How to Live on a Budget at University
Living on any kind of budget is an important skill to have and is something that everyone of all ages will have to do at some point. However, where many people start with this is university. Budgeting at university is pretty much essential, regardless of how much money you have, because you will, probably for the first time, be expected to pay for rent at regular intervals and buy your own food. Because of inexperience or just the fact that people do not think they need it, many fail to budget properly and run out of money rather quickly. Not with this guide you won’t.
1. Work Out How Much Money you get Every Month
This includes every last bit of money that you get in a month, not just your maintenance loan. You may be getting some money every month from your parents, if you have a job then you should take your average monthly salary into account as well and any other source of money as well.
Bear in mind that your maintenance loan will differ from person to person and even your loan will differ from term to term. It is vital that you know how much you are getting each term so you can budget accurately.
Once you have the total amount of money that you will receive each month, you can move on to the next tip.
2. What Are Your Priorities?
Everyone has priorities in life and spending your money is no different. You will need to work out what your priorities are now that you have the money.
The number one priority will be paying your rent. Ideally you should pay that before anything else because you do not want to get behind on your rent otherwise you will incur penalties and that is not worth the hassle. Food will be the next priority because everyone has to eat- although, some people will eat more than others so it is up to you to decide this budget. You may also have things like car insurance and other priorities so make sure to include these as well.
All the money that is left over is up for your personal spending. But even this is down to your own priorities. If you like sports, then you might spend the bulk of your money buying kit for a team. If you are more of a socialite, then you might wish to save most of this money. Be conservative when giving over money to different things because some months you may spend more than others, so it is always best to have some in the bank.
3. Learn How to Keep Track of it
Dividing up all of your money into the various sections is only one half of the budgeting story. The other half is keeping track of your expenses to make sure that what you set out to achieve at the beginning of the month is achieved.
There are a number of ways to do this and depending on your personal preference, some may be better than others. There are a number of apps that can help you with this and on most you can set up custom budgets and as you add expenses throughout the month, you can the proportion that has been spent on each one as both a percentage and as a number. If you wanted to break it down into weeks and days, then you have that option as well and as before you can see the way that your money has been spent via a pie chart. The advantages are of this that you can quickly add any expenditure that may come up.
Other options include banking apps. Many banking apps will have a way to take a look at your own expenditure and set limits for yourself so you can keep yourself on track. Although, you should make sure that you know how it works and whether your banking app has such a feature. The only difference with this when compared to the above option is that you can see your total bank balance at the same time so it may be easier for you.
4. What Happens if I Overspend?
There may come a day where after a busy night out or a heavy week or spending, that you have over spent. What happens now? Are you behind on your rent?
Well, the first thing you need to do is to stay calm. Do not panic just because you have over spent a little bit. There will be weeks or months when you overspend and there are ways to get over it.
One such way is to actually under budget each month. If you leave a small amount spare each month, it can be as small as £30, then you know that you have a little buffer and if you do run out of money then all is not lost.
If you do not have a buffer budget and you have actually spent over your budget. You will simply need to change your budget for the next week or the next month so that it accommodates your over spending.
Depending on how bad the overspend is, you may need to ask for some financial help from your parents or carers so that you keep up with any important expenditure.
What About Savings?
A good part of any budget is saving some of your money in some kind of bank account or fund. However, is it necessary when living on a student budget? And can it even be done?
The answer is, it depends.
It is always good to keep some savings and if you can add to those savings on a regular basis then you will find that it compounds very quickly. But, on a student budget this may not be a viable option so you might want to avoid this. You could inquire with your parents whether they could put some money aside every month on your behalf- this may require some negotiation and what could be agreed is that they pay less money to you at the start of each month with the remainder going into a savings account.
If you did want to try and save while at university unsupported, then you may need to take a look at your circumstance. Some towns and cities may be more expensive than others so if you go to a university in London or Edinburgh, then you may not be able to save money because of the cost of living. However, in a city such as Sheffield or Nottingham, things generally cost less so you could budget it in.
As always, the best way to do this is to take this on an individual level and see what works best for you. As always, if you want any kind of help then you only need to ask.
How Can You Save Money?
Saving money is an obvious inclusion in any university budget article, so here we go with our top ways to save some cash as a student.
- Freshers, do not take your car.
Do not be tempted to drive to university in your first year because it really is not worth it. Firstly, you will have to pay to park the car- sadly university parking is not free. And even once you are at university, it is far cheaper to use public transport anyway, making your car obsolete.
- Bring things with you.
If you can bring a few things from home and not have to buy them while you are up there then you can save yourself some money. Things like cutlery, plates, toothpaste, etc. These are the things that you will use regularly at university and things that you can easily bring some home. Why not save yourself some time and just bring some yourself. Check out our fun life hacks page for more information
- Make use of discounts.
As a student, you have access to millions of discount codes and you should definitely make use of them. Big companies selling all sorts of products will regularly provide you with good discounts. You can find these codes on apps such as UniDays and at your freshers events, make sure to note them down and make use of them.
- Make sure you have a student bank account
Student bank accounts are an essential for all students. Unlike regular bank accounts, they will have larger overdrafts, more generous interest and will be designed for use by students. Look out for these at your current bank and make sure you do your research before making a decision- some banks will have more favourable accounts than others.