We all know that loans, grants and bursaries are amazing as soon as they arrive in your bank account but this can be a bad thing. I don’t know about you but when I know that I have a large amount of money in my account, I think that I’m able to spend a good amount of it on unnecessary items. I, as a student last year tried budgeting and I will discuss my views on the topic.
1. Budgeting, in theory, is a good concept. If you know how much you spend weekly, then great. But if you are like me, where your parents have funded a huge amount of your upbringing then you will have no idea how much things cost, for example, food. Clothes are different because let’s be honest, would you let your mum buy your clothes for you? I certainly wouldn’t. So with this in mind, you will find it awfully hard to budget your weekly spending because you have no idea how much you will spend.
2. As a student, you will most likely spend more money than you originally thought on alcohol. You might disagree with me now but honestly, I could not tell you how much I spent on alcohol last year. Is that bad? Absolutely not, you’re a fresher. It’s what you’re meant to do.
3. There are apps out there, designed to help you budget. From personal experience, I downloaded two apps and I could not get along with them. You will have to fill out a form that will ask you questions that you will not be able to answer. I, therefore, didn’t feel that it could help me but it might help you.
4. Education is part of budgeting. You will most likely be paying for your education, which isn’t cheap. Make every penny count because if you find that you do have to resit at the end of the year, then you’ll be paying extra money for something that could have been avoided from the beginning.
5. NUS Extra is your best friend. My student discount card saved me so much money during the year. You will be eligible for discounts in Topshop/Topman, New Look and Amazon etc. Also look at UniDays and Student Beans.
6. Being a student can play to your advantage. The stereotypical view of a student is the fact that most are poor. You will find that non-students or graduates feel sorry for you and you tend to have a lot of freebies, such as food and stationery. This can over time save you some money.
7. It is sometimes good to share essential food such as milk, condiments and frozen food with your flat/house.
8. I personally wouldn’t recommend buying in bulk, unless you have the room. Last year, I had one shelf in the fridge and two cupboards. This wasn’t much to store cupboard essentials such as pasta, rice and tinned foods. I remember some of my flatmates would store some food in their rooms because there wasn’t enough room in the kitchen. Don’t get me wrong, buying in bulk is cheaper but you must have the room to store everything in order to do it.
9. Remember! You’re a student. You can not really afford to buy things that you maybe could have before you moved to university. When you go shopping and really like something, just ask yourself “Do I really need this?” because you most likely won’t.
10. Unforeseen events. You must take into account that if you do make a budget plan, some things might occur that wouldn’t have been considered when you produced it. These occurrences might involve paying fines, purchasing medication and additional travel money.
11. As annoying as loyalty cards are, they can get you a free coffee/meal etc. So get as many as you can and don’t throw them away.
12. Some supermarkets will offer vouchers for new online customers. If this opportunity arises then I would take it because you might be able to get money off your weekly shop.
13. If you drive and wish to take a car to university, then I would suggest purchasing a parking permit. This could save you money on parking fees and fares during the year.
14. I would definitely suggest purchasing a Railcard because you could save up to a third on train fares. This will save you a lot of money in the long run, travelling back and forth from home. Some bank accounts (Santander) offer a free railcard if you open a student bank account with them. A railcard typically retails for £30, so opening a bank account with the likes of Santander, will save you £30. This brings me onto my next point.
15. Student Bank Account. I think that opening a student bank account was the best decision I made before going to university. Student bank accounts are typically current counts offering an interest-free overdraft facility. If you do open a student account, just be warned not to exceed the overdraft limit because high charges will apply.
16. I am probably going to sound like your mum but typically, healthy food is cheaper than junk food. You can create endless meals with fresh fruit and vegetables but when you purchase junk food, such as ready meals and processed food, the meals you can make are limited.
17. Getting members of your family to buy your food before you go to university is a good idea because your parents will be paying for the food rather than yourself. My mum used to buy things that were on offer and store them in a box that would easily fit into the car to take to university with me. These items include tea/coffee, oil and jarred sauces.
18. I made the mistake in first year to buy every book on the reading list brand new. I failed to realise that second-hand books were just as good, if not better because they are a fraction of the cost that you would spend on brand new books. If you do end up purchasing all the books on the reading list, then you can easily sell them on eBay or Gumtree at the end of the year.
19. Purchasing food on campus may seem like a good idea at the time because you might be hungry, however, taking food from home will save you so much money in the long run. Think of how much you’d spent if you bought a £2 sandwich every day for 3/4 years straight.
20. This is easier said than done but saving money before you get to university can be useful. I managed to save a little money before I went and was grateful to have it as a back up for emergencies.
21. Do your weekly shop online. I honestly feel that this method saved me so much money. If you do your shop online, it prevents you from purchasing unnecessary items. You can easily keep track of your online orders.
I tried budgeting however, I found that it didn’t work as intended. I used it as a guideline because I found that it was never fully followed. For example, I spent more money during freshers week than I intended and I under-budgeted by quite a lot. I know some students who made a budget plan and followed it exactly and it worked out as planned. I guess it’s down to personal preference and the individuals’ finances.