Money: making the most of it with a budget

August 28, 2018

It’s the start of term and a whole new academic year, a good time to think about (or re-think) your money situation. If you’re a fresher you might have already seen Getting Started’s Student Money Tips, if not check them out now.

It’s easy to get carried away and spend too much during welcome week or on socialising with new friends, but you need to be sure your money will last to avoid having a miserable time towards the end of term.

One of the most useful things you can do is make a budget. Don’t think of budgeting as scrimping and saving to spend less, but as a tool to help you spend your money where you get the most benefit.

How to budget

Step 1: Incoming Money

Add together all your 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 definite income

Step 2: Outgoing Money

Add together all the fixed expenses for the whole term.

  • Accommodation
  • Any utilities, insurance, bills
  • Transport costs
  • Any other fixed costs

Step 3: Maths!!!

Then, calculate:

  • Subtract your total outgoing money from your total incoming money to get the amount you have left over for the whole term.
  • Divide this by the number of weeks in the term. This gives you an amount per week.
  • To be on the safe side, take 20% to 30% off.
  • That gives you a ballpark weekly budget you can use for food, clothes and socialising.

Why take 20% to 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 how much you can afford to spend each week, 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 (you can use the free Google Sheets spreadsheet as part of your USW student account).
  • 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

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. A TOTUM 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