Students: how to manage your money
It is not always easy to make ends meet when you are a student, especially when you are no longer living in the family home. Keeping a budget will stop you becoming overwhelmed and will set you up for the future. Here are our tips for staying afloat.
Establishing your student budget
Setting up a student budget is similar to setting up a standard household budget. You need to work out your income and outgoings and then keep a close eye on your monthly spending and adjust as needed.
Housing is probably the biggest area of expenditure, whether you are in a university residence or in private accommodation.
If you’re renting privately, the price may vary depending on whether the apartment is furnished. It may be worth paying a little more every month for a furnished apartment as this can be cheaper and less stressful option overall.
Make sure to budget for charges such as water and electricity. To form an accurate estimate, ask the owner or former tenant for approximate costs. Sharing accommodation with other students is also a good way to reduce your costs.
Plan ahead to reduce meal costs so you don’t end up relying on convenience food and takeaways. Consider cooking with friends to lower spending. You may also have access to a subsidised canteen or restaurant at the university or college.
Transport and telecommunications
The cost of public transport will vary depending on location so find out what the costs are in your area. If you live close to the university you may be able to walk everywhere or pick up a cheap bike to help you get around.
For telephone and internet, look for low-cost plans for your smartphone and internet connection. If your accommodation allows it, choose ADSL over fibre for a more affordable package.
Having a tight budget doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourself. Set aside a monthly budget for socialising and other discretionary items. Make sure you plan for an increase in costs at the start of the school year with university fees, insurance and the equipment needed for your studies.
Some parents have the means to help their children, others will benefit from scholarships. Some students will have to work to make ends meet. Regardless, it is common to experience financial difficulties as a student so don’t feel ashamed and don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it.
3 Golden Rules to boost your budget
Sticking to your budget will help you navigate the financial experience of being a student. Here are three golden rules to help…
When setting your budget, include as many expenses as possible. The more you know where you are and where you are going, the more likely you’ll stay on track.
If you are worried, do not wait, talk to the organisations that you owe money to. Explain your situation and ask for an amicable solution with a payment schedule. Hiding your financial problems means you risk paying more in interest and charges.
Having a tight budget requires greater discipline because your margin for error is minimal. Remember to do your accounts regularly, at least once a week. Most banks offer mobile applications to track spending in real time. Compare your actual financial situation and your projected budget so you can make adjustments as needed. This will enable you to tailor your lifestyle to your situation and seek help if needed.
Your bank can help you through student loans, savings solutions or overdrafts, but beware of consumer credit, which tends to result in over-indebtedness. Seek advice from those around you before signing anything.
While some expenses are fixed, you can reduce others by looking around for deals and moving supplier when you see a cheaper option.
Also learn how to spend wisely: buy seasonal products to cook, look out for sale items, take advantage of Happy Hours, buy in bulk, cook in larger quantities for several days.
Try local online marketplaces to buy furniture or household appliances when you move in. In the big student cities, there will be no shortage of offers during the summer period and you’ll save significant sums.
There are many workshops on student budgeting and the web is full of tips for saving money, so take a look for more information. Keeping a budget when you are a student is not easy, but it will set you up for the future and mean that you enter working life with good financial skills and habits.
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