We’re officially in the week that I move to university! Four days and counting…
I thought I’d take this opportunity to talk about something students have an unfairly bad rep for: budgeting.
It’s very typical to hear things, as a student, such as “all students waste their money on drinking in the first few weeks” or, “all students live on is baked beans!” etc etc. If you’re a prospective university student, you’ve likely heard all sorts of similar things already.
But! These things aren’t necessarily true. Whilst, yes, some people will be careless with their money, it isn’t that difficult to ensure you don’t overspend (too much). Dependent on your financial situation, you may find yourself needing to dip into your overdraft every now and then – but don’t worry! This happens, and is the point of having an overdraft. Just make sure you’re not going too far into it, so that when your next lot of money comes in, it pays off the excess and leaves you with some for that month/term.
Here are some tips to help you budget:
1) Shop wisely. There are plenty of cheap supermarkets around (Lidl and Aldi are great), however don’t only rely on these. Sometimes they’re not cheaper, so do a quick online comparison of different items, to make sure you’re getting the best deal you can. Also, don’t shy away from ‘own brands’ or ‘value’ lines, as the products are often just as good at the ‘real thing’, at only a fraction of the cost.
2) Plan your month. If, like me, you get money each month – or even if you don’t you can easily work out how much you have to spend each month by dividing your loan – begin the month by having a look at what is happening that will cost money. Write down how much you’ll need for shopping, how much for monthly expenses (Netflix, Spotify, gym membership etc), and how much for social events. For example, if you know you have a social every week, set aside some money for that, and take into account any plans you’ve made for later in the month. If it’s someone’s birthday at the end of the month, know that they are likely to want to do something for it, and ensure you have money to celebrate with them. Trust me, it’s no fun when you want to celebrate but no-one can afford it!
3) Be sensible. This is a given, but I’m particularly referring to spending excessively on alcohol/takeaways. You are perfectly entitled to go out and enjoy yourself – and if you plan properly you’ll definitely have enough for a takeaway every now and then. But don’t take it too far. Student Unions and bars usually have cheaper drinks – and buying your own alcohol for pres is a good way to save, so you don’t have as much when you’re out. But if you know you don’t have the money for a Chinese that week, don’t be afraid to say ‘no’. Your friends should understand, and you’ll be glad for it in the long run when you’re not avoiding your bank statement for fear of how far into your overdraft you are.
4) Treat yourself, but not too much. If you’re doing it right, you should have plenty of money to spend on yourself – new clothes, books, make-up, games, etc. You’re allowed to treat yourself every now and then! But don’t let the treat become a regular thing. Make sure you really want something before you buy it, instead of just spending money for the sake of it. Maybe even use it as a reward for handing in a particularly difficult piece of work on time.
In my first year, I didn’t go into my overdraft once. I know this isn’t possible for everyone – especially if you’re only living off your loan, so don’t feel down-heartened if you do. But there are ways to lessen the damage, and if you’re getting desperate, you can always look for a part-time job, or a Christmas contract to tide you over.
For more help and tips, UCAS recommends money.co.uk so have look over there if you need them!
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