22 February 2017

The students' guide to living happily on a budget

It was National Student Money Saving Week earlier this month, launched by the National Association of Student Money Advisers.

All right, don't get too excited. But let's be honest, the timing couldn't be better - half way through second term, just when your account balance is making the average squirrel's acorn stash look like a well-managed hedge fund. But to get through the rest of a lean winter, you don't have to go into hibernation. All you have to do is budget, and it's not that hard:

  1. Add up your income - including your student loan, any grants or scholarships, money from your parents, income from your job and any savings you have somehow scraped together (well done you!).
  2. Take out your essential outgoings - rent, house bills like electric, internet and tv license, transportation costs, books for the rest of the term and food.
  3. Whatever's left over you can spend on the important stuff, like clothes, cat toys, ping-pong lessons, trips to Hawaii, etc.

Break it down. First set up a monthly budget with all of your outgoings, then a weekly budget for regular costs like transportation, socialising and food. For example, if your monthly food budget is £200, you'll have just under £50 per week to spend on groceries.

Our budget calculator could help you work it out. There are also useful budgeting apps you can use on your phone like Ynab and Unsplurge, and many of them are free. They'll help you keep track of your daily spending and on top of your budget.

Don't just plan the budget: be the budget

Of course, the hard part isn't setting the budget, but sticking to it and, sometimes, stretching it. This is where you might need some money saving tips that actually work:

Turn detective, where are things are free or discounted in your area?
Student at a train station

Prescriptions, railcards, and council tax can all be discounted or even for free, so make sure you are up to date on where your student ID can save you a few quid.

The National Union of Students has a great list of places offering deals and discounts on everything from contact lens prescription to haircuts and shopping.

You can save money on food - those weekly small wins add up
Student burning toast

Take advantage of cheap or free meal deals at local pubs and restaurants. Take advantage of pizza nights, curry dinners, BBQs and more.

Living in shared accommodation? Share lower costs with your housemates by buying in bulk. This can cover everything from toilet rolls to washing-up liquid to milk, bread, tea and eggs.

If that works, try cooking in bulk with housemates too. You'll save money purchasing ingredients together and also save on meals out by having leftovers. Compare prices at the supermarket and try own-brand products that save you money.

Don't fall off the wagon on a night out
Student drinking

It's a good idea to put a cap on how much you want to spend on socialising each week . So you know how much you can splurge on takeaways and nights out. 

Again, make good use of that student ID - cinemas often offer student discounts; theatres and bowling alleys are usually a good shout too.

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.
Student recycling

Use less, never buy new if you can get it secondhand for less (online or off - local charity shops are pure gold), and avoid hoarding. 

Once you've finished with something - whether it's a textbook from a class you've finished or a jumper that doesn't suit you anymore - see if you can sell it for cash, or swap it for something you actually need.

Pound the pavement!
Student budgeting

What's even better than discounted transport? Free transport! Make use of any freely available limbs you may have in your possession to walk or cycle where possible. 

It's good for your health too, which is nice.

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