budgeting for students
budgeting for students

How To Budget As A Student

Everything you need to know about managing a student budget during university.

Going to university is a huge step in your independence, however, you might find that managing your money on your own for the first time can be really overwhelming— especially during a cost of living crisis. Luckily, managing a student budget doesn’t have to be an impossible task and there are loads of handy budgeting tips for students that will make things so much easier and can take away some of the stress.

From making your student loan stretch further to having a clear plan of exactly how much you have to spend each week— we’ve put together this handy guide to help you manage your finances and get on top of your spending.

In this article:

Why you need to budget at uni

As you start university, you might be wondering how to budget as a student or why a budget is so important. Even if you think you’re good with money, trust us when we say budgeting will be your best friend throughout your studies.

Things budgeting can help with:

  • Knowing exactly how much money you’re spending each month and on what
  • Not overspending too quickly so you won’t run out of money too early in the month
  • Seeing trends in your spending habits
  • Making sure you never run out of money
  • Making your student loan go further
  • Saving money

Being a student can be expensive and you might find that your student finance starts to go down pretty quickly, especially after a few nights out. It might seem boring, but having sticking to a budget as a student will make sure you’re never in a situation where you can’t pay your rent or afford dinner and having a budget plan will help you to be smarter with your spending.

In fact, with almost half of students finding themselves running out of money before the end of term, it’s clear that during the cost of living crisis budgeting is crucial for students more than ever. Don’t worry if this stresses you out as we’re going to take you through all of our best budgeting tips for students that will help you avoid being stuck in a tricky money situation.

Different ways to budget

So how do you budget at uni? Some good budgeting tips for students include:

1. Spreadsheets

If you’re a pro with an Excel sheet now’s your time to shine, as a spreadsheet can be a game changer when making a student budget planner. If you find the idea of actually making a spreadsheet really overwhelming, Microsoft has lots of premade budgeting templates that you can download and customise to suit your needs.

Once you’ve set up a spreadsheet you can track exactly what you’re spending your money on and sort it into categories such as food, nights out, clothes etc. so you can see exactly how much you’re spending each month.

After a few weeks of using a budget planner, you should be able to pick up trends with your spending and see where you could potentially make some cutbacks or be more strict with your budget. Once you get into the habit of tracking your spending it will be easier to come up with a monthly budget that’s realistic and easy to stick to.

2. Apps

There are loads of great apps you can download to help you stick to and manage a budget at uni. Some good apps to try include:

  • Emma– Emma allows you to track your spending by categorising payments and suggesting where you could make cutbacks.
  • Plum– Plum will help you to set goals and put money aside automatically. It also has a budget tracker which is great if you’re not a spreadsheet person as you can see everything straight from your phone.
  • SplitwiseSick of navigating awkward money situations with your housemates? Splitwise allows you to easily keep track of shared expenses and easily pay friends back. This is great if you often share taxis on nights out or need a quick way to split shared household items like toilet roll without being stuck having to pay for everything on your own.

3. Goal setting

Knowing how to budget money is something that can take time and practice and setting yourself goals can help to keep you accountable when it comes to your spending habits.

If you’re guilty of ordering a takeaway after every night out or can’t go to a lecture without grabbing a coffee, you could try setting yourself some goals to help you cut back. This could be a number-based goal or a money goal, for example, only having 2 takeaways a month or not spending more than £20 a month on coffee.

Realistically, a student budget can only stretch to so much so if you feel like you’re spending way too much money on clothes trying a low or no-spend month on non-essential items can be a good way to save some money and get you into the habit of budgeting.

Budgeting is something you’ll most likely have to do throughout the rest of your adult life, so setting goals for your spending while you’re in uni is a great way of getting into the habit of not splurging your money as soon as it lands in your bank account and prioritising what’s actually important to spend on. Not to mention, it feels great to be able to challenge yourself to actually stick to and tick off a goal at the end of the month.

4. Monzo

Monzo is a really handy banking app for students, as you can split money into categories to see exactly how much you’re spending each month.

As a bank account, Monzo doesn’t offer a whole load of benefits for students specifically, so it’s best to stick with your regular student bank account and transfer some money into a Monzo account each month.

Lots of students use Monzo strictly for the fun stuff and transfer a set amount to their Monzo each month which is purely for nights out, clothes or meals out. This way once the Monzo money has run out, you know that you’ve used up your non-essential budget for the month and any money in your main bank account is for emergencies or essential spending like bills and food shopping.

Monzo also has a feature that rounds up purchases and puts the extra money into a savings pot for you, allowing you to save money without even realising it. So, if you were to spend £4.70 on your lunch Monzo would round this up to £5 and put the 30p in your savings pot.

Although this is a small amount, doing this every day will soon help to build your savings pot up without you even noticing which means you’ll have some money put aside for emergencies or for treating yourself, without having to break your budget plan.

Plus, don’t forget to check out which student bank accounts come with freebies for switching to make sure you’re getting the most out of your main bank account.

Student budget planner

We know no one really tells you how much you’re supposed to spend on food shopping which is why it’s important to work out your income vs your outgoings to give you a realistic expectation of how much you should be spending on everyday things.

Once you have a clear picture of how much money you have going into your bank account each month and what your regular outgoings are, you can easily set a budget that is realistic for you to stick to.

Work out your income

Typical student income streams could include:

You can start by adding up how much money you expect to come into your bank account each month from these income streams. Remember that as maintenance loans come in 3 instalments throughout the year, you won’t have a payment coming into your bank account monthly— it’s up to you to make sure each instalment can cover each month until the next payment.

