Having enough money can make or break your time at uni. Many students struggle because they don’t plan their spending. Sorting out a budget from the get go helps you manage your money so you don’t get into trouble later on.
A basic budget is as simple as listing all the money you’ve got coming in, working out how much you need to spend, and seeing how they balance out.
Calculate your outgoing expenditure
As a starting point, check your online banking to see what you currently spend.
Your expenses will include things like:
- Tuition fees
- Utility bills not included in the rent (water, gas, electricity)
- Telecommunications (phone, internet)
- Groceries / food / cleaning products
- Transport (bus, train, car fuel, car insurance)
- Course materials (study textbooks, IT and specialist equipment)
- Entertainment and socialising
- New clothes
- Gym membership
- Hair and other beauty expenses
- Subscription services (Amazon Prime, Netflix)
- Travelling (flights, hotels)
Establish your income
Your income is the money you receive from any paid work, student loan, scholarships, bursaries or grants, savings or allowance from parents / family.
Your Maintenance Loan will come in three big instalments throughout the academic year, so it is up to you to budget this out across the year.
Plan for one-off expenses
Plan your spending thoroughly. Think about any large one-off expenses you may have. You may want to spend a bit at first to set yourself up in your new home (bedding, cooking equipment) or you might be saving for something special (a holiday or equipment for your hobby) later in the year.
Divide the amount you’ll need for the one-off expense by 12 and add it your monthly budget. You then put this amount aside every month. Putting it in a savings account away from your day-to-day bank account can help you avoid dipping into it.
Be sure to have some spare to cover unforeseen eventualities like broken IT equipment.
Calculate your weekly budget
Once you’ve got all your expenses laid out before you, break it down into a weekly budget.
Work out your:
- Total income for a term at university or for the year
- Minus your essential expenses for the same period
- Divide the number you’re left with by the number of weeks in the same period.
It’s better to budget your expenditure per week rather than per month because it’s easy to go overboard at the start of the month and be left penniless by the end.
Check if you have a ‘surplus’ or ‘deficit’ budget
Once you’ve added together your monthly income and taken away your outgoings, have you got money left over?
If you do, fantastic! This is called a ‘surplus’. Save or invest it, buy gifts or give to charity, keep it for a rainy day or put it towards something special.
On the other side of the coin, if you’re spending more than your total income than you have what’s called a ‘deficit’ budget.
Spending more than you have coming in leads to financial difficulties. If you’re relying on credit or your overdraft to pay for everyday living costs, manage this sensibly and have a plan of how you’re going to pay this back. Remember, your situation can change, e.g. loss of part time job. Debt can spiral rapidly and become unmanageable. If you are getting into trouble, seek advice fast. Speak to your university support services, Student’s Union or StepChange Debt Charity.
Track your spending
Keep track of your spending. It’s easy to forget small purchases, but they soon add up. Check your online banking regularly.
Tracking your spending helps you understand where your money goes, but it can also affect how you spend your money too. Writing down every penny you spend may make you less likely to splurge on something you don’t need.
Once you’ve started to budget effectively you should review your spending regularly. It’s worth checking every few months to make sure you’re on track.
Work out how you can increase your surplus or at least reduce your deficit. Identify ways to save or find opportunities to boost income. Keeping on top of your finances means you won’t have to worry about running out of money, leaving you to focus on your studies and enjoying Uni life.