We know it’s boring and that bank accounts and budgeting are the last things you want to think about at the start of a fresh new term. But when you wake up the next morning after spending your last 20 quid on a round of tequila shots for strangers, you’ll be wishing you heeded our wise words of warning.
Now we’re not saying that you have to have no fun whatsoever and avoid spending at all costs. After all, you’ve got a little time left before you have to start saving for that pension. But learning how to manage your money properly can be the difference between smiling into a fridge filled with groceries or opening it up to see nothing but a sad lettuce leaf as you turn to wave goodbye to your friends who are leaving for the club.
First, figure out your income
If you don’t know how much money you have coming in and going out every month, that’s your first problem to solve. 77% of students say they wish they were educated more on finances before they came to university. If you’re one of them, it’s time to start learning.
Get out a pen and paper and write down exactly how much money comes into your account and how often (you can also make an excel sheet if that’s more up your street). Your maintenance loan comes in in three big instalments, so it’s up to you to make this last throughout the year.
Remember to weigh in things like your savings and any money you get from your parents.
Next, figure out how much you need to spend
Make a list of all of your outgoings each month. This will include things like food shopping, rent, the gym, Spotify, and anything else you spend your money on monthly.
Once you know how much you need to spend you can see how that sits next to all of the money coming in. Decide how much you can afford to spend in each area of your life. Make a budget for each of your outgoings.
How much will you spend on food? On leisure? On nights out?
Work it all out - and stick to it!
If you can’t afford everything that you need in a month, it might be time to work out what you can afford to get rid of. If your fancy gym membership costs £60 a month, it might be time to try and find a cheaper place to work out - or resign yourself to YouTube videos.
Figure out exactly how much you are allowed to spend on each item and then figure out a plan for sticking to it.
It might help you to take out all of your money for food shopping in cash, that way you can’t easily go over budget. Plus, you can physically see the money leaving your wallet or purse, which can act as a great deterrent.
Another trick is to transfer all of your extra money (or money for the second half of the month) into another account. That way you can’t spend it without going into your online banking and moving it into your current account - hopefully, this will take enough time to make you think twice about how desperately you need that shopping splurge.
Grasp every opportunity
If it turns out the amount of money coming in isn’t enough to cover your costs every month, you might have to work out some alternative options.
Figure out if you’re going to need to get a part-time job and then organise that now, rather than when you run out of money at a later date.
Do you need to extend your student loan? Or could you do some ad-hoc work online or at the university to top up your incoming money?
If you’re struggling with your finances, make sure that you are accessing all of the money that is available to you. Check out options for different loans, grants and bursaries, or even scholarships. And don’t be afraid to get into a little, calculated debt, after all, you’re investing in your future.
You should also start thinking more about money in all areas of your life. Where can you cut costs? Perhaps you could start shopping for clothes in second-hand shops, rather than spending all your money on ASOS.
You could also recycle your old clothes and belongings too. Sell them online and make a bit of spare cash. Try and cut out money-drainers as much as you can. These are usually things like daily coffees out of the house, cigarettes and takeaways. We know you love the local Chinese (so do we!), but if you’re not careful, it’s going to add up.
You could also consider changing bank accounts. Many banks now offer cash incentives or discounted railcards. And if you’re really desperate, try swapping WiFi and mobile phone networks or your student flat’s gas company.
This might seem like a lot of work but the money you can save will be well worth the effort. Plus, it will set you up well for cutting costs for post-uni life too.
Follow the steps above and you’re well on your way to effectively budgeting for the upcoming term. And if you’re struggling, don’t beat yourself up about it too much. Student’s are notoriously skint and with any luck, your degree will lead to a sweet salary later on in life!
Follow the tips above to budget for the new term. And if you’re really stuck, you can always take out a SmartPig loan.