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Student Finance/Budgeting Tips – Top Ways To Manage Your Money At University

16 Mar 2021

Whether you’re a current student or looking into the future, managing your finances and having a budget is a crucial part of getting through university. You are suddenly given a world of responsibility and it can sometimes be an overwhelming experience. Here are some top tips to help you manage your money at university.

You can also listen to our collaboration with the University of Reading on our student podcast, Your Career Kit, for more student budgeting and finance tips

Make a budget

We’ve all heard the stories of students who splash their entire student loan by the end of fresher’s week, meaning noodles are on the menu for the rest of term. One of the best ways to manage your money is to make a budget, clearly stating your income and your outgoings. Your income will include things like your student loan, any jobs you have and possibly any support you receive from family. Key outgoings will include rent, utilities/bills (if this isn’t included in your rent), food, nights out, laundry, course material and so on. A budget doesn’t have to be fancy, and even a vague one is better than none.

By clearly writing down a budget, it can make it much easier to visualise how much you have, making your money stretch all the way to the end of term. It can be as simple as written down in a notepad, or you could make yourself an Excel spreadsheet. Either way, making a budget and sticking to it can really help make sure you enjoy your time at university. Be sure to make a budget that is realistic; making it too strict can lead to you giving up 2 weeks in.

Task a list when shopping

We all know how dangerous it can be to go shopping on an empty stomach, as it typically leads to buying too much and letting food go to waste = throwing away money. But did you know that you can easily do the same if you go shopping without a list?

Writing up a list before you go shopping means you are more likely to buy the essentials and if you plan your meals for the week ahead of time, you could buy in bulk and actually save money.

You are also far less likely to forget anything you needed. No one likes running out of washing up liquid or even worse, toilet roll…

Per 100g – Grab the real bargains

Now, stay with us here a second. This links to the previous point of taking a list to the shops. Be sure to look around not just for the best prices, but also value when you go shopping! On shelf labels, most products have a ‘Price per 100g’ or ‘Price per 100ml’ figure on them. These can be an amazing indicator of whether you are in fact getting a bargain or not, as it represents the value of what you are buying.

Two chicken breasts for £1.80 may seem good compared to paying £4.75 for a whole chicken. But, if you were to look at the label you’d see you’re paying £6.00 per kg for the chicken breasts, compared to just £2.27 per kg for the whole chicken (which includes 2 chicken breasts anyway!), which is nearly 3 times less.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to just chicken but most groceries and toiletries too. And if you think you don’t want to buy that much of an item (sticking to the chicken example), see if a flat/housemate will go halves with you or freeze what you won’t be using that week!

Get a part time job

One of the best ways to help manage your money at university, is to get yourself a part time job. Even working a single shift each week at a restaurant, bar or shop can easily cover the cost of your weekly shop and free up some cash for other things such as nights out. They can also help to give you experience, which is handy when it comes to landing yourself a job further down the line. Have a look what part time jobs are in your university or home city here.

There are even jobs you can do without even having to leave your house/flat, such as product testing, online tutoring, paid online surveys, freelancing and transcription. These can offer you great flexibility when it comes to working around your studies and you can choose to work whenever suits you. Check out what work from home opportunities we have here.

If you’re not keen on getting a job during term time, then there’s no need to panic. You could start thinking about an internship over the summer, or a summer job for back home.

Manage your nights out

We all know how hard it is to turn down an exciting night out because you have an essay due 10am tomorrow, but no one wants to turn down a night out because you’re short on cash. Based on your budget, look at how many times a week you can afford to go out. It can help you plan ahead and make sure you’re not missing out on the big nights out, or you’re not left one the dance floor in disbelief that buying the previous round of drinks, means you’re eating instant noodles the rest of the month.

Find the best deals

Chances are, whether you’re a fresher and definitely if you’re in third year, you’re getting sick and tired of the words ‘bills’ and ‘Direct-Debits’. University if often the first time that many students are responsible for monthly outgoings, and this means it is easy to get caught out paying silly prices. Whether it’s your phone bill, internet/broadband or insurance, look around for prices to make sure you’re getting the best deal and you haven’t simply jumped at the first option you’ve seen.

The same goes for the features you’re paying for; do you need to be paying for 50GB of phone data a month when you only use 5GB?

Student discount

One great thing about being a student, is the deals and discounts that come along with it! Whether you’re shopping for clothes, a new laptop or a bus pass then chances are there is some way to save money on the purchase. We’re sure you’re already familiar with student discounts, but really make sure you harness the power of them. Even in my third year of university, it is still amazing how many places you can get money off just by flashing your student ID. If you are unsure, just ask!

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