One of the main challenges of student life is staying on top of your finances. Becoming a student usually marks a significant change in your financial circumstances, with some students managing their own financial situation for the first time. Here are tips for how to set, and stick to, your student budget…
1. How to set your budget
Step one: Figure out how much money you’ll have coming in this term.
List your income including loans, bursaries, any state benefits, parental or partner contributions, earnings, savings etc. If you’re expecting to use an overdraft then include it.
Step two: List how much money you’ll have going out this term.
Your tuition fees (if you are not in receipt of a tuition fee loan), food and rent are major outgoings, and depending on your circumstances childcare and travel costs may be too. If you’ll be living on campus at Marjon then insurance and utilities are included in your rent but if you’re not then factor these in. Other monthly costs could include mobile phone contract, internet, TV licence, credit card repayments etc. Remember to allow for going out and socialising, plus sports, clubs and hobbies.
Step three: Divide each figure by the number of weeks in the term. This will give you an idea of how much you need to live on each week, and whether you have enough.
Do you have a surplus of money left over or a shortfall? If you have a shortfall then consider where you could save or look for part-time work, with help from the Marjon Futures team.
If you have a shortfall then here are some ideas to help you reduce your outgoings:
- Rent is one of your largest expenditures so choose your accommodation carefully and be sure you can afford it before you sign a legal contract.
- Keep a daily spending diary to see where your money is going, do you need all of this? Could you cut out a purchase altogether or buy a cheaper alternative?
- Don’t rush straight out to buy new books for your course. Make good use of the Library or buy secondhand books. Ask in the Marjon students Facebook group if anyone is selling those books or try second hand sites like Amazon and eBay.
- Get a NUS card and always ask if the retailer does student discount – you will save loads! Similarly student-discount site Unidays is free to use and offers a range of discount codes for online shopping. You’ll need your @marjon.ac.uk email address to sign up.
- Don’t overpay tax. Anyone who earns less than £12,500 a year shouldn’t pay any income tax so make sure you’re paying the right amount and if not, claim a tax refund online.
2. Check out student bank accounts
Student bank accounts are much the same as regular bank accounts, but typically with freebies and an interest-free overdraft. If you expect to need an overdraft then check how much is available and whether it is a guaranteed overdraft or not; if not you might not get it when you need it. And it won’t be interest free forever so find out when you’ll start repaying as well as how much interest you’ll be charged. Check out this review of student bank accounts.
3. How to stick to your budget
After the hard work of creating your budget, comes the challenge of sticking to it. Here are some tips to help you stick to your student budget:
- Check your bank account regularly. Use online banking and if you have a smartphone you can download the app for your bank. Keep track of when payments are due to come out to make sure there is enough in the account to cover this to avoid bank charges.
- Work out how much money you need for a week, take it out in cash and leave your debit card at home to stick to your budget.
- Challenge yourself to spend-free days.
- You’re unlikely to stick to a budget that’s too strict so allow for some celebrations and treats.
- Buying a takeout coffee every day for a week could cost much as £40 a month… think about alternatives such a bringing a flask of coffee from home or see my post on how to eat well on a student budget for more money-saving tips.
- Remember that no one can afford to party every night – so don’t feel pressured! Plan how much you can afford to spend on a night out and stick to it.
- For more tips check out the student section of MoneySavingExpert.com.