10 Tips for Student Budgeting at University
As a student, you have countless opportunities to look forward to – joining societies, attending freshers’ week events, going on mid-week nights out, living in shared accommodation and, the most exciting of all, learning how to pay your own bills!
Amidst all the fun and games, being a student can be tough financially, especially with a number of student loan options barely covering rent in the UK. You have a lot of things to pay for, and not much money to pay for it with.
In order to help you deal with the struggles of budgeting at university, we have come up with 10 quick tips for students looking to save money.
Tip #1: Get the Best Student Bank Account
Finding the best student bank account is an important part of preparing for university, as they can often provide you with a useful interest-free overdraft, or sometimes benefits such as a free railcard.
We recommend opting for an account with an overdraft of at least £100 – £300 or more, as it’s almost certain that you’ll need it at some point during your uni life.
However, the overdraft is useful as a safety net ONLY! Don’t rely on it unless you know that you are able to pay it back. Although they are 0% interest, they still need to be paid back at some point, so don’t over-spend unless you can afford to repay the amount you are overdrawn.
Tip #2: Make a Student Budget Planner
Working out your weekly budget helps you keep on top of your finances, ensuring that you are always aware of how much you’re spending, areas where you are spending too much money, and whether or not you have any money left over from the week to put in savings or treat yourself with.
You can manage your money by creating your own student budget spreadsheet, using programmes such as Excel, apps or drawing it up by hand. Doing so allows you to allocate specific amounts of money to certain activities and different areas of your life.
There are plenty of student budget templates available, but students tend to be pretty handy with IT, so why not put your skills into practice and make your own spreadsheet?
If you do this consistently and manage your budget with caution, you should be able to stay financially secure while you’re at university.
Tip #3: Save on Regular Spends
When you’re trying to save money, you need to think about whether you really need the non-necessities that you waste spend your money on.
Take your daily coffee, for example; an average Starbucks Frappuccino every working day of 2019 will leave you over £900 out of pocket for the year in total – as we mention in our detailed money-saving guide for students.
Instead, you could save a considerable amount of money by buying coffee in bulk as part of your weekly shop and preparing a flask at home for the day ahead. That way, you get your daily caffeine fix without spending almost £20 a week.
Same goes for all kinds of regular spends; you don’t need to cut them out completely, but think about alternate ways of reducing the amount you’re spending each day on non-necessities.
Tip #4: Be Savvy with your Weekly Food Shopping
You may not be used to doing your weekly shopping at home, but it’s something that needs to be done when you arrive at uni. Being smart with your weekly shop can save you loads of money, perhaps more than any of our other tips!
Start by shopping at the cheapest store in your local area - this may take a trial-and-error method but will be worth it eventually. Buy your average weekly shopping at each store for over a month (or less, depending on the amount of local supermarkets), and then compare the overall cost to determine the best in terms of value-for-money.
To save some serious money over the course of your three years or so as a student, you should also use the tried and tested method of switching from big brands to less expensive ones, as the contents are usually very similar but their prices vary considerably.
Tip #5: Save Money with Student Deals and Discounts
There are student discounts for pretty much everything; whether it’s a free cheeseburger at McDonald’s, deals on gym memberships, or money off clothes, there is money to be saved if you look for these offers.
Some websites are actually dedicated to helping students save, but an NUS Card or standard university ID card alone allows you to access many deals.
Tip #6: Sell Things You Don’t Want
It’s quite a simple and easy way of earning a bit of money while at uni, but very few students actually make use of the selling sites available.
If you have old books lying around that you no longer need, why not sell them on Amazon or eBay?
You can also sell clothes, electricals, and pretty much anything on sites like Gumtree, Facebook Marketplace and, more recently, on apps like Depop.
Tip #7: Take Cash Out for the Week Ahead
By allocating a set weekly budget, you can take that amount of cash out each week in order to manage how much you’re spending more easily.
When you use cash, you are able to see more accurately how much you’ve spent, how much you’ve got left, and whether you have over-spent.
It’s also easy to be careless with debit cards, especially contactless ones, and you are more likely to be cautious when spending cash.
Tip #8: Stay on Top of Bills
Paying bills is never fun, nobody enjoys it and nobody really wants to do it. However, it simply has to be done, and you could save a lot of money if you put some effort into it.
Organising your bills and splitting the responsibility between tenants can help you avoid missing payments – which also means that you’ll avoid the hefty late-payment fees that companies often charge.
Be sure to take readings and be proactive, this gives the provider a more accurate idea of how much water, electric, gas, etc. that you’re actually using – meaning that you won’t be over-charged.
Tip #9: Get a Student Wi-Fi Contract
When you move into a shared house – which students typically do in their second year of study – you’ll want to sort out your Wi-Fi as soon as possible.
As well as serving useful entertainment purposes, Wi-Fi is also pretty essential for doing university work at home due to the online-based nature of studying today.
Student Wi-Fi contracts allow you to pay for nine months only, so you won’t be paying for summer holidays and periods where you’re living at home rather than uni.
Tip #10: Free Microsoft Office
When you begin your studies, you’ll be provided with an institution e-mail. This e-mail gives you access to expensive software, including full access to Microsoft Office, for free.
Many aren’t aware of, or simply don’t make use of, the benefits of being a student – but you should ensure that you do, as it really can save you a significant amount of money.
You’re probably never going to be rolling in money while you’re a student at university, but by following our tips, they will help you get by with more financial security and stability. Remember, for a more in-depth insight regarding how you should budget at uni, take a look at our full guide.