How to budget at uni
A guide to managing your money when you leave home
One of the biggest life changes you'll experience when you move to university will be managing your own money. You'll be getting a student loan, but that won't last forever, and you might not be getting any support from your parents.
This guide will help you to understand what you'll need to save your money for and generally how much everything is going to cost you. You won't have a lot of money at university, and you'll have to live cheaply. But if you follow these instructions, you shouldn't end up skint.
To work out your student budget, you'll have to look at how much money you have coming in, work out how much money you'll have going out such as rent and bills, then take your outgoings from your incomings. You shouldn't spend anymore than the remaining amount.
Student budget calculator
To calculate the amount of money you can spend, consider these elements.
Money coming in:
1. Student loan
2. Bursary (if you have one)
3. Money from your parents (if they're giving you any) – work out how much they will be giving you before you head to uni
4. Income from a job
5. Any savings you might have and plan to spend at university.
Money going out:
1. Tuition fees
2. Accommodation fees
3. Uni supplies
4. Contents insurance
5. Gas/electricity/water bills (this might be included in your rent)
6. Broadband (this might be included in your rent)
7. Mobile phone bills
8. TV licence
9. Food shopping
10. Travel costs (check this before you get to university – there are often student deals on bus passes)
1. Drinking and eating out
4. Tickets (cinemas/clubs etc)
5. Books and magazines
8. Christmas/birthday presents and activities
You can use the UCAS budget calculator to enter the exact amounts.
Make savings on the things you spend on regularly e.g. food
If you can do your weekly food shop at Aldi or Lidl instead of somewhere like Tesco or Sainsbury's, you'll get much better value for your money.
Try to buy things in bulk and cook in groups – that way you'll save overall and can split the costs with your flatmates.
Instead of buying a coffee every day at the library, consider investing in a thermos and bringing coffee in with you.
If you enjoy getting a regular takeaway, consider how you can recreate takeaway foods yourself, such as cooking a homemade pizza or a curry. Alternatively, only get a takeaway when there's a deal on and you can buy cheaply in a group.
Make sure you're paying the correct amount of income tax on any work you do
If you earn less than £11,500 a year for any work you do, you shouldn't be paying any tax on it. see the HM Revenue & Customs website for how to apply for a refund.
Take money out for the week ahead
Once you've worked out your weekly budget, take out the exact amount of money you're allowed to spend, and forget about your card for the week.
Or you can get a Monzo card which allows you to transfer small amounts of money, i.e. your weekly budget, so you can leave your other card at home and not worry about over spending.
Use deals wherever possible
Get an NUS card, a 16-25 travel card, a student buss pass, whatever you can find to get deals.
Don't buy new books for uni
You can find old books for sale on Facebook groups or in the uni bookshop. And always sell them on once you're done with them to have money afterwards.
Student budget spreadsheet
You can use this student budget spreadsheet from Save The Student to work out exactly how much money you will have leftover to spend at university.
How much money should parents give university students
These tables from MoneySavingExpert.com show how much your parents should be giving you for you to live with enough money at university.
This data is for new students starting 2018/19 academic year or continuing students not in their final year.
For students living at home with parents:
For students living away from home studying outside London:
For students living away from home studying in London:
Student bank account
You'll need a student bank account once you begin university. It's hard to chose which bank is the right one to choose. Some people just stick with the same bank they had before uni for ease. In this case, just go to your local branch and tell them you want to change to a student account.
Before you jump in with the first bank you see on the high street, consider what benefits you might get with each bank, especially as a student. For example, Santander provide you with a free 16-25 railcard when you sign up for a student account with them.
You should also get an interest free overdraft as a student, so make sure the bank you're considering includes this.
It's also good to consider whether there's a local branch of this particular bank near your uni campus.
Be careful of a few things
Avoid using credit or store cards as these can build up interest when used and not paid back at the end of each month.
Check your overdraft limit. If you go over the amount that is offered interest-free, you can rack up a lot of interest.
Become a promoter
You'll see a lot of people handing out flyers during Freshers' Week. You will grow to hate these people. But, if you become one of them, you can make quite a lot of money, get free entry to clubs, make loads of new friends and become a bit of a BNOC.
The amount you make can vary massively. Some clubs will offer vast commission for selling tickets and if you stick around you can be given a position within the events company.
Becoming a tutor at uni is a great way to capitalise on the knowledge you have through your degree, plus it usually pays very well and the hours are flexible.
Companies like The Tutor Trust offer training programs as a part of your employment and pay very well.
Working for the uni
There are all sorts of jobs going at the uni for students. They need students to host tours and open days, do admin jobs and even to work in the Students' Union bar.
They will pay you a decent wage and it's good experience.
Become a campus brand manager
Brands always want to reach young people, and university campuses are a hot bed for marketing. Companies like Red Bull, Spotify, Bumble and loads more are always looking for student brand ambassadors to organise fun events for students.
Benefits are, becoming a BNOC, getting loads of free merch and it looks great on your cv.
Your weekly spend is completely dependent on your incoming money and what you can afford. Referring to the calculator above can give you an indication of how much you're able to spend. An average student spend is likely to be around £50-100 a week.
How much to spend on food
Most people spend around £20-30 a week on food, but this cost can be cut down by going to cheaper supermarkets, buying food in bulk and cooking with your flatmates.
How much to spend on going out
Most students spend between £10-30 on one night out, and will go on around one to five nights out a week. The key is to spend less to spend less if you're going out more.
When does student loan come in
Your student loan will be paid into your bank account on the first day of each semester. That's three times in one academic year.
Student maintenance loan
You are only eligible for the maximum student maintenance loan if your parents have a combined income of less than £25,000. Here is a table from Save The Student to show how much money you could get.
Student loan application
You can apply for your student loan at gov.uk.
Unsure about which uni you're going to?
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