Drawing up (and sticking to) a budget can seem a little boring, but it can definitely help cut money stress since you always know where you stand financially and can plan your life accordingly. Here are some tips on putting together the definitive budget to see you through your student years.
Step 1: start with your income
Seems obvious, but the place to begin is with how much money you’ve got coming in, whether that’s from a part-time job, family or a student loan. Also consider any savings that you want to use to help fund you, plus any bursaries or scholarships. You need a crystal-clear figure of exactly what you have to work with, month by month, for the length of your studies. You’ll also need to open a student bank account, if you haven’t got one already.
Step 2: consider your outgoings
It’s simple: so long as your expenditure matches or is less than your income, you’re good. Knowing your outgoings also helps you understand what saving you could potentially make, too. Identifying all your sources of expenditure can take timeand will differ for each person. Think about your total tuition costs (including books and materials) travel costs (like bus passes but also things like car insurance or petrol) and food, but don’t forget about other less frequent costs, such as haircuts, gifts, clothes, and eating out.
If you’re in shared student accommodation, you might need to spend some time planning your utilities and things like council tax, TV licences, water, electricity, gas and so on. To keep things organised into one monthly amount you pay, try using an app like ours here at Glide to make your bills easier by divvying them up amongst your flatmates.
Step 3: keep an eye on both income and outgoings
Once you know how much you have coming in, minus what you need to pay out, divide everything across 12 months so you can monitor your finances with a monthly budget. How you keep track of money is up to you, but there are plenty of easy options. Try a free budgeting app for your phone, like Cleo, or simply draw up an Excel spreadsheet at home to keep track of ins and outs (here’s a great template to use). The UCAS budget calculator is a handy tool that can give you an initial idea of student cost of living.
Step 4: sort out your tax
Tax can seem a little intimidating if you’ve never had to consider it before, but it’s simple once you get started. Make sure you consider your tax status if you work at all during your studies, even if it’s only part-time. If you earn over £12,500, you’re liable to pay. Check whether you are registered for PAYE (in which case your employer will deduct tax) or need to register for Self Assessment and file your own return. Consult the HMRC website to see exactly what’s due and when.
Step 5: be mindful with spending
For most students, money can be a little scarce at times, and it’s always worth being careful with spending habits. Your student years are an excellent opportunity to develop sound financial habits that will follow you into your working life. Whenever you’re about to make a purchase, ask honestly if you really need it, and if so, if you can’t get it elsewhere cheaper.
If your budget is in front of mind, you should easily be able to answer the question, “can I afford this?”. It’s not a matter of being frugal so much as being mindful – with a clear view of your priorities, you can avoid making impulse purchases that spell trouble later on, or spending too much when you could have saved.
There’s a whole world of good financial tips and tricks out there for the savvy student: you can save money by bulk buying and batch cooking, buying second hand, hunting for bargains and discount codes, spinning a few extra pounds on side jobs, carpooling, renting instead of buying, or simply deciding to reuse or go without when possible.
When you’re at uni you need to focus on your studies, and make sure that money worries won’t distract you. With a little foresight and pre-planning, you can take charge of your financial situation and make your money work for you – no matter how much you have coming in or going out.