|By Elizabeth Whittingham
University in 2018 is not cheap.
Fees are now reaching a staggering sum of £9250 whilst the average graduate is likely to be in debt by around £40,000 by the time they leave university, mainly due to university fees and student loans.
Despite these staggering sums, it is important to recognise that you will not start paying back your university fees and student loans until you have graduated and only when you are earning over a specific amount annually. Therefore, whilst at university, your biggest expense, unless covered by family, will be your accommodation, followed by your travel and then your food.
If this all sounds a little daunting, try not to worry too much.
It’s important whilst at university to focus on the present and to try your best to set aside any thoughts of student loan repayment, and instead to focus your efforts on accurate budgeting to ensure that you get the most back from your university experience.
Here’s a handy guide to budgeting effectively at university, from tips like setting up a savings account through to how to save money on your weekly food shop, ideas for a part-time job and how to make the most out of student deals.
Firstly, if you are paying entirely for your accommodation, it’s always important to set this money aside so that you do not spend it on anything else during your academic term.
Your largest outgoing during university will most definitely be your accommodation- renting in the UK has become incredibly popular over the past few years meaning that rent, including rent on student ‘digs’- has increased dramatically.
Starting up a savings account is a great way to set money aside to pay for your accommodation; head into your local bank to set up a savings ISA that you can easily access online.
ISAs are great because they gather high interest, meaning that you could maybe get a bit more money back from your savings efforts. Setting up internet banking is also a great idea as you can easily move money from your ISA each month into your debit account to pay for accommodation.
Although rent is always variable and differs dramatically depending on location, setting up a savings account is a savvy, responsible and rather simple way to start budgeting and being careful with your money.
When budgeting on your accommodation, it is also important to highlight your cheapest options. Whilst university halls may be a tempting option as they are usually catered and close to university, if your budget does not allow then student house shares are always an option and are almost always a cheaper alternative.
Likewise, with additional costs, it is important to look for a property with bills included. This simply means that all your bills such as electricity, water, and internet are already factored in, saving you the stress and additional charges of setting the whole process up by yourself.
For your full guide to renting on a budget, visit the Accommodation for Student’s Site here.
Weekly Food Shop
When it comes to budgeting at university, you will find that unless proper planning is taken, expenses on food can often make a large dent in your finances.
A great way to avoid this is to meal plan each week and to set aside a fixed budget to spend on food.
The average person living on their own spends around £25 a week on food, including grabbing food on the go.
Whilst eating out can be a tempting option, the cost of just one meal could be the cost of around five days of food shopping and therefore meals out do need to be rationed in order to stick to your budget.
Make sure that you avoid larger supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s and ASDA, opting instead for supermarkets such as ALDI and Lidl to save on money.
Buy frozen fruit and veg to save on forking out much more for fresh produce, place your bread in the freezer to make it last longer and make sure to bulk out main dishes with cheap carbs such as dry pasta and rice.
Make a packed lunch every evening for the next day to save on grabbing a meal deal and always carry a reusable water bottle to save on buying water and a reusable thermos cup for hot beverages to avoid the pricey cost of takeout coffee.
It’s also a great idea to hit the supermarkets at specific times to grab the best deals, for example, supermarkets tend to reduce their produce gradually throughout the day, meaning that by 8pm, you can usually pick up food that has been reduced by a staggering 70%.
There are also plenty of apps to try out that are perfect for grabbing yourself a free meal on the go, OLIO is an app that allows people to post free food which would otherwise have been thrown out, sometimes coffee shops and companies post free food on there too so it’s always handy to keep checking!
Just by making these small changes you will definitely start to see a marked difference in your outgoings and hopefully have more money to spend on leisure activities at university!
Travel is another large expense at university and can be one that does eat away at your budget without proper planning.
If you live a bus ride away from your university, then the best way to save on travel is to purchase a student bus pass at the start of the academic year.
Although they are pricey, averaging around £250-£300, once they are paid for, they cover the whole year in travel and are usually accessible for all buses in your student city, meaning that you make the money back quickly.
Of course, travel costs vary on location, if you are in based in a city like London, then you can expect to pay an average of £66 per month for travel as you will have to access the tube, whilst cities like Manchester simply run off buses and are therefore cheaper to live in.
Whichever city you choose to live in, it is always handy to factor in travel costs alongside your accommodation and bills, you could even take a lump sum each month and place it into your ISA to make sure that you have enough.
When budgeting at university, it’s always important to factor in some money for leisure activities, meaning that you can spend your hard earned free time at university well.
In terms of budgeting, it’s handy to set aside a lump sum at the start of each month to spend solely on leisure; this could be anything from meals out through to clothes, alcohol, and tickets.
Keep in mind that it’s super important to spend time with friends and family during your time at university, with day trips and holidays being brilliant for your mental health and self-care.
We think that around £1000 should be taken into account when budgeting, in terms of taking this from each installment of student loan, we are looking at around £330 spent on leisure each time.
When out and about, keep a note of everything you buy on the go, writing down the item and the cost of it will help you to keep track of your finances and will also be handy to see where you are spending the most money.
Deals and Discounts
Being a student definitely has its perks.
There are countless companies, restaurants, and establishments offering student discount for you to make the most out of.
You can pick up an NUS card for multiple student discounts at large clothing shops and you can grab yourself a railcard to save up to hundreds of pounds each year on travel expenses.
It’s also helpful to always remember to have your student card on you at all times to possibly get money off on ticket prices, from cinemas through to the theatre.
The endless amounts of student discounts available can be a little confusing at times but once you’ve got your head around it you will soon be saving heaps of money each term, meaning that you can have some great days out whilst sticking to your budget.
If despite all your budgeting, you are still struggling for money, then the best option is to get yourself a part-time job that works for you and fits nicely alongside university and your studies.
Try not to be too daunted by the idea of a part-time job and remember that you are always in control and can stop at any time if you feel that the job is overtaking your commitment to your studies.
Grabbing yourself a part-time job whilst at university can be a brilliant venture as it will look great on CV, displaying to future employers that you were capable of managing both academic and work life alongside each other.
If you would like to start the academic year with a little bit more cash in your bank account then grabbing a summer job is a great idea, from babysitting through to bar work and online tutoring, there are plenty to choose from and they can be a great source of summer income to get you feeling much more comfortable in the autumn term.