Going to a university is often the first time some of us will have to budget for ourselves properly, and it’s the best time to learn to do so as well before you enter the real world of work a few years later.
It is important to know how much money you have on a regular basis, to do this you can do online banking, nearly all banks do this and it allows you to view your latest statements and transactions online. It has its advantages as you can carry out and cancel direct debits and standing orders online as well as cancel cheques if that is required, saving many trips to the bank or cash point.
If you haven’t entered the world of online banking yet, or choose not to then there is good old fashion paper statements you can have sent to you and mini statements from cash machines, Internet banking is however far more convenient and relatively safe if you keep your details to yourself and are careful about internet security.
You need to ensure that this total is higher than the out going earnings, as a student this will include your student loan, student grants, bursaries any allowance your parents give you or other family members, part time jobs and interest on any money you already have.
Keep an eye on your incoming earnings and ensure you know the dates you get paid or will get this money and make sure that any cheques you write will not be cashed before these dates if you will not have the money in your account.
IMPORTANT: Do not write a cheque when you haven’t got the money! Even cheques with a later date written on them can be cashed earlier which could result in a bouncing cheque. If any estate agents refuse to let you use an alternative means to pay other than by post-dated cheques then walk away, it’s not a good idea.
You also need to keep an eye on you expenses, ensure that things that have to be paid get paid first! Such as the rent, course fees (although this should be covered by a loan for the bulk of people) and bills.
Then of course things such as TV licences and pay monthly phone bills which are not a requirement but make living more comfortable. If you find yourself struggling to pay for the necessities these should be the first things to be cancelled!
If you are really struggling then pay for things in this order: Rent, Food Bills, Internet/Phone, Gas/Electric, Water. It may seem a strange order but you aren’t likely to be cut off from gas and electricity for late payment and you definitely will never have your water cut off! It’s never a good idea though to get into this situation, contact your bank and arrange an authorised overdraft, or ask your parents to help bail you out!
One useful number is the National Debtline 0808 808 4000. Your university may also be able to give emergency loans (in cash as well) if these are required.
Time to Budget!
Now here is where the maths comes in! Take your regular expenses such as rent etc. and deduct them from your total income. Whatever you have left is the amount of disposable income you have left!
Not all of it is technically disposable though, ensure you factor in about £20-30 a week at least if you are living self-catered or in private rented accommodation for food! For catered students I would still recommend £10-15 a week for snacks and making lunch. Now any remaining money you have can be spent on clubs, societies, going out and other luxuries.
You can read our 52 student savings tips here, other advice also includes buying cheaper drinks in pubs, VK or VS instead of WKD will save you a large amount of money and they taste almost identical. Look out for what’s on offer, change what you drink accordingly! Always set yourself a going out budget and don’t go over it.
The same is true in the supermarket, set a budget and don’t go over it, look for non-brandname food and reduced food to help save the money – turkey is a great substitute for chicken in casseroles and stir-fry and is about half the price.
Keep on Saving
Remember to keep a bit of money back for course books and other emergency expenditures that may arise (if you have to take a trip home or something important breaks down and needs replacing). Course books are not cheap so keep a good £100 or so in your bank balance/overdraft to cover these things.
Free Student Budgeting Download
I have put together a spreadsheet to help out anyone who wants to budget via Excel. It’s a fairly limited spreadsheet (pictured above) but it should aid in quickly working out your finances and disposable income. It is available for Microsoft Excel 2007 (Recommended) and Microsoft Excel 97-2003.
It’s a good idea to keep receipts for all the stuff you purchase and keep a spreadsheet for a while to keep track of everything. Eventually you will know exactly how much you have to play with without having to think about it much.