Managing your money as a student can be tricky, and it might be something that you have not had to think about before. Planning your budget before starting university can help you concentrate on your studies and enjoy the university experience.
First things first, plan out your funding
To work out a budget, you first need to know what income is available to you, the amount available and when you will recieve it. When working out your income, you should consider and include the following, if relevant to you
- Student finance - Undergraduate students normally receive their maintenance loan in instalments in September, January and April, it’s a good idea to plan your expenses to ensure you can support yourself until you receive your next instalment
- Income from work - If you are able to work whilst studying, how much are you likely to be paid and when/how often do you get paid?
- Scholarships and bursaries - When applying for scholarships or bursaries check to see if you are eligible before applying and make sure you are aware of the likely payment date or how long it takes to process applications and payments
- Additional funding provided by the Government - You may be eligible for extra funding if you have children, have a disability or studying certain teacher training or health courses
- Parental contributions or other gifts from guardians, friends or family
- Savings - If using savings to fund yourself during your studies, have you planned out how you are going to divide up the money over each year of study
- Other income - such as selling items you own or things you have made
Work out your needs and wants
The next step is to establish what you are spending your money on. You will certainly have to pay for the following essentials
- Bills (insurance, gas and electricity, water, broadband, TV Licence, mobile phone)
- Transport (bus, train, car fuel, car insurance)
- Course materials (study textbooks, specialist equipment)
Even if you are very frugal, some non-essential expenses, such as nights out, hobbies, new clothes, subscription services (Amazon Prime, Netflix), travelling (flights, hotels), gifts will need to be included in your 'money going out' list.
Once you have all your expenses written down, you can work out your weekly budget
- Work out your total income for the term
- Subtract your essential expenses for the same period
- Divide the outcome by the number of weeks in a term
- The amount you are left with is your weekly budget for non-essential expenses
You may find Blackbullion's article on balancing your income and expenses helpful.
Help with working out your budget
- Blackbullion has a budget calculator to break down your expenses and identify areas you can save on. It is a good place to start.
- If you prefer to budget old-style, download this template from SavetheStudent.
- Some app-based bank accounts will allow you to set up a budget and specify how much you plan to spend on different areas. Popular examples include Monzo and Starling Bank. You can find out more about app-based and online bank accounts on SavetheStudent.
Help tracking your spending
- Moneybox allows you to set up an investment or savings account from your mobile phone. By linking your bank account, you can choose to round up your spare change into savings or invest it.
- Emma is another money management app that uses open banking to track all of your accounts to help you manage your spending and stick to a budget.
- You can also download apps such as SplitWise to help with splitting expenses between housemates or friends.
Many apps use open banking to combine your data from different accounts. You can find out more about the concept of open baking on Blackbullion.
- Blackbullion’s Budgeting 101 pathway can help you work out what budgeting styles work best for you.
- If you feel that you need one-to-one support in working out a budget and managing your expenses, you can book a money skills appointment with an advisor from the student funding team who can help you with this.
Build an emergency fund
An emergency fund is money you have saved to cover a financial shock or change in circumstances, such as losing your job or needing to pay an unexpected large cost. Blackbullion offers many useful tips on building an emergency fund.
- Building an emergency fund can take time but using your budget can help you work out how much money you can afford to save each month.
- Creating a separate savings account and a standing order into this account may help you to save.
- It’s worth making it clear what circumstances will count as an emergency, so you are not tempted to spend the money on other things
Suggested Blackbullion learning
Blackbullion is an online learning platform that you can access for free with your Hallam email address and improve your money skills through pathways, articles, and tools. We recommend that you complete the below modules to help you with budgeting
- The budget decision tree article can help you balance out your income and expenses
- Budget calculator tool is designed to help you break down your expenses and identify areas you can save on
- You can try the budgeting 101 pathway to work out what budgeting styles suit you best
- The building an emergency fund article provides useful tips on preparing yourself for unexpected financial circumstances