Going away to university for the first time is an exciting period for students. It presents endless opportunities to socialise, visit new places and embrace their newfound financial independence by treating themselves to a shopping spree after lectures.
It’s easy for many students to let the spending power go to their head once the student loan hits their bank account, and it’s often not until a few weeks in that they realise that the money they’ve recently got their hands on will not last forever.
Don’t panic! Budgeting as a uni student is not a doomed ordeal! With some sensible financial planning and a healthy dose of control over your spending you can easily balance your new lifestyle with making your student loan last.
Below we’ve compiled our top tips for student budgeting:
Always know how much you’ve got
The first step to great budgeting is, well, keeping track of your current budget. This includes both the amount of money which comes into your account, recurring expenses which you know will be going out, and projected living costs.
As well as your loan your ‘income’ can include grants, salary, savings and financial support from your parents. Essential spend, meanwhile, covers anything from tuition fees and accommodation to food, bills, insurance, and travel costs. Keeping track of these two aspects gives you a clear idea how much money you have left to spend on other things, whether that’s entertainment, shopping or trips.
There are a number of different ways to keep track of your budget. You can go old-school and use a spreadsheet (which does all the math for you). It’s a great way to record spending as you go, as well as being super handy when it comes to planning your finances for the university year ahead.
If using nifty mobile apps is more your thing, there’s plenty of those to choose from! A number of banking apps designed to help users budget have popped up on the market in recent years, with the likes of Monzo, Mint and Cleo heading the list.
While each presents a unique angle, most of these apps offer common features such as splitting your spending into categories (food, bills, shopping, entertainment), keeping track of your daily expenses via push notifications and even helping you save with the popular ‘Save the Change’ functionality which sets aside small amounts every time you make a payment.
Whichever method of financial planning you prefer, the key to making your student load last is always having a clear idea of how much money is coming in and going out of your bank account.
Take advantage of student discounts
Aside from the student loan in itself, there are a number of other financial benefits to being a student. There are a number of things you don’t have to, including medical prescriptions (in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales) and Council Tax.
You can also get an NUS card and take advantage of the countless students discounts available at every step. From online retailers and high street shops to restaurants, cinemas and even barbers/beauty parlours, most establishments cater to their student demographic with enticing discounts that go easy on your budget.
Travel for less
On the subject of serious savings, you can cut down your travel spend by significantly by investing in a UK student railcard. The hugely popular 16-25 railcard saves you a third off most fares, which can come in handy if you need to commute to your campus every day. It’s also great for your trips home and travelling the country with friends.
If train is not an option for you, consider a car share – this way you can split the costs of petrol and parking with fellow students instead of driving your bank balance into the ground before the first term is over.
Plan out your finance
Whether you have a particular treat in mind (a fancy new gadget, a pair of trainers, a city break) or you just want to make sure that you your money doesn’t run out before the month does, a little bit of financial planning goes a long way.
There are several easy approaches you can choose from when it comes to planning your finances. You can immediately set aside a lump sum of money whenever you get your loan, or in the beginning of each month if you have a monthly income.
Alternatively, you can set yourself a fixed daily/weekly budget and do your best to stick to it, accounting for any outliers with extra cost-effective choices to balance things out. Splitting your money into pots (Monzo offers this functionality) is also a great way to make sure you have enough budget allocated to groceries, bills and travel before dipping into the rest for takeaway or cinema tickets. You could even have a dedicated pot for savings!
Financial planning is an essential skill which lays the groundwork for your financial security and independence in the years to come. Make a start now with our budgeting tips and your future finances will thank you!