My Tips on Budgeting at University (Part 2)

If you haven't read my post on why you should budget at university, probably give that a read first - because there's no point doing something if you don't know why you're doing it. Wow, don't I sound like some kind of teacher/entrepreneur. Took me a while to spell that I'm not going to lie to you. Budgeting and money are subjects which we don't do very well at talking about - they can be a bit taboo and things that people don't really want to discuss over dinner, or over the internet for that matter. I'm not going to get all evangelical and 'THAT NEEDS TO CHANGE WE ALL NEED TO TWEET OUR MONTHLY INCOME ON THE FIRST OF EVERY MONTH' because that's ridiculous and unnecessary, I just think if you can share something you might as well. Student life is tricky and although there can be an element of adrenaline in living 'pay cheque to pay cheque', or, student finance instalment to student finance instalment, it is stressful and it CAN be avoided. 

So, these are my top tips: 

  • Don't worry about getting it wrong.

    If you get it wrong, and you actually need to spend more than you thought on a specific thing, then you'll learn something about yourself and you'll be able to weigh up whether you want to cut down that category or switch some funds over from somewhere else. Nothing should go drastically wrong when that happens - budgeting isn't a 'one time fits all' thing. 
  • Be realistic

    I'd advise starting with writing down what you actually spend/think you'll spend if you haven't started yet, on specific things, even if you find that this adds up to more than you have. If you know that you spend £x a month on coffee and that is what you look forward to in the morning or you know that you need that chocolate bar at the end of the day because it gets you through the last hour of lectures - don't miss that out and hope that it sorts itself out. It won't, and you're allowed to spend money on yourself. Don't take things out of your budget in the first instance just because you think you shouldn't spend it, it won't work, you'll spend it anyway, then you'll feel rubbish. Do at least a month without doing anything too drastic. 
  • Be generous

    Again, remember that you're allowed to spend money on yourself. You're allowed to treat yourself and other people, unless you're REALLY strapped for cash, and you'll feel better for it - make sure you leave room for this. 
  • Be honest

    When you're writing down how much you've spent - don't omit things just because you feel guilt or that you shouldn't have spent it. 
  • Include savings.

    I know, you feel like you haven't got any money to spend, let alone save, but I promise if you just put away a small amount each week or each month, it will add up, and you'll feel like you're adulting REALLY well. Set up a standing order, you can more than likely do that in the app for your bank as long as you have online banking, 
  • Don't use a pre written plan

    Unless you're willing to extensively edit. A lot of student budgeting plans have a pretty stereotypical list of rent, drinking, pot noodles and not a lot else. Plans written for non-students have a lot of items which aren't applicable to many students,  but that can be easier to get around - there's a good template on 'pages' on mac, and something similar on excel. You can put in the categories you want and it adds up your income and outgoings on its own, so no calculators required. For example, I have a 'theatre' budget and a 'coffee' budget, but I don't really go on a lot of nights out so I don't have an 'alcohol' budget - that would come out of 'things you've forgotten about' or 'unspecified', you catch my drift. 
  • Include paying off any debts 

    Obviously this might not be applicable - but again, don't ignore them and pretend they'll go away themselves. They won't, and even if you're only paying a small amount of interest each month, that adds up too. Do this before trying to save anything. 

I have also written about how to get cheap theatre tickets if that's up your street, and a specific-ish guide to surviving on a student budget in London. 

How have you found budgeting at university? What else would you like to know? Let me know! 


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