Budgeting at university

The information in this guide was last updated on 26/02/2014

University might be the first time you’ve planned your spending over a long period, rather than week-to-week. A budget is a great tool for making sure you have enough money to cover all your expenses for a whole term. Budgeting is a skill you’ll need throughout your working life and beyond, so it’s a good habit to get into now.

Accommodation costs

Aside from tuition fees, living costs like rent and bills are often the biggest cost during university.

Many students choose to spend at least the first year in halls of residence. This can help simplify your budgeting as all the costs; rent, heating, and lighting – are combined and paid for in advance. Some halls even offer the option of meal allocations as well.

Alternatively, some students choose shared housing rented from private landlords. If you choose this option, make sure you understand your rights and responsibilities as a tenant before you sign a contract, and check your landlord understands their legal duties like gas safety, fire safety, and protecting your deposit in a government-approved scheme.

To avoid any unpleasant surprises you could look for a rent that includes bills. For more information on private renting visit the: National Landlord’s Association.

Working while you study

Depending on your course workload, you may want to work part-time during university, or during breaks and holidays. You could ask within your university department, although many university towns and campuses offer flexible jobs, like bar work, shop work and cleaning. 

Student bank accounts

Many banks and building societies offer student accounts with special deals to help you during university, like interest-free arranged overdrafts for a set period. Having this facility may help you budget.

An arranged overdraft is a way of borrowing money from your bank through your current account. Even if your account balance is zero, you can still make debit card payments and withdraw cash up to a set limit.

This is different from an unarranged overdraft, where the bank allows you to take out extra money without an agreement, but charges you daily until you pay it back.

An overdraft isn’t free money though – you will need to pay it back, and you may end up being charged interest or fees on top if you stay overdrawn after the time limit of the special deal.