes you will need for university,  this article offers advice.

You can also buy your university textbooks second-hand at a reduced price. Check out this article for the top 5 best places to buy them from! If you do not like physical books, you could go digital.

10. Get a Job

As balancing a job with full time-education can be very demanding and time-consuming, it is probably the hardest tip in this article to follow. However, despite the difficulty, it will increase your income, thus indirectly increasing your budget and the amount you can save. This way you can save (and spend) more money, allowing you to live with a bit more ease during these critical years of education. It will also give you some work experience and skills to add to your CV. But as I mentioned, this may not be your best option especially if you are struggling to balance your work and social lives as it is.

There are many part-time jobs that might be easier for you to fit into your busy schedule. This includes working as an online tutor, in a restaurant as a waiter, babysitting/child minding and being a writer. For more ideas, check out this website. If you are an international student, then this article offers some recommendations for you.

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