Student budgeting: Making the most of your loan
Top tips on how to create and stick to your student budget
A budget is a plan to show how much money you have or expect to have in your account, and how much you will need to spend on both necessities and luxuries, while at university. With our tips, you should be well placed to balance your budget for studying at university.
While you’re at university, most students will have a few different sources of income, depending on where you’re studying, what course you’re on, and your home income situation.
- Maintenance Loan
Your maintenance loan is an amount of money paid directly to you from the government. How much you get depends on where you are going to uni, and your household income. More information about this can be found here.
This money will, eventually, have to be paid back, but not while you’re studying and not until you earn over a certain amount per year, so it’s a good source of income for students. For most students, their maintenance loan might cover their rent and possibly other bills as well.
You can see how much loan you might get here.
2. Part- time work
Most students will supplement their maintenance loan with some sort of part-time work. If you’re studying near home, you might be able to keep working at the job you had before, or you may need to look for other work. Finding a job that is flexible and can work around your course is essential. Most universities have student ambassador jobs which can be a really great student job, so make sure to look out for these while you’re at uni.
If you’re a high achiever, studying a certain subject, have a low household income, or are just struggling, most universities will have scholarships and bursaries available to you to help with your finances. Some you will be entered into automatically, and others you will need to apply for, so make sure you’re aware of your university’s Scholarships pages, when deadlines are to apply and what you need to prepare to make an application. These bursaries are designed to help students, so make sure you investigate all options.
5. Parental Contributions
Some students will receive money from their parents to help while at university, make sure to include this money in your budget, if applicable.
6. Other Sources
It is also worth keeping an eye on other sources of income or savings that you can get while at university, some of which you might have to look up before you arrive, or even before you apply. Does the university offer free or discounted or free trips, printing or even a laptop? If you can save money on these parts of your student experience, then the rest of your income will go further.
your expenditure will be everything that you need or want to buy during a month or term. It’s worth working out each of these in the same time frame, so dividing your rent into months if it is paid termly, so that you can see everything on the same scale.
- Fixed expenditures
fixed expenditures are things like your rent or mortgage, TV License and other bills, if applicable (if you’re staying in halls most of these will be included, and students can get an exemption from paying council tax). Always account for these first when working out your budget, as they will be fairly consistent and unlikely to change.
2. Variable expenditure
This will include things like food, toiletries, course costs and utility bills if you aren’t staying in halls. These can change month to month, so work out an average value that you feel is realistic (e.g. don’t say that you can live on £5 a week food if it’s not true).
3. Non-priority costs
These things are your luxuries and nice-to-haves like going out, holidays, etc. Whilst important for our well-being, if you’re trying to make the most of your budget these are the things to A) cut down on, and B) make sure you try to stick to. Some students like to have a separate account with a service like Monzo or Starling Bank that allows you to easily track how much you’re spending, and use that for these luxuries/ non-priority costs. If you only put so much into that account, it’s easier to stick to.
If there’s anything left over, it’s always good to try and plan in a little savings each month, even if it’s only a few £. This can help you build in a buffer in case of any unexpected expenses.
Balancing your Budget
Once you’ve worked out your income and outgoings, done the maths to keep them on the same scale, it might be that your outgoings are higher than your income. Here are a few tips for reducing that deficit:
- Cut back on luxuries
- Make sure you’ve investigated all sources of income, including bursaries and other things that are included in your fees.
- Shop around for things like utilities; many companies will for example give you a discount if you get both your mobile and home internet from the same place or will offer a cheaper rate for the first year, useful if you’re moving about anyway.
- Make sure you’ve got a good student bank account that offers an interest-free overdraft. Many also offer other perks that can help you save money such as a free railcard.
- If you’re really struggling, most universities have both a financial guidance team and a hardship fund that can help if you’re in need.