Budgeting tips for college or university

It can be difficult to make your funds last until the end of term, especially with all of the added expenses on top of your tuition fees. It’s important to know how to budget and manage your money as a student. We’ve compiled a checklist of essential budgeting tips to help you make the most of your finances throughout university.

Managing your money during your course

If you receive your loans and funding at the beginning of each term, it can seem like a lot of money.

But making it stretch across the year, with regular expenses, can be difficult.

Develop a budget based on how much money you have coming in (your income) and how much you’re spending on a regular basis (your outgoings).

Firstly, add up your total income:

  • Student loan
  • Income from a job
  • Savings or investments
  • Money from a parent or guardian
  • Any bursaries, scholarships or grants

This will help you to work out the amount of money you have at the start of each term.

Once you know your total income, work out what your essential expenses will be:

  • Food
  • Travel costs
  • Accommodation fees
  • Any bills - Tv license, internet, water, phone, etc

The trick is to make sure that your income is either more than or equal to your outgoing expenses.

The remaining money can be spent on other things, such as:

  • Books and course equipment
  • Music, art and social events
  • Clothes, shoes and toiletries

Remember: Any loans or grants you receive, might be provided on a termly basis while your essential outgoings could be much more frequent than that.

Be sure to manage your money effectively to ensure your finances stretch throughout the academic year.

The key is to make sure that your income is either more or the same as your expenditure. If expenditure is higher you’re going to run out of money!

What if my income does not meet my expenses?

This is a common problem faced by thousands of students every year.

Things to consider:

  • Increasing your income – depending on your study schedule, taking on part-time work to increase your income, can make a big difference to your budget.
  • Reducing your expenses – look at what you’re spending money on. Are there any areas you could cut down on?. E.g swapping branded products for supermarket-own brands, can save you money.
  • Speaking to an adviser – your university or college should have a student money adviser who can help you budget and manage your income.
  • Considering borrowing options – tried increasing your income and reducing your expenses with no major change? Consider borrowing to make up the difference. Only ever borrow what you need and will be able to repay.

Overdraft facilities

While the aim is to avoid overspending and getting into debt, unfortunately this can happen.

An overdraft facility can provide extra financial security and enable you to carry out essential expenses.

Many banks will try to appeal to you as a student, by offering overdraft facilities.

To avoid it causing an issue, apply for an overdraft with 0% interest to minimise repayment costs.

However, be sure to consider the following beforehand:

  • Ways in which you intend to pay it back
  • It’s not free money but intended in the event of emergency
  • Not going over the amount you can afford to repay e.g. £200 a month
Read our guide on student and graduate bank accounts to find the right account for your banking needs.

Student loans and grants

Depending on where you live and which part of the UK you’re studying in, you can use student loans to pay your tuition fees and living costs.

Other funding options such as grants and bursaries might also be available.

You don’t have to repay grants or bursaries but, eligibility for them will depend on your circumstances.

For more information on grants, bursaries and loans, you can visit:

For more information on student loans and grants, visit the Money Saving Expert

Shop smart with student discounts

There are lots of great discounts available to students. Be sure to look around for any deals

Here’s a few to get you started:

  • Rail travel – a 16-25 Railcard can save you up to one third on your train journeys. Also check with your university or college as many areas offer special travel cards.
  • Apply for a National Union of Students (NUS) card. It provides discounts at lots of places nationwide, including stores for clothes, food and entertainment.

Finding part-time work

Budgeting tips

Try and look for work as soon as possible – there’s likely to be lots of competition!

Once you’ve calculated your income and prepared a budget, you should be able to see whether taking on part-time work would help you manage better.

This could be during the holidays or term time.

Studies show that more than 20 hours of work a week can have a negative impact on academic performance.

So if you’re planning to work during term time, try and aim for a good balance between work and study.

Food

It might be your first time shopping and cooking for yourself and it could be on a tight budget.

But it’s possible to eat healthily without overspending.

Here are a few tips to help you stay on budget:

  • Make a shopping list before setting off, to avoid overspending
  • Compare prices of basic products at different supermarkets before you buy
  • Learn one or two easy dishes to cook in bulk and store in the freezer

Transport

Whether it’s the daily commute to lectures or travelling back home for the holidays, you’ll need to consider travel costs in your budget.

There are various student travel cards and deals to reduce costs:

Be sure to plan ahead and book in advance for additional savings.

Entertainment and socialising

From Fresher’s week, student nights, sports club socials, gigs, fancy dress or quick catch-ups with friends at the student union - the cost of socialising can soon add up.

Being sociable doesn’t have to be expensive.

Instead, you could take part in:

  • Two-for-one cinema nights
  • Game nights in with housemates
  • Free events at your union e.g. trivia quiz

Course materials

Study books, photocopying, printing - the small costs can add up over time.

Try and keep these extra expenses to a minimum by:

  • Using your local library for resources - be sure to avoid late fees!
  • Printing in black and white on both sides to reduce printing costs
  • Purchasing books second hand - look for union fairs with students flogging their old textbooks
  • If you have to hand in regular coursework, it might be worth buying a printer but look for one with cheap ink costs, as the bill can start to add up

Getting help with debt

Budgeting tips

Always seek free advice if you begin to feel that debt’s becoming a problem.

Although debt is a reality for many students, it can still cause stress and anxiety especially if you feel that your budgeting efforts are not helping.

Most universities will have a Student Money Adviser, who can tell you about any financial options that might be available, such as a hardship loan.

Alternatively, contact a free debt adviser for confidential advice.

They can suggest ways of dealing with debts even if you think you have no spare money.

Read our guide to find out where to get free debt advice advice

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