Going to university for the first time is an exciting experience, but it can also be a challenge when you have to balance your studies with managing your money and taking care of everyday tasks. If you’ve never had to worry about managing your money before, this can be one of the hardest things to get right. So, we’ve put together a guide to help you budget effectively while you’re at university.
Budgeting: the basics
Step one is work out what your budget actually is. You may want to calculate this on a monthly basis or, if you’re receiving a student loan each semester, it might make more sense to calculate it on a term-by-term basis.
Either way, you need to begin by working out your income. This can include money you receive in the form of loans, grants, scholarships or bursaries, any help you get from your family and any money you earn in a part-time job. Add all of this together to get your overall income.
Step two is calculating your expenditure. Write a list of everything you have to spend money on each month or semester. Include your rent, utility bills, phone bill, internet bill, TV licence, insurance for your personal possessions, travel costs and the amount you spend on food. If you’re not sure how much all of this will be, take a look at our living expenses guide, or ask your family or friends who are already at university to help you work out your rough expenditure.
Step three is deduct your expenditure from your income, and you’ll know how much spare cash you’ll have each month or term. Use the UK Student Calculator if you want a bit of help.
There will be certain times of the year when you need to meet one-off expenses, such as buying books for your course, or even splashing out on Christmas presents! Part of budgeting is allowing for these expenses and planning ahead for them. By setting aside a bit of money each month, you’ll have what you need available when the time comes, rather than having to find a large lump sum in one go.
It’s also sensible to set aside a bit of additional money each month as an emergency fund. That way, if you do have something unexpected to pay for you’ll (hopefully) have at least some of the cash you need to cover it.
Top tips for saving money
You can make your money go much further if you just do a bit of research and shop around. Here are some of our top tips for making your cash go a little bit further:
- Take advantage of student discounts with an NUS card. This can give you discounts in shops and online, save you money at the cinema and even mean you get reduced price entry into various UK attractions.
- Get a 16-25 railcard. This will give you ⅓ off rail travel, which can save you a considerable amount if you regularly take the train.
- Make the most of loyalty cards. Many retailers, particularly the supermarkets, offer loyalty cards where you receive points for shopping with them, which you can then spend in store.
- Don’t buy course materials before you arrive. Many students will sell their used textbooks to new students - or you may find them on online auction sites. Our Students’ Union has a second-hand bookshop too.
- Take advantage of our subsidised bus service, which runs between campuses as well as elsewhere in Bournemouth. If you’re living in halls of residence or Unilet shared housing in your first year, it will be included in the cost of your rent.
- Set yourself mini-budgets. This might sound like overkill, but if you set yourself a monthly allowance for food, going out, clothes shopping etc, you’re less likely to overspend and will find it easier to keep on top of your money.
MoneySavingExpert also has lots of finance tips and tools, as well as information about the latest student deals and discounts.