Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

Managing money as a student

The weather is beautiful, shops are reopening and travel may even be a possibility – the temptation to go out and spend a lot is higher than it’s been for a long while. I don’t want to stop you from having fun, but it’s also worth noting that we students don’t have too much money – on average, we spend £795 a month, and our incomes aren’t always the strongest. That’s why it’s worth spending a little time thinking about your money, and how to manage it effectively to hopefully ensure you’re never out of pocket.

The key initial step when thinking about money is to know what you’ve got in the first place, and what expenses and sources of income you currently have. For students, the list of expenses is depressingly familiar – rent or accommodation payments, food bills, other bills, travel expenses and course stuff tend to be the essential expenses. Fortunately, for many of these bills, planning for them is easier because they’re so choreographed. Bills generally come around the same time every month (or a termly dump for accommodation), while course stuff is at the start of the term. Food and travel will come every week, but these are comparatively smaller expenses. Try writing a list of all your expected expenses.

It’s worth spending a little time thinking about your money, and how to manage it effectively to hopefully ensure you’re never out of pocket

Then, put your mind to income – when you know what you have going out, you can consider what’s going in. This will largely take the form of student loans and bursaries, savings and income from jobs (and, perhaps, the bank of mum and dad if you’re lucky). From these two numbers, it’s easy to calculate a rudimentary budget – figure out your likely total income, and take away the essential expenses. Divide it by the amount of weeks in a term (during term time), and that’s a rough weekly budget for everything else.

Good approaches for balancing your books include keeping track of money in a spreadsheet (there are tons of templates online that are good for this), or you could download a budgeting app like Starling Bank or Monzo. Many apps have also have saving features, helping you to easily set aside small amounts of money each week, ready for a rainy day or a splurge on something nice. I also like the weekly allowance approach, and you can use a set amount of cash to make it easier – set a limit at the start of the week, and don’t exceed it. Extra money left over can supplement the next week, or go into savings – at the risk of sounding cliché, it does all add up.

When you’ve developed a good sense of budgeting, you’re less likely to blow it all when you head home for summer. Indeed, summer is the best time to save money (because, for most of us, living and travel expenses shoot way down), and you can hone skills that will serve you well at uni (and, indeed, in later life). Meal planning, food management and learning to cook are all fairly simple – homemade food always tastes better, and it’s considerably cheaper in the long run. This can be the perfect opportunity to work and bank up some savings, especially this year – so many businesses are crying out for part-time work. I live near to campus, and the amount of shops and restaurants with ‘help wanted’ signs in the window is incredible.

Budgeting may not sound overly fun, but it is weirdly addictive once you get into it

As I write this, I don’t want to sound gloomy, suggesting you should go without treats for your entire uni life – no, you want to have fun. You have to have nights out, go for meals, join societies and sports clubs, travel – whatever will make you happy. But there are effective ways to do this that can save you money. If you know an event is occurring a way off, budget for it in advance. Ask yourself ‘do I need this, or do I just want it’ of every purchase, and don’t be afraid to give yourself the odd treat anyway. I also think that, the more you splurge, the less value spending has. I used to have a takeaway pizza every weekend, and that’s a costly habit – now, I make pizzas by hand. It’s fun and it’s considerably cheaper, and it means the rare occasion I have a takeaway is more of a treat.

Budgeting may not sound overly fun, but it is weirdly addictive once you get into it. It gives you a feeling of control, it will hopefully ease your money worries, and having a bit more in the bank – whether you spend it or hold onto it – is always good. Take a few hours out of your day and think about this stuff – it’s well-worth it, I promise you.

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