Student life can be expensive. Gone are the days when the Government would pay for your studies and provide a grant on which to live. Now most students are working at least part time to pay the rent and many still need to resort to the bank of mum and dad on occasion.
To help you keep your finances on track, here are a few tips on how to create a student budget and most importantly: how to stick to it.
1. Spreadsheets: How to make a student budget
Maybe the scientists among you are on this already, but spreadsheets really are the best way to plan something properly. Here’s how to make one for your finances:
- Step 1: Open a new spreadsheet document and create one column for everything coming in and one for everything coming out.
- Step 2: List all your possible income sources and expenditures.
- Step 3: Write down how much you expect to get and how much you plan to spend, include the dates on which funds will enter or exit your account.
- Step 4: Check you’ve got everything by looking at previous bank statements or comparing the list with friends.
2. Plan in advance
Now make a plan as to what is reasonable to spend on items like socialising, travel and books. This is essentially a student budget planner and will be your financial go-to document for the rest of your course. You could do this monthly or try making a weekly student budget if you prefer having a tighter control. Remember to factor in how and when you get paid for any jobs, how and when you receive your loan and when you’ll need to pay out big chunks like your rent and then plan accordingly.
3. Don’t be over-ambitious
This is one of the most important student budgeting tips: don’t set the bar too high. Yes, you want to minimise your debt and live sensibly, just make sure your plan includes contingencies, rare occasions, and unexpected events. Otherwise as soon as something unexpected comes up it’s tempting to ignore the plan altogether.
4. Do some retrospective budgeting
After you’ve been using your student budget spreadsheet for a few months, have a look back and compare what you actually spent to your predictions. This should give you a good idea about where you might need to adjust your plans for the future.
If you’ve generally kept within budget – nice work! Living cheaply is difficult, but certainly possible with a bit of effort.
5. Look for ways to save
And this brings us to our final student budgeting tip – if you’re struggling to live within your means, find creative ways to save. How about shopping at the local veg market when it’s just about to shut to buy cheap ingredients? If you’re getting the train, club together with friends for a group discount – a number of services offer discounts if you’re travelling in a group, and there are plenty of railcards that could save you money too.
At the bar, alternate alcoholic drinks with soft ones to save a few pennies or consider having a night in with friends instead – splitting the cost of a bottle of wine is cheaper than buying it by the glass while out and about.
Being a student requires some sacrifices, but as everyone says, it’s the best time of your life, so it’ll all be worth it in the end.