By Megan Shinner | Advice Editor
One of the main things that terrifies people about coming to University is budgeting.
The debt, different types of loans, grants, bursaries, maintenance, tuition fees. There are too many big words and the whole process can start to look a little grim when you look at the cold figures regarding course and accommodation fees. Although, once you’ve panicked your way through the relentless forms of student finance, that lump sum is looking rather fabulous in your account during freshers’ week. You’re blinded by the potential of possessing this much money that you forget, in the words of Uncle Ben, with great power comes great responsibility. You’ve got to feed yourself and pay your rent, not just buy your new mates 4 rounds of drinks every Saturday night! However, you don’t need to stress, you can still have fun whilst affording all the essentials, and possibly saving a bit in the meantime. University isn’t just about academia. It’s probably the first time for most of you where you’ve had to live on your own and fend for yourself.
Here are some ways in which you can spend your money wisely and realistically whilst budgeting, avoid financial scares whilst still being able to afford the finer things in life.
Start Planning Early
According to Save The Student, 24% of students had hit their overdraft limit and 45% of them didn’t know how to start paying it back.
Hitting the overdraft becomes way too complicated and we are better off staying clear of it. Wi-fi and water bills are already too stressful; you don’t need to add the bank to the list! One efficient method of doing this is budgeting as soon as possible. I don’t mean once your course starts or a few weeks after moving in. As soon as the letter with your entitlement comes through, you should get an estimated figure in your head on what you’re going to spend and save. This just needs to be a rough guide as things will change. Especially in your first year, you won’t really have an idea just yet on circuit laundry, your regular food shop items, course items that need covering – the list goes on. Things will slip your mind like a music service subscription, or you may drop your phone and need the screen repaired. Scares and surprises pop up sometimes and we need to be prepared for them. Work out your essentials first: weekly food shop allowance, important bills, course materials, any health bills, and rent. Once you’ve done this you can look at disposable income. I would suggest taking what you have left and splitting it down the middle, half to spend and half to save. This way you can go out on the weekends and shop the sales whilst having peace of mind knowing that if anything does crop up; you’re totally prepared!
With the money we’ve given ourselves for the weekly food shop in the budget, we want to expand this as much as possible and get everything we need for the week – that’s 15 meals plus snacks! Firstly, let’s start with the where! It’s important to choose where you shop. Some items can be double the price when compared to the likes of other shops. Whilst smaller shops are handy for a few essential items, it’s sometimes difficult to do a full weekly shop. No matter what you’re looking for at a cheap price, you’re almost guaranteed to find it with a mix of branded, off-brand, and saver items.
Next, batch cooking! Buying and cooking in bulk will save you so much money and time, bringing your cost per meal rate right down. Sometimes we can’t be bothered to cook because we’re so drained from our lectures so our pre-made spag bol mix will be a lifesaver! Instead of ordering a takeaway 3 times a week due to this burnout, you’ve already predicted this would happen and have made a money-saving decision.
Budgeting is not just a case of saving money, but being mindful as to how and where we are spending it. All the little swaps and saves add up and can go such a long way, especially when we hit Christmas or a birthday and we need to find some money for a gift or two. Preparation is key!