Money matters – how to budget at university

One of the great things about going to university, especially if you are living away from home for the first time, is your independence.

At the same time, this new-found freedom can be a little overwhelming. This is especially the case at the beginning, when you have your first few weeks of class to focus on.

The good news is that everyone is in the same position, and all your fellow students will have ideas on how you can stretch out your loan.

Plan your budget

Budgeting is important though, so it’s worth spending the time to come up with a plan. After all, you don’t want to miss meals or trips to the cinema because you’ve blown your funds at the start of the semester. Believe me – this does happen!

Like most people, I made a few mistakes when I started managing my own money. Then I started to monitor what money was coming in and out of my account. This helped me to see how much I was spending on food, going out, transport and other necessities. With this information clear on a piece of paper I could decide what I could afford after I had paid all my bills, including my rent. Then it was a case of looking for ways to manage my money to last through the semester.

Money-saving tips

If you’re starting university this year, these are my top four budgeting tips.

  • Invest in an NUS TOTUM card – it entitles you to so many different discounts on food, clothing and much more
  • Cook with your friends when you can. Any student will tell you how hard it is to cook for one. It is time-consuming and can be quite expensive. When I first started university, my friends and I organised cooking nights where one person would cook for all and then we would swap. There were a lot of different nationalities in my friendship group, so it was a great way to experience different European cuisine
  • Use coupons to get discounts on the things you usually buy. Don’t be tempted to use them if you don’t want the product. I’ve found myself many times buying things I didn’t need just because they were cheap
  • Go food shopping in the evenings. You’ll find they offer discounts on a lot of stuff before they close. Good places to look for these are Co-op and Tesco with reduced prices on bakery items, vegetables, snacks and more. The cheapest meal I’ve made this way as a meat-free Sunday dinner for three at £1.89

Save spare cash

Finally, being at university doesn’t mean not having money. There are ways to factor savings in to your spending and plan how much to save on a weekly or monthly basis. One trick that has been working well for me is putting any spare change under £1 into a glass jar. After two months I managed to save around £150 without even feeling it. I put this money towards travelling to South Korea, Canada and Europe.

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