How to budget but still live your best uni life
Yep, we’re narrowly dodging the overdraft too, and here’s how
Nobody likes budgeting. It's much easier to splash the cash and buy yourself 3 pairs of trainers and a massive Asos shop, then go out for dinner twice in a week. The result? Quietly living off plain pasta until your next pay day or student loan drops and you can start all over again, right?
Well, believe it or not, there is another way! You can help avoid the boom and bust cycle of ordering Deliveroo four times a week at the beginning, and having to make one measly £20 food shop last 6 weeks at the end.
Setting a weekly budget
We know you don't want to, but it's easier than you think. It doesn't have to be precisely £52.39 a week, but if you were to aim for a rough total to last you a week, you'd be surprised how much you can get out of it. Loosely tying your budget to a calendar is a good idea too, so you could even set calendar alerts or create a countdown so that you know when your budget 're-sets' and you're a bit more free to spend.
Download an app to help you out – Cleo or Plum are 2 good ones; useful if you're a big spender trying to tighten your belt-that-was-40%-off-from-Missguided-so-technically-you-made-money-on-it. The in-built budget feature helps you track weekly or monthly spending and you can also enable 'Autosave' to get those pennies piling up in time for Christmas Eve cocktails.
Plan ahead for big events!
Friends' 21st birthdays, pricier socials like bar crawls, that dinner where you're going to meet your new girlfriend's parents (where you feel like you should offer to split the bill even though her dad works for a big London law firm) – all of these you could consider 'big events'.
Setting a countdown to these events or marking them in your Outlook calendar can help you to map out which months you can save and which months will require you to splash some cash. It's no fun having to miss out on birthday drinks for your fave housemate at Revs just because you've been buying name-brand food and over-indulging on the Topshop and Topman student discounts. Be savvy, people!
Bring your own lunch
No, seriously. I'm not saying you need to buy a plastic lunchbox like you had in Year 3 but spending £3.50 on a meal deal every day really adds up (sorry, SU shop, it's not your fault). It doesn't have to be every day but if you made too much pasta or risotto or chicken the night before, shove it in a Tupperware and take it into uni for your break.
Saving money this way lets you dodge the guilt and you can say yes to getting a snakebite after lectures because you already saved that money earlier. Also, investing in a reusable coffee cup not only helps save the ocean and the sea turtles by getting rid of excess rubbish but it also helps you dodge the extra 30p that the uni cafes have to charge for throw-away cups. Make sense?
Make use of student discounts
Unidays, Save the Student, NUS, all of these offer hundreds of discounts on trainers, clothes, restaurants – shop around and see if you can use your discounts. Some of the big ones you probably already know about (but it's worth checking out if you don't) are ASOS, Missguided, schuh, Office, boohoo, Ask Italian, Byron, Pizza Express and even KFC sometimes pop up on Save the Student with a little deal. Date night or dinner with housemates can still involve all the good food but at a much healthier price..
Sharing is caring
You live with housemates, right? They also use milk, pasta, eggs, bread, ketchup and teabags, right? Consider buying bulk, the huge bags designed for catering or even just a 12 pack of eggs instead of a 6 because it works out cheaper and then draw your initials on your eggs with a Sharpie when you get home.
Doesn't work in every household, but it could be worth a try if you all eat similar meals. If not, share your Tesco or Asda order – add everything you're buying on one laptop, transfer who paid and help each other to spend the amount to avoid delivery charge. Split the cost of the cheapest delivery slot and you've both saved money, friends serve many purposes!
Best life on a budget
All in all, it's not about saying no to nights out, or saying no to meals with friends. It's exactly the opposite – being smart with other spending so you still can go and get that Instagram pic in Rooftop Gardens or Brick Pizza. They're the things we WANT to be spending money on, so it's easy to make small changes and make your Best Life much easier on the bank balance.