A Guide to Student Budgeting
There are plenty of learning opportunities for students at university. Aside from the academic studies themselves, many students are living away from home for the first time, facing new challenges and embracing newly discovered independence. Many students are also learning what it is to budget. Having a budget basically means having a plan and setting aside what you need so you can be better prepared.
Here’s our guide to budgeting as a student.
Begin by assessing your potential financial support
You may be entitled to a maintenance loan. This is not a loan from the university, but from your local funding body. Whereas bursaries, grants, scholarships or awards are provided by your chosen university. To find out more, you will need to talk to your university or college’s support service.
You can refer to the following websites to enquire about funding:
- Scotland: http://www.saas.gov.uk/
- England: https://www.gov.uk/student-finance
- Wales: http://www.studentfinancewales.co.uk/
- Northern Ireland: http://www.studentfinanceni.co.uk
You can also use Family Action’s grant search to see if you qualify for funding from a charitable trust.
Draw up a list of how much money comes into your account and how much goes out
A spreadsheet will be perfect for this, as you can keep it saved and refer back to it. Normally when people budget, they plan for the month ahead, but as you’re a student it will be a little different. Your budget needs to be planned around your maintenance loan or maintenance grant payments, which is normally delivered in three instalments over a year.
Many students will pay their landlords/landladies in a three month lump sum for their joint rent and bills for that term. If you do the same, this will make your budgeting easier. You can then record your main expenses such as rent and energy bills, and then estimate your day-to-day costs for items such food and travel.
Subtract the money you spend from the money that comes in
By subtracting your spending from what comes in, you are able to see how far your budget is actually going to carry you. The question to ask now is: are you under or over budget? If you’re under, it means you need to do something to help yourself. You may need to consider doing a few hours work over the weekend. Or perhaps you need to cut back a bit on non-essential items. Your spreadsheet should show you where your main expenses are, and then you can look to reduce them over time.
Be honest with yourself
If you’ve got a lot of money left in your budget that is available spend, take another look at your estimated spending and think about all the other activities and items that you tend to spend money on. Have you missed anything? Consider the lunches and nights out that you have with your friends, your sports equipment or your monthly haircuts.
You may discover after making your budget that you need some extra money to help support yourself through your studies. Instead of dipping into your overdraft, consider finding a part time job to help earn some extra money. By successfully managing your finances now, you’ll be setting yourself up well for the rest of your life, when you finish university and enter the world of work.