Want to know how to make your student budget stretch further? Jürg Widmer shares his thoughts on budgeting while at university and saving those precious pennies to spend on the good stuff.

Most students wish they had better financial education before starting university. Many students leave university with a great deal of debt in the form of student loans and overdrafts, which is not the best way to start your adult life if you can help it.

So, if you’re about to start uni or doing the smart thing and planning your student budget before you have even received your place, you’ll no doubt find these student budgeting tips helpful.

Thankfully, the UCAS website has a handy student budget calculator to help you plan everything visually, but of course, there are lots of apps now, too, so there’s no excuse not to be able to manage your budget and finances well while at uni.

Budgeting your spending may seem tedious, but it will benefit you in the long run because you will have a relatively accurate idea of how much money you have coming in and going out on necessities. The most important part is how much you have to spend on recreational stuff, whether that’s partying at the student union bar or kayaking for a weekend in the Lake District. 

Factoring in everything from your broken laptop, to your smashed phone screen, to your daily oat milk cappuccino is essential when budgeting because being prepared for everything means there will be few unexpected and costly situations.

The upside to all this is also potentially being in a place where you can start to save money or even add to your savings pot.

Planning Your Student Budget in a Few Simple Steps: 

Income Streams

This could be from a multitude of different sources, including –

  • Maintenance loan
  • Maintenance grant
  • Scholarships
  • Bursaries
  • Parental contribution
  • Part-time work, freelancing or own business
  • Savings
  • Student commercial loan

Consider Your Likely Outgoings

When budgeting, always go overboard rather than being conservative. If you end up spending less than budgeted, you can either save it or enjoy it. If you always budget under, you’ll always be looking for that extra!

Essential Living Expenses:

  • Study materials (textbooks, specialist books, notepads, pens)
  • Rent
  • Groceries (including toiletries and cleaning)
  • Bills (including phone, broadband, insurance, gas & electricity, water, TV license)
  • Travel (taxi’s, tram, bus, train, tube, car costs)
  • Repayments (loans etc.)

Non-Essential Living Expenses:

  • Eating out – takeaways
  • Socialising events (bars, clubs, gigs, cinema, festivals, parties)
  • Subscriptions (Netflix, Spotify, Audible)
  • Health (gym membership, home workouts, supplements, classes)
  • Hair, beauty and clothing
  • Gifts
  • Holidays

Calculating Reality

You have your income and your outgoings, so all you need to do now is make them add up, so you have enough money for your essential and non-essential items, and if you don’t, some things will have to give. 

  • Work out your total income for a term of university
  • Minus your essential expenses for the term
  • Divide this amount by the weeks in the term

It is better to budget on a weekly basis rather than the month; otherwise, it is too easy to blow your whole budget at the beginning of the month and be struggling by the end.

Endeavour to leave university with savings and not debt. Try to avoid credit as much as possible. If you have little money left each week or month, work out how to make savings, such as having friends over to cook a meal at home rather than eating out. Cycle instead of taking the bus and look for ways you can cut costs; students are usually highly skilled at this. A make-do attitude will take you and your student budget far.