Four tips for managing a student budget

It may seem impossible but you really can set a budget while at university. Follow these tips to make sure that you keep a handle on your finances at all times

November 9 2018
Budgeting at university

It’s hard to keep your money in check as a student – there are so many new experiences to have and you want to make the most of them. This can seem impossible on a student budget. Luckily, there are some tips and tools to help you keep on top of your finances, so you can focus making new friends and finding your classes.

Be the boss

Trying to manage your term-time loan payment across three months is almost impossible. Open an easy-access second account so that you can get to the money whenever you need it and set up a standing order to pay yourself a monthly salary.

This serves two purposes – first, you will have enough to cover what you need without ever “feeling rich”, which can help you to keep on top of budgeting. Second, it will get you into the habit of receiving a salary for after you graduate. Most jobs will pay your salary on a monthly basis, so learning how to deal with that now will help you in the long run.

Think also about making the account you pay your salary into a digital bank. These tech-first banks can give you a spending breakdown, helping you see where your money goes instead of you having to work it out. These accounts are not great for earning interest, but they are pretty easy to set up and give you a great overview of your finances – just make that sure you’re covered by the Financial Services Compensation Agency should something go wrong.

You can save...

If you do choose a digital bank as your second bank account, many have taken steps to make saving money easy. For example, Revolut, Monzo and Starling all offer a function to segregate money. These pots or vaults are places to set money aside within your main account, with the option of scheduled payments to put money aside automatically on a regular basis. Despite still being part of the same account because you’ve set it aside for saving, money in your pots won’t be included in your available balance, reducing the temptation to spend it. Though if plans change or you find yourself low on funds, it’s easy to move money from the pot back into your main account.

Saving a little money on a regular basis can make a big difference over a long period of time. Setting aside £5 a week could save you up to £150 over the course of the academic year – enough for flights to Europe!


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...but it helps to be organised

If you know you’re heading home for Christmas, book your travel in advance – the earlier you buy, the cheaper the ticket. Train companies release their cheapest fixed-time advance tickets, which are limited in number, around 12 weeks before departure, although you can register with Trainline for an email alert to let you know when advance tickets go on sale on a specific route.

Another tip is to buy two or more tickets for your journey, rather than one ticket for the whole trip. Research shows that this can reduce the price of your journey by nearly 90 per cent – particularly for long-distance travel. The train has to call at a station named on a ticket, but there’s no need to get off or change. To find these split-ticketing deals, take a look at Train Split or Ticket Clever.

Getting organised can also apply to something that tempts most of us, most days – takeaway coffee. If you are just needing to survive until the next loan installment, now might be the time to make your own at home to take with you. Cutting out a daily dive into a coffee shop could save you £50 a month. That’s £600 a year. Don’t just do it for your pocket, do it for mother nature – those takeaway cups are terrible for the environment. 

Grow your pie

The reality is that university life is expensive. Even if you are careful about how you spend, the chances are that you will run out of money before the end of the month on a regular basis. There’s only so much you can cut – and let’s be honest, you’d rather have more than spend less. So think about ways that you can make some money. 

An easy way to do this is to get a job. This can not only help you bring in some extra money but will also help you to learn skills that you can use in employment after you graduate. 

Another, more flexible option is to start a business from home: there are websites such as Depop and eBay where you can sell your unwanted clothes, shoes and accessories. The more room you make, the more you can treat yourself to a dinner out, new clothes or even a holiday.

Or better yet, you can run your own business. You can sell anything, from phone cases to badges to whatever your creative mind can make.

If you can also use this an opportunity to get experience in your field, all the better. Use sites such as PeoplePerHour to find freelance work if you are a designer, or work in retail to develop those critical interpersonal skills that employers value. Remember, though: your main job at university is to do the best you can to graduate in the best position, so don’t sacrifice your grades for a bit of extra money. 

Read more: ‘Ensure students have the money to live’

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