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Studentbeans.com easy guide

Student budget

Surely you’re too young to have to set a budget? Unfortunately as long as you have money coming in money going out, setting a student budget is highly recommended - if not essential.

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What's in this guide

Last updated September 06 2011

Student Budget: What is a budget?

Ins and outs - Put simply it’s a way of making sure that you don’t spend more money than you can afford. By putting limits on your outgoings and calculating exactly how much income you’ll have at your disposal you will increase your chances of making it through university without being stuck in a financial hole you can’t get out of.

Estimating costs can be tough - A student budget can be a tricky thing to work out. Firstly, it’s far from easy to know how much everything is going to cost before you get there - more often than not people will significantly underestimate what they will have to spend money on, rent and tuition is only the half of it.

Don’t fear debt - When studying full time your income will be limited, so the purpose of setting out a student budget should be to limit your debt rather than to stop you from getting into debt at all. Unless you have money before you start or receive generous contributions from your parents, it’s very unlikely that you’ll finish university with out being in debt.

Student Budget: Income

What comes in... - The primary sources of income for students include tuition fee loans, maintenance loans, grants or bursaries, money from parents, part-time job income, overdrafts and savings accrued before university.

Student Budget: Outgoings

...must go out - The biggest expenses at university are probably tuition fees and rent, but there are a number of other things to consider that will cost more than you think, notably utility bills and food shopping.

The following table shows the average weekly budget for students in England, Scotland and Wales - the data was taken from the 2009 NatWest Student Living Index Survey.

England Scotland Wales Oxbridge
Alcohol (at home or out) £26.18 £24.94 £30.03 £24.02
Supermarket food shopping £22.86 £24.97 £24.66 £23.67
Buying clothes £18.88 £16.65 £15.94 £23.98
Going out £17.25 £16.83 £16.61 £21.58
Eating out £15.63 £17.23 £14.62 £18.39
Cigarettes £15.19 £14.91 £9.08 £15.39
Utility bills £20.60 £23.34 £20.86 £25.39
Transport for long trips £19.87 £21.15 £29.30 £13.70
Day-to-day travel £11.06 £12.10 £4.73 £10.29
Telephone bills £10.04 £10.27 £8.32 £11.33
Books/course materials £9.63 £9.30 £8.45 £8.00
CDs/DVDs £9.38 £9.54 £7.07 £8.71
Laundry £4.38 £4.50 £3.13 £4.55
Photocopying/library costs £3.91 £4.91 £3.35 £3.50
Rent £77.88* £74.59 £67.85 £83.10

*Oxbridge and London excluded.

Student Budget: Where is the cheapest place to study?

Our friends in the north - In 2009 NatWest carried out a study into the living costs of students in cities across the country. Rather unsurprisingly, the cheapest city to study in was found to be Manchester, with rent of £73.57 per week and general living costs of £174.48, followed closely by Birmingham. When talking about rent alone, the cheapest place to live is Leicester - at £65.89 per month.

As you might expect - At the other end of the spectrum, the most expensive place to study (outside of London) was Oxford, with a total weekly expenditure of £323.03 per month.

Below is a table showing how much it costs to live in some of the major university towns - the data was taken from the 2009 NatWest Student Living Index Survey.

Town/city Ave. weekly rent Ave. total weekly expenditure
Birmingham £74 £171
Brighton £87 £220
Bristol £76 £190
Cambridge £82 £205
Cardiff £68 £202
Dundee £71 £203
Edinburgh £81 £205
Glasgow £72 £187
Leeds £72 £210
Leicester £66 £191
Liverpool £69 £205
Manchester £74 £174
Newcastle £68 £204
Nottingham £75 £208
Oxford £85 £238
Plymouth £74 £193
Portsmouth £76 £215
Reading £74 £197
UEA £74 £195
York £86 £197
All £74 £201

Student Budget: Do I need to get a job?

Think carefully - There are many benefits to getting a part-time job at university, the biggest being that you’ll get some money out of it! But it’s important to remember why you are at university - (hopefully) to get a good degree in order to get a good job. You will have plenty of time to earn money throughout your life, so it’s important not to let your desperation to earn money now affect the outcome of your degree.

To read more about working whilst at university, visit our dedicated student jobs section.