Whether you’re moving abroad or staying close to home when you start university, it may be one of the first times in your life that you’ve had to think seriously about how you’re going to budget your money.

With student loan installments being placed in your bank account, together with money from your parents, or wages from a part-time job, you might find yourself with more money than you’re accustomed to having. Although it may be tempting to spend it all straight away, university students must quickly learn the importance of budgeting. From paying your rent to organizing your weekly grocery shopping, it can be surprising how quickly your monthly expenses can go up.

If you’re wondering how you’re going to manage your money as a student, keep reading to discover our top tips on how to create a budget – and stick to it.

Why do you need to set a budget?

As a student, you might be getting your student loan or wages paid at the start or end of every month. You’ll be expected to pay your rent, buy all of your groceries, and possibly transport to and from university, all while trying to maintain a social life with your friends – something which can involve lots of money spent on food, drinks, and other activities.

To be able to afford all of these things, you can’t spend all of your money the first day that you receive it, you need to budget.

Every time you get paid, you should create a budget of all things that you need to spend money on (such as rent and groceries) and then allocate some money for non-essential purchases (like going out for dinner).

If you have money left over after budgeting for the month, you may also be able to save some of your earnings.

How to set up your first budget

Documenting your first budget is relatively simple. You can use Google Sheets, an Excel document, or a free budget template online that you can fill in. You only need two columns: one for money coming in, and another for money that will be coming out of your account.

Start listing the things you plan to spend money on and how much they will cost, such as your mobile phone bill, Netflix subscription etc. You can then use a formula in the Sheets document that deducts this money from your monthly allowance.

It’s a good idea to have a budget to look back on, as it lays out which expenses you spend the most money on, whether there are areas in which you could reduce your spending, and how much money you have left to save at the end of the month.

7 steps for sticking to your budget

Creating your budget is a great first step, but sticking to it is often much harder than people expect. If you want to keep within your budget, here are 10 useful tips on managing your student finances more effectively.

1. Make the most of student discounts

As a student, you may be able to get some things for free, or at a discount. Many shops now offer student discounts (often a reduction of around 10-20%) when you shop with them.

You may be surprised by how many different companies offer lower prices for students, so it’s worth doing your research before you make any purchases.

2. Cut yourself some slack

Budgeting your money shouldn’t mean that you completely restrict yourself. Allow a bit of extra money to spend on social activities and going out with friends – you don’t want to budget too hard and find yourself without a chance to have fun and unwind.

Similarly, you shouldn’t budget down to the last penny, as unexpected events can occur throughout the month. Give yourself some room to cover any unanticipated expenses.

3. Take a shopping list to the supermarket

We all know the feeling of going to a supermarket with a plan of what to buy, but then picking up other items that you probably don’t need. This can result in multiple trips and spending more money than if you had created a list in advance.

If you have a list, it’s also easier to budget as you have an idea of how much your weekly shop is expected to cost, which will keep you on track with your spending.

How to Budget Your Finances as a Student

4. Give yourself time to think before making a large purchase 

If you’re thinking about buying something that will take up a significant amount of your budget, give yourself a few days to think about it before parting with your money.

Whether it’s buying a new phone, a new pair of shoes, or furniture to decorate your room, it’s always best to make sure that you really need something, and to consider how much it will affect your finances throughout the month.

5. Don’t keep all of your money in one account

When you see all of your money in your current account, it can be especially tempting to spend it. Instead, it can be useful to set up a separate account so that you can divide your funds.

In doing so, you can transfer your allowance each month without having to spend additional time thinking about the money you have leftover.

6. Pay for all your essentials upfront

If you can, try and pay for things such as rent, travel, phone contracts etc. as early as you can. The faster you pay these expenses off each month, the less chance you have of accidentally spending money on something else that’s not as important.

7. Don’t be tempted by sales

Shops continually hold sales to encourage people to spend money – try to resist these offers!

Treats and sales are some of the easiest ways to ruin your budget, especially when an item can be purchased quickly using your mobile phone. If the item is something that you’ve wanted or needed for a period of time, it can be a good idea to take advantage of the discount. The urge to impulse buy should not be indulged each time, however.

There are many ways that you can stay on track with your budget and handle your finances effectively – it’s simply a question of finding the right money management methods to suit your personal needs.

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