How to create a student budget

Student life can be surprisingly pricey. Books, meals, trips, transport, rent, clothes, technology, pubs. It can add up fast. That’s why it’s important to create a university budget to help keep spending under control.

Work out your income and outgoings

To set up a student budget from scratch you must first try to understand what money you have coming in and what you tend to spend it on. 

If this is your first year off to University it can be hard to estimate your income and outgoings away from the comforts of home, but you should have enough for a start.

If you have days, weeks, or months of student life to draw from, use an open banking budgeting app like Money Dashboard. This will automatically track, label and categorise your historic spending to help plan your future budget. 

  • Income – is there any monthly financial support from family? Loans? Will you be working a part time job – if so how much do you expect to earn? Do you have any savings you will be pulling from?
  • Outgoings – what is or will be your monthly rent? What about the bills? How much do you spend on meals – specifically take away/delivery? 

Ideally, your income outweighs your outgoings. You do not want to rely on your overdraft. 

But if that’s not the case, or you want to do better, look very closely at how much you are spending in each category. For example, if transport costs are high, perhaps it makes sense to get a bike or walk more. Are you overpaying for groceries at posh shops? You may want to cut down unnecessary costs like takeaways, clothes, cafes and pubs by setting new goals for yourself with a “no excuse” attitude for reaching them. Small changes like these can add up. 

From here, it should be relatively straightforward to design yourself a student weekly budget. Each person will have a unique budget allocation depending on their priorities, although all budgets should aim for less than their income, and preferably plan for a bit of savings. 

Use apps to make budgeting easier

Track it, track it, track it. And consistently check in with your budget to see your progress. Just knowing how much you spend, what you spend it on, and what you have left will help you make more rational financial choices. 

Make it easy. Many suggest using a student budget spreadsheet or downloading a student budget template online. But, you can automate this by connecting your cards and accounts with a student budgeting app like Money Dashboard. Every time you swipe/tap your card/phone or visit the ATM, it will account for it. You can see your running balance, expenses, and any growing credit debt. You can also set spending and savings budgets by category, and it will show you how close you are to meeting them.

Ways to save money as a student

Here’s some important student money advice: save for the unexpected. There will come a time when you and your friends start planning costlier nights out, trips, or you simply want to splurge on something. It all costs money that you may not have allocated in your monthly budget. So here are a few tips to build up a bit of savings just in case. 

If you are a student you have an insane amount of discounts available to you. Use them. Most shops and public transport options will have a student discount. So will student cafes and bike shops and so on. 

Get a part time job. Babysit, clean houses, tutor, deliver food. Whatever helps grow your income and boost savings (without interfering with your studies) is an opportunity not to be missed. Not only will this keep you earning, and perhaps gaining valuable experiences, it is also a way to cut down on time otherwise spent sitting in pricey cafes, shopping or generally spending money. 

Don’t spend too much on food. While nobody should live off of instant noodles, there’s no need to regularly eat high end meals. Seek out good deals on fresh, delicious ingredients and quick meals at corner shops and ethnic food markets. 

Other words to the wise: Avoid cash machines that charge you. Invest in a good bike lock. And before you buy anything, post in a student or local forum for things people are happy to give away or trade.

Tips for sticking to your budget

And here’s the best student budgeting tip you’ll ever get: before you buy anything – think. Ask yourself – if I were absolutely or very nearly skint, would I still buy this with my last few pounds? If yes, why? Is it worth it? Is this something I can find cheaper elsewhere? Can I wait a few days and think on it? 

Still wavering? Look at your budget and check if you are within your spending limits.  

A bit of impulse control can keep your account looking healthy throughout your student years. 

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All content is for informational purposes only and is the opinion of the author. Nothing on this website should be interpreted as "advice". Money Dashboard Ltd make no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, suitability or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors or omissions or any damages arising from its display or use.

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