University Budgeting tips

It’s important to know how to manage your money as a student, otherwise it won’t last through term time and holidays. We’ve compiled a checklist of essential budgeting tips to help you make the most of your finances at university or college.

Living costs as a student

While more students are choosing to stay in the family home to save on living costs, for many it’s usually the first experience of living away from home.

This is exciting time comes with a number of new responsibilities, including the need to take control of finances.

Remember: You’ll have your tuition fees to pay for on top of this.

How to budget at uni?

If you receive your maintenance loans or other awards or means-tested funding at the beginning of each term, it can seem like a lot of money.

But making it last for both the academic year and holidays, can be quite a stretch.

It’s a good idea to work out a budget based on the money you have coming in and out, regularly.

Firstly, add up your total student income.

For example:

  • Maintenance loans
  • Income from a job
  • Bursaries, scholarships, awards or grants
  • Money from parents or family
  • Any savings or investments

Once you know your total income, calculate your expenses:

  • Food and drink
  • Any bills - gas, electricity, water, phone, Wifi, TV licence, etc
  • Accommodation fees, such as rent and insurance for valuables
  • Travel costs, including fuel, maintenance and insurance if you drive

Make sure that your income is either more than or equal to your outgoing expenses, on a weekly or monthly basis.

Remember: If you share accommodation, make sure the bills are handled fairly and are paid on time. Contact your provider if there might be a late payment, as it could damage your credit rating or ability to access credit in the future.

Help - I’m spending more than I’m earning

This is a common problem faced by thousands of students.

Consider the following:

  • Increasing your income - depending on your study schedule, taking on part-time work could make a big difference to your budget.
  • Speaking to an adviser - your university or college should have a student money adviser or support services that can help you to manage your money.
  • Reducing your expenses - look what you’re spending money on. Are there any areas that you could cut down on? Swapping branded products for supermarket-own brands or sharing meal costs could save you money
  • Consider borrowing - tried everything else? Consider borrowing options such as an authorised, interest-free overdraft or a credit card that might come with your student account. Only ever borrow what you need and what you can repay.

Maintenance loans and grants

Maintenance loans can be used to cover your living costs, however what you’re entitled to is based upon where you live and the location of your university or college.

Depending on which Nation you’re in and the student finance agency that applies to you, there might also be other means tested grants and funding options available.

You don’t usually have to repay grants or bursaries, but you’ll only be eligible for them if you meet certain criteria.

For more information on maintenance loans, grants, bursaries and awards, visit:

Shop smart with student discounts

There are lots of great discounts available to students in shops, restaurants, transport, etc.

But don’t use this as a reason to spend money on things that you don’t really need.

A great starting point is the National Union of Students (NUS) card, which offers discounts on lots of products and services.

Finding part-time work

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

Once you’ve worked out your budget, you’ll see if taking on part-time work is a good idea.

This could be during the holidays or term time.

But don’t neglect your studies - research shows that more than 20 hours of work a week can have a negative impact on academic performance.

So if you’re aiming for a job during term time, try and find a good work and study balance.

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

  • Make a shopping list before setting off and stick to it!
  • Learn one or two easy dishes to cook in bulk and store in the freezer.
  • Compare prices of basic products at different supermarkets before you buy.
Visit GOV.UK to check that you are earning at least the National Minimum wage.


Whether it’s your commute to class or heading back home for the holidays, you’ll need to include travel costs in your budget.

There are various student travel cards and deals to reduce costs, so check what transport companies offer where you’re studying and book in advance for additional savings.

Examples include:

Entertainment and socialising

Fresher’s week, student nights, sports club socials, gigs, fancy dress, coffees, lunches… the cost of socialising can quickly add up.

But, being sociable doesn’t have to be expensive, consider taking part in:

  • Free events at your union
  • Two-for-one cinema nights
  • Game nights in with housemates

Course materials

Study books, photocopying, printing - while these costs can seem small, they soon add up over time.

Try to keep these expenses to a minimum by:

  • Using your library for books- be sure to avoid late fees!
  • Printing in black and white and on both sides to reduce printing costs.
  • Buying second hand books - look for union fairs with students selling 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 cartridges.

Getting help with debt

Don’t hesitate to get free advice using our Debt advice locator if you feel it’s becoming an issue.

Debt is a reality for many students and can cause stress and anxiety.

Most universities and colleges will have a Student Money Adviser or support services available to help you develop budgeting techniques and inform you of any financial help options available to you as a student, such as a hardship loan.

You could also Contact a free debt adviser for confidential advice.

They can suggest ways of coping with debt even if you think you have no spare cash.

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