How to budget: A guide for students

Every time of year is a difficult time of year for students. The loan system seems to have crashed from what it used to be a few years ago, and every year you study, your maintenance loan is less than it was the year before. It’s time to admit that you need to learn how to budget, and we’re hoping that this short guide will be able to help you sit down and figure out how to save a little better than previous years.

Incomings Vs. Outgoings

Your first step is to work out what your incomings are (the money you get every month from your job, loans, parents, etc.), verses what your outgoings (money that you spend on bills, food, travel, etc.) When you’re writing down your incomings, be exact. When you’re writing down your outgoings, overestimate them. It’s better to have too much money left at the end of the month than too little. Keep it simple and write your finances in an easy-to-read list.

Calculate what you have left

The next step is relatively simple: Take your incomings and subtract your outgoings. If your outgoings are more than your incomings, you have a problem. Now it’s time to budget. Write down how much money you need to find each month to put yourself back in the black.

Investigate your outgoings

Somewhere in your outgoings, you may very well be overspending. Phone bill too high? Talk to your phone company, ask if there’s any way to reduce it. Does your food bill seem over-the-top? Ask yourself if you and your housemates are splitting it evenly, or if you can cut costs by buying cheaper brands of food or pre-making and freezing meals.

Consider your incomings

Once you’ve played around with your outgoing finances, look at your incomings. If you were in the red when you finished your calculations, you obviously don’t have enough incomings to balance your current lifestyle. If you aren’t currently working, have you considered getting a job on-campus while you’re studying? Or a summer job to ensure that you have extra money come September? Most Universities have their own careers’ centre or Students’ Union that list on-campus jobs for students. These jobs are great because they typically work around a student’s schedule or are part-time positions. There’s also the potential that you could snag an evening or weekend job.

Keep track

If this is your first time looking at your finances, you might want to track what you spend over a month while at University and see what you spend and where you spend it. Contactless cards have become one of the most terrifying ways to overspend and put yourself in debt. They have a limit, yes, put unless you’re constantly checking your bank account, you likely haven’t realised you’ve run out of money until your card’s been declined.

With these tips, we hope that you can start budgeting better while you’re at University, and limit yourself from over-using your overdraft to keep your bank account out of the red. No one wants to see a minus next to their balance.