Creating a budget is the best way of getting the most out of your university experience.
Once you have your money planned out, you can focus on your studies (and the fun stuff) with no distractions! Here are some simple tips on managing your finances.
Set up a spreadsheet In order to budget effectively, you need to know exactly how much income you will have and where your money is going to be spent each month. Therefore, the first step to creating a budget is to work out your monthly income and outgoings.
Write everything down in a spreadsheet, including your rent, bills and all direct debits. Also make sure to reasonably budget for the fun stuff like nights out, trips away and the occasional lunch or dinner.
Budgeting is not scary or time consuming, so if you don’t want to create your own spreadsheet and would prefer to use an online planner, you can use this handy budget planner instead!
From here you can begin to make plans for your spending. Remember, if you are about to start your first term at uni, you may have more one-off spends than usual as you get things set up for the year ahead. Examples of costs you may have at the start of your studies could be course materials, society fees, kitting out your accommodation and more. Having some leftover funds this month for anything you don’t expect is a great idea!
Trimming the unnecessary As you look over your budget planner, make a note of your outgoings. Are they all essential? Do you really need that gym membership or could you hit the park? Could you make do with a slightly older phone or slightly less credit or data? Could you and your friends / flatmates pool your money and batch cook large meals together?
You should think about your essential outgoings in the same way. Is your internet provider giving you value for money? How about your utilities, have you shopped around for the best deal? By trimming the unnecessary you’re freeing up money you can use for the things that really matter to you.
Find a way to keep track of your spending If you don’t track your spending, you’ll find it easy to blow your budget each month. Fortunately, it’s never been simpler to keep tabs on yourself. Apps like Money Dashboard, Bankin’ and Yolt enable you to see all your current account and credit card balances in one place.
Smartphone based banks like Monzo or N26 are also useful tools for budgeters. These apps give you instant balance updates alongside features to track your outgoings and separate your funds. Once you can see how much you’re spending and where a lot of that spend goes, it becomes much easier to cut down.
Set some goals and start saving What are you hoping to achieve in your time at university? Setting some funds aside for something like an internship will be a huge help when you graduate. Perhaps you hope to spend a term abroad? Or maybe the job you secure when you leave university will require you to need a car? Budgeting allows you to make long term plans that will give you the edge in your chosen industry.
You can set up a savings account with your bank or your digital banking app. Even getting into the habit of putting aside £50 per month will be such a great asset to you when you graduate. It might seem impossible while studying to spare any money, but if you get into the habit of putting away that £50 early in the term (or even better, setting up a monthly direct debit into your savings account), you honestly won’t even notice that it is gone.
Other, more fun, ways to save are the 1p Saving Challenge (saving a penny a day and build or decrease the amount you save everyday) or Save the Change schemes. Save the Change rounds up your expenses to the nearest pound, saving the excess. For example, if you spend £3.60 on a coffee, 40p will be sent automatically to your savings account.
Most banks and digital banking apps offer a Save the Change option so make sure to investigate.
Have fun! You deserve to enjoy yourself at uni! Most people only get to do it once after all and you worked hard to get there.
It’s essential to your mental wellbeing (and your financial health) to blow off some steam once in a while especially during the pressure of term-time, so your budget should allow for that. This ‘monthly treat’ could be anything you enjoy - a night out with friends, a fancy meal, a new pair of shoes or a fun activity.
Budgeting doesn’t always have to feel like a chore and this is a great way to ensure you stay on track when you start feeling the strain. And trust us when we say that nothing feels as good as a treat that you earned by budgeting for it!