Avoid the Overdraft: A Guide to Living on a Student Budget.

Why is budgeting important? Student bank accounts are great as you can get fee-free overdrafts but that shouldn’t be an excuse to blow your loans and grants.  Budgeting means that you won’t have to go into your overdraft in the first place and you won’t have to sacrifice little luxuries.

Budgeting isn’t as difficult as it sounds and this blog will show you just how easy it can be.

Is there anything I should do before going to University?

YES. The first thing you need to do is apply for Student Finance. For Welsh students, you are entitled to £9,225 each year of study – the split between loan and grant depends on your parents’ income.  This is an invaluable sum of money which will cover your living costs but there are other things you can do which will help.

Getting a part-time job during that long summer between A Levels and University will make your life a lot easier come September. Last summer I made around £3,000 over the summer – I worked hard but it now means that I can put some of it away for something special, like funding a placement abroad.

The most important thing about budgeting is making sure that you actually have money in the first place which means that if you’re trying not to rely on your parents to keep you afloat, you may want to reconsider those private luxury halls.

Before you go away, grab a notebook, slap a big bold ‘FINANCE’ sticker on it and start calculating your living.

  • Start with your income – any loans, grants, summer earning, and savings if you have any.
  • Subtract cost of University halls and other payments such as phone bill (unless you’re like me and have managed to get your parent to foot that one), Netflix, Spotify etc.
  • Set aside a maximum average weekly spend of around £40.
  • Allocate some money for Freshers and for 2ndyear deposit (£500 max.).

What to do during Freshers

Freshers can be quite an overwhelming time since you’re constantly meeting new people and figuring out friendship groups.  The problem is that everyone want to go out, all the time. The FOMO syndrome is at its prime but you will have to exert some restraint and either say no or suggest alternatives.  You need to remember that most of you will be in the same boat and so if you suggest a cheaper alternative to something such as getting to know each other by going to a GIAG or a picnic in the park, you might be surprised to find out that others will want to do the same to avoid the dent in their bank account and the hangover that lasts a week.

It may sound unfair but just a little restraint can go a long way and it can mean that you can treat yourself on little things throughout the year without feeling guilty.

What can I do throughout the year to help my finances?

Your weekly grocery shop is something that you need to figure out how to do very early on in the year.  My tip is to learn how to cook and make a meal plan.  I will have blogs coming up on quick and easy recipes to try but for now I cannot stress enough how important it is to make a meal plan and make your shopping list from that.  It’s so easy to just go into Tesco or Lidl and fill your basket with everything you think you’ll need but at the end of the week I’ll guarantee you that you’ll have food going to waste.  The saying that eating healthy is expensive is a myth – having roasted vegetables and salmon is actually surprisingly cheap and is also so much healthier than ready meals which have are high in salt and saturated fats.

Top tips:

  • Take out ~£40 in cash each week and only use that money.  Your food shop shouldn’t cost more than £30 at an absolute maximum and so any spare can go into a pot in your room where you can dip into when you want to go out for a meal with our friends or want to buy a new pair of jeans.
  • Try to look out for student discounts.  UNIDAYS has great offers from technology, to clothes, to restaurants.
  • Those delicious looking sandwiches in your course building café are nibbling their way through your bank account. Get creative with your own lunchbox everyday.
  • Say goodbye to daily coffee/tea runs and hello to flasks. £2.10 per cup of tea at a chain coffee shop is an overkill. Stash some tea bags in you bag and take a flask with you.