Freshers' Guide to... Budgeting

August 26, 2016

One of the most useful things you can do is to make a budget, otherwise you might be having a miserable time towards the end of term.

There are many budget calculators out there, but really, you’re better off making your own budget – and making a new one at the start of each term.

How to plan

Step 1: Incoming Money! :-)

Start looking only at the first term. Add together all your known and confirmed incomes for this term:

  • Student Loan / Maintenance Loan
  • Any scholarships payments
  • Any salary from a job (if you have one)
  • Any allowance from parents
  • Any other certain income
Step 2: Outgoing Money! :-(

Then, add together all the fixed expenses for the whole term.

  • Accommodation
  • Any utilities, bills, insurance (internet, electricity, gas, water, etc.)
  • Transport costs
  • Any other fixed costs
Step 3: Maths!!! O.o

Then, calculate:

  • Subtract the total fixed expenses from your total confirmed income. The result is the money you have available.
  • Count the number of weeks you’ll be on campus
  • Divide your available money by the number of weeks. That gives you the maximum weekly budget.
  • To be on the safe side, take at least 20% off. Better yet, 30%.
  • That gives you a ballpark weekly budget you can use for food, clothes and socials.

Why take 20%-30% off? You’ll need more money around Freshers’ Week, Christmas, and perhaps around Halloween. You may need to travel home to your family unexpectedly, or have other surprise expenses. If you don’t plan to put some money aside for such occasions, you’ll end up in debt, or struggling to get by. Even in Freshers’ Week and at Christmas, you’ll still have to watch the pennies – but if you budget correctly, at least there will be some pennies left by the time Christmas comes around!

Step 4: Stick to the budget!

Once you know the weekly budget you can afford, you’ll have to find a way to stick to your budget that works for you. Here are three different methods that can help:

  • take out cash at the start of the week and then leave your bank card at home, using only the cash you’ve already taken out. (Don’t cheat by using your smartphone to pay for things!)
  • use a spreadsheet to keep track of your spending and your budget.
  • if you’re very organised, try piggybanking: set up several different bank accounts, each fed by a standing order and each storing money for expected costs. Storing this money separately from the money you can use for everyday living means you’ll always know how much you can safely spend. (If you do set up more than one bank account, do not choose accounts that can have overdrafts – multiple overdrafts are a road to certain financial doom! Open only one student bank account – but choose carefully.)
Step 5: Remain Vigilant! O:-)

Monitor your spending during term. Keep track of your money and, if your circumstances change, make a new budget!

Step 6: Redo From Start.

Repeat Steps 1-5 each term!


Money Tips

  • Read through MoneySavingExpert’s Supermarket Shopping Tips
    • Why not try menu planning and cooking and freezing some things in advance? (Just don’t hog the entire freezer: your flatmates also need it!)
    • Forget the “finest” food brands. These just add a dollop of fat, sugar and/or salt for a big price hike. Use discount products instead.
    • The late afternoon is a great time for bargains wherever perishable foor is sold!
    • Learn to cook a few budget meals (thanks to inflation, these will set you back more than 50p today – but the recipes will still be budget friendly!)
  • Keep away from take-aways – A well-planned shopping trip at the supermarket once a week will save you money. Make a shopping list and stick to it, and never go into a supermarket while you are hungry, or you will buy ALL THE FOOD.
  • Student Discount Cards – Student Discounts are not always advertised. If they don’t have a visible sign, ask at the checkout about student discounts. An NUS card is often worth the investment. All shops with student discount recognise it, and it includes discounts at The Co-Operative groceries and Amazon (on some product types)!
  • Think hard before signing long-term contracts – You may have money now but before you sign a monthly contract (e.g. for a mobile phone or broadband) ask yourself if you will be able to afford it in 3 months’ time. Many contracts last up to 24 months, and your circumstances may change in that time. Some contracts (especially broadband deals) include hefty charges if you need to cancel early.
  • Don’t go mad in freshers’ week. Lots of shops (and bars / clubs) raise prices early in October, in order to make the most of students who just received their loans. You don’t need everything that is on offer, and you don’t need it immediately. Shop around and compare prices. When buying personal purchases such as clothes, think about what you can afford, rather than what you want.

discount shop

Tagged: gettingstarted unilife