Budgeting while at university

Written by BA Art History & Visual Culture and History student Niamh

The cost of university for many students can be a worrying subject. For instance, I was quite apprehensive about spending money in my first few weeks at university as I was totally new to the subject. Gone were the days where I would be able to walk into the kitchen and find a whole host of foods from the weekly family shop. I now had to this myself but how much would I able to spend? When managing your finances, it’s vital to be honest about what you spend and how you spend it. I had not realised the cost of having a takeaway coffee 2-3 times a week. Many students can underestimate their expenditure by as much as 50%! This however doesn’t have to cause alarm.

The first step I took was to look at how much money I would receive from student finance. I knew my tuition fee would go straight to the university and my maintenance loan would be deposited into my student bank account. I had never before had to pay rent at home and it was at first quite daunting having money in my account I knew I had to spend wisely. After calculating how much money I would have to be put towards my student accommodation rent, I then had money left over for food shopping and leisure activities.

I had before coming to university saved some money in my savings account in case my budgeting skills were a bit rusty. I also knew I would like to find a part-time job at university which would ease my financial worries and give me more breathing space to over spend if needed or in case an emergency arose.

The next step I took was to evaluate how much I would typically eat in a week or two weeks, did I need to buy three packets of pasta or would I be able to use one or two? Calculating your own budget on the amount of food you will consume is easier said than done! My top tip would be to write down the maximum amount of money you would be willing to spend on your food shop. If your food budget covers more than your shop cost then that means more money for something else e.g. leisure activities. Sharing with flatmates or housemates with key condiments such as salt, pepper even toiletries cut my weekly budget towards essentials down.

After completing my food shop I then knew how much I could spend on the week ahead. Its best to remember that some sports, societies and subscriptions you may sign up to in Fresher’s week require fees or regular payments. This was something else I had to contend with when writing down my budget. I knew I had to keep some money aside to pay for cricket equipment, sessions and club stash. Money set aside for socialising was an important part of my budget as I knew I would have to spend money on catching up with friends and clubbing on Friday nights. Although budgeting may seem somewhat restricting on what you can or cannot spend your money on, for me it helped me organise my week and allowed me to continue my studies without starting to worry about my new financial situation.

Below are a few tips that could help ease your financial worries whilst university budgeting!

For other costs – take your weekly budget out as cash from a free ATM at the start of each week. This way you can keep a better track of what you are spending and be able to see physically, the change and notes you have for the rest of the week. This made me think twice about wanting to break into a £20 note for a £2 chocolate bar!

I applied for my first credit card at university however I kept it separate and only required it in case of emergencies. Ensure you pay it off each month rather than getting charged. This was similar to my student overdraft which I tried not to dip into, although it was interest free I knew eventually I would have to pay it off. It is not free money!

Remember when attending university, to keep track of your finances. A little notebook could be helpful to jot down outgoings and money coming into your account such as your student loan, part time work or money sent from family members or guardians. Don’t let your money worries detract you from your studies and enjoyment of university life! There are many activities, opportunities and events which are free to attend put on either by the university, student union or by your friends. I have had great fun in creating activities and trying to find the cheapest alternatives to buying things, thus saving money. Its part of the university experience!

 

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