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Budgeting & Money Management: the Essential Guide

Calculator next to some coinsBeing a student doesn’t have to mean being broke. Learn to budget and find simple ways to cut your spending and you could wave goodbye to money worries.

How to budget

At heart, budgeting is very simple: you work out how much money you are getting in (your income) and how much you need to spend (your outgoings) and you make sure that the first number is bigger than the second one.

Find out more about the basics of budgeting:

Your income includes loans and grants, money from your parents and earnings from jobs, while your outgoings include rent, bills for electricity, water and phone, food, books and going out - essentially, anything you have to pay for. Balancing them could mean:

  • Looking for ways to save money, such as buying season tickets on buses rather than a ticket every day
  • Looking for ways to boost your income, such as getting a part-time job

It’s almost always easier to save money than to make money, but our budgeting guide has lots of tips for both, along with extra tricks for keeping track of your cash. If you haven’t kept a budget before, work out where you stand to get started.

Costs to think about

If you’re living on your own for the first time, it can be tough to work everything you’re going to have to pay for. Think about these items to get you started:

  • Rent
  • Bills: eg. water, phone, mobile, internet, gas and electricity
  • Food: the average UK student spends £40/week on food
  • Toiletries like shampoo, toothpaste and toilet paper
  • Clothes
  • Travel to and from uni, to and from home and anywhere else you need to go
  • Study equipment like pens, paper and textbooks
  • Memberships fees for societies, gyms etc.
  • Fun: including the cost of going out in your budget ensures you have the cash to pay for it and helps to keep you from spending too much
  • Emergencies: it helps to keep some money back just in case something unexpected comes up, like a broken computer or a fine.

There might also be other extra costs at university you need to think about

Dealing with debt

Debt from your student loans is different from other debt. Find out about it here.

Lots of students end up going into debt while at university. Different debts will affect you in different ways. The two main ones students will face are:

  • Overdrafts: this is when you take out more money from your bank account when you have. With a student account, you probably won’t be charged extra for this, so while you have to pay it back it’s not a disaster - just look over your budget, make sure you don’t go over the overdraft limit and try to make your way back into positive figures.
  • Credit cards can have huge interest rates and demand monthly payments, so they can quickly spiral out of control. It’s best to avoid getting a credit card in the first place - if it comes to it, an interest-free overdraft is always a better option.
  • Find out more about different kinds of debt.
  • Get advice on what to do if you find yourself in debt.

Help! I’ve run out of money!