That might sound scary but that’s what a budget planner is for and keeping track of your income will help to make sure your student loan and any other income will last until the next payment instalment.

Work out your outgoings

Outgoings can be split into essential and non-essential spending. Essential spending is the things that you have to pay for every month such as rent and bills, whereas non-essential is the fun stuff— things that you don’t necessarily need and can be more flexible on.

Essential outgoings for students could include:

  • Rent
  • Household bills (gas, electricity, water, broadband, contents insurance, TV licence)
  • Phone bill
  • Food shopping
  • Bus or train fares
  • Car insurance and fuel
  • Course supplies and textbooks

Non-essential outgoings for students:

  • Nights out
  • Clothes
  • Makeup and skincare
  • Gaming
  • Beauty appointments (hair, nails, eyelashes etc)
  • Gym membership
  • Subscription services (Netflix, Spotify, Amazon Prime etc)
  • Cinema tickets
  • Takeaways
  • Eating and drinking out
  • Holidays and travelling
  • Music festivals and concerts

Average student monthly costs

It’s important to remember that everyone has different outgoings and there is no set answer when it comes to what’s normal for a student budget. Some areas of the UK have much higher rent, and it’s common for halls to be more expensive than renting from a student landlord.

The Natwest Student Living Index found that on average students spend £1,408.3 per month on all outgoings, including essential and non-essential outgoings— but this is only an average, and students living in London could be looking at much higher living expenses.

Remember that everyone gets a different maintenance loan and not everyone has a part-time job, so someone else’s budget might be completely different to yours. What’s important is making sure you’re allowing yourself a realistic budget with enough money for both the important stuff and the fun stuff— while also having money left over for emergencies.

How to make your money go further

Now that you know how to budget at uni and have a better idea of your outgoings you might be left feeling like you don’t have a huge amount of money left over each month. If you don’t have a part-time job or only work a few hours a week, there are plenty of ways you can make your money go further while taking advantage of some great deals for students to make things a bit easier during the cost of living crisis.

Here are 10 easy ways you can make your money go further:

1. Student discounts

Don’t forget to check Student Beans for all the great student discounts we offer across food, clothes, tech and more. Download the app so you always have your discounts at hand to use online and in-store. We also have lots of opportunities for students to get paid on our blog, so make sure you keep an eye out.

2. Get a travelcard or Railcard

If you rely on public transport regularly look into getting a travelcard for your local bus or train routes as this can help you to save some money each month. Students can also get a discount on train railcards to help you save on essential train journeys too, which is great if you travel between home and uni regularly.

3. Split subscriptions

Your friends will also be on a budget and as students there’s a high chance you’re probably using the same subscription services and it doesn’t make sense for everyone to be paying for the same thing. Alright, we know Netflix has cracked down on password sharing but if you’re using a communal TV then there’s no reason why you can’t share an account.

Plus, you could also upgrade to family accounts on Spotify or Apple Music or have an Amazon Prime account that everyone chips in for. This way you’re only paying for one subscription and you can split the cost equally between you.

4. Double check bills

Are you being overcharged on your household bills? Sometimes switching is a great way to score a better deal, especially if you think you’re paying way too much. You can use websites such as Uswitch to compare prices in your local area for energy bills and broadband to see if you could pay less for your essential bills.

5. Make affordable food swaps

Food shopping on a budget can be easy with a few simple swaps. Next time you do your weekly shop have a look and see if you can cut down the cost by swapping out some of your items. Unbranded items are normally much cheaper and it can be more affordable to buy frozen fruit and vegetables in bulk to store in your freezer.

6. Plan meals weekly

Another great way to make the most of your food shop is to meal prep and plan out your meals in advance as this cuts out food waste and stops you from buying things you don’t really need from the supermarket. It can be really tempting to pick up things that are on offer, but if you plan out your meals in advance you’ll know exactly how much you need to buy and spend when you’re food shopping.

7. Cut out non-essential spending

We know it’s hard, but try and think about whether you really need more clothes. If you want to have more money the easiest way is to try and cut out non-essential spending. You don’t have to give up everything, but even making coffee at home and treating yourself to a Starbucks twice a month will help you to save some money in the long run.

8. Look for free activities

If you’ve been telling yourself you’ll go to the gym next week and haven’t for months is it worth paying for a membership? Even if you do enjoy the gym occasionally but feel like you don’t make the most of your membership, there are plenty of ways you can exercise and stay fit for free from running and walking to home workouts on YouTube.

There’s also a chance that your university will be running free exercise classes or groups and joining a sports team could also be a fun (and free) way to stay fit and meet new people. You can also look for free non-exercise events your uni is putting on if you need a way to spend a boring weekend without spending too much money, such as movie or bingo nights.

9. Shop second hand

Before you buy a whole new wardrobe, check on Vinted or Depop first to see if you could get the same items for a fraction of the price. Charity shops are also a great way to score some bargains and make a great day out if you find yourself stuck inside on a particularly boring weekend.

10. Check your phone bill

You might find that you’re paying for things that you don’t actually need when it comes to your phone bill. If you have 30GB of data but only use 10GB a month, you could save money on your bill by switching to a cheaper tariff. It could also be worth switching to a different phone provider if you feel like you’re being overcharged, as many companies will offer good deals for new customers. VOXI, EE and Three all offer student discounts and have some great deals that could save you a decent chunk of money each month.

Where to go for further support if you need help

If you’re struggling with your student budget or are worried about money during the cost of living crisis here are some places you can get support: