As a student, managing your day-to-day budget and living expenses can be a daunting task. Many students coming to University will have little experience of managing a budget, particularly on a limited income that is paid in instalments. This can be a shock to the system, especially if this is the first time you have lived away from home, although managing a budget can be as difficult for a third year student as it is for a fresher. It's important that you manage your money effectively in order that your financial situation does not impact on your studies or your wellbeing.
Once you have established that you are in receipt of all the student finance and funding you are entitled to, it is time to plan your budget for the semester. Try and plan your budget as close to the start of the semester as you can. It's easy to get caught up in all of the events going on during the first few weeks of semester, but you'll probably find that you enjoy them that much more if you know what you are able to spend and that you won't be running out of money before your next loan instalment. At the Student Services centre help can be given so that you may work out your budget and successfully plan ahead, so please get in touch, no matter what stage your financial problems are at.
When you are planning your budget, it is important that you are realistic. It's no good trying to force yourself to live off £20 per week if you know you can't. In the long run it will be demoralising and won't help you. An honest and realistic budget will be of much greater benefit than setting an unnecessarily stringent amount to live off each week.
When you receive your loan instalment, don't get carried away and overspend at the start of semester. As a student there are going to be financial commitments you must meet throughout the year and it's highly unlikely that 'I spent too much of my loan' is going to be an acceptable reason for not paying something.
To start your budget, make a detailed list of all of your financial commitments. These could be anything ranging from your rent and bills through to any credit card repayments or outstanding loans or debts. Once you know the payments you have to make, you can begin to work out what money is left for your day-to-day living. Work out exactly how much money you will have until your next loan instalment is paid to you, then deduct the cost of all of the financial commitments you have established. Divide the figure that is left after these deductions by the number of weeks until your next student finance instalment. This will give you an approximate idea of how much you will have to spend on a week-by-week basis. It is also a good idea to factor in a certain amount of money for any unforeseen circumstances that may arise; a good amount to set aside is the cost of a train ticket or travel home.
A budgeting planner can be as simple as a piece of paper on which you keep your weekly expenditures and total budget, or something as detailed as a full spreadsheet where you can document and categorise every expenditure. It's largely a matter of personal preference and whichever version you go for, the most important thing is that you are in control of your spending. For advice on setting up a budgeting sheet, or for some budget templates, please feel free to drop in to the student services centre in your region where any of our advisers will be happy to help.