Going to university brings a lot of changes. You leave the comfort and security of home and venture out into the world on your own. While there is a lot of support from family, university and friends, managing your own life is a key skill you’re going to have to master.
A vital part of that is money. Managing money is something you may already have experience in, but everything changes when you become responsible for your own.
The good news is, the budgeting and money management skills you learn now will serve you for the rest of your life!
Managing money as a student
Money is one of those things most of us never have enough of. Unless you’re one of the lucky few, you’ll have to learn to extract maximum value from what you have. That’s what we’ll start with today. We’re going to share some essential budgeting tips every student should know. Master these and money will be the one thing you don’t have to worry about while you’re at university!
Important student budgeting tips everyone should know
Use one, use them all. The better you are at budgeting and managing money, the easier you’ll find student life.
Set an overall budget
We’re not going to sugarcoat it, budgeting is boring. The good news is that it’s worth the effort and once you create one, it will just need topping up every month, which should take less than 10 minutes.
- Use a free spreadsheet program to create your budget. Have one column for income and another for outgoings. If you have any debt, add that in a third column.
- Add all your income from student loans, bursaries, grants, scholarships and wages into the first column.
- Add all your outgoings, accommodation, tuition fees, rent, bills, travel, food and anything else you pay out in the second.
- Add everything up for each column and subtract the sum of the second column from the first.
Hopefully you’ll have a little left over each month when everything is paid! Update your budget when things change so you always know where you’re in the black or are spending more than you have.
Set a weekly budget
Now you know where you are, you can use that to set a weekly spending budget. Allocate a certain amount to food, going out, books, clothes and general living. Knowing in your head how much you have to spend each week will help you manage your money much better than winging it!
Choose your accommodation wisely
Aside from tuition fees, accommodation is likely to be your biggest expense. When looking for affordable student accommodation there are two key points to consider. The first, naturally, is the price. Most student accommodation providers use weekly pricing, making it easy to see how much of your weekly budget will be spent on having a roof over your head.
The second is the location. Aside from uni, think about where else you’ll be spending time in your new city. Choosing somewhere close to the gym, shops and nightlife will save on transport costs. It’s important to factor this into your budget, as paying a little more for somewhere centrally located is often more cost-effective once you factor in transportation.
Never be afraid to ask for discounts
Students are in a unique position where most big brands and stores offer student discounts. No other segment of the population gets this treatment so you may as well make the most of it. Use your student card, sign up for a travelcard or one of the many student discount schemes and save as much as you can.
Avoid branded foods if you can
Sometimes, buying branded goods make sense as they are of a higher quality. Food isn’t one of those times. Non-branded, supermarket own or no-name brands from Aldi and Lidl are often just as good as the big brands.
In fact, many non-branded products are made in the same factories on the same production lines. They just use slightly different ingredients and packaging. Food is expensive right now, so any saving you can make is going to be worth it.
Saving is never a bad thing
You may not have much to live on but squirrelling away a little each week or month for a rainy day can be a genuine lifesaver. If your car breaks down, you lose your phone or face an unexpected expense, having a little in savings means not putting it on a card or getting into debt. That’s worth going without a coffee or a beer a week to put money away, right?
Set up a spending account
This tip uses the ‘savings bucket’ idea to help manage money. Have one account where your money is paid in and all your bills are paid out. Have another account for spending. Set up a standing order from your main account into your spending account for an affordable amount and leave the main account card at home. That way, you only have access to your spending account and will find it harder to overspend. It will be tough at first, but can really help you learn the discipline needed to manage money.
Used is often as good as new
There is nothing like buying new, but there’s a lot to be said for buying used. Whether that’s clothes, books, phones, laptops, cars or something else. In these times of recycling, reuse and sustainability, it also helps keep items in circulation for longer to reduce waste. It also saves money. Buy carefully, make sure the item you’re buying is still in good condition and in working order and you could still get what you need while spending a whole lot less.
Use ‘Needs/Wants’ for spending
Society is built around trying to get us to spend money. Sometimes we genuinely need what we’re buying but we often don’t. That’s where a ‘Needs/Wants’ list comes in. Use pen and paper, an app or do it mentally, it’s entirely up to you. Create a section for items you genuinely need and another for things you want. Be as honest with yourself as you can when categorising things.
Prioritise needs first or ask yourself if you really need what you’re planning to buy. If the answer is no, see if you can do without it. If the answer is yes, buy it. It’s a simple mental process that can go a long way to avoiding impulse purchase so is well worth trying!
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