Budgeting 101 – A Student’s Guide

For many, university offers the first taste of financial independence. Unfortunately, this also means the first experience of budgeting, which is absolutely crucial to avoid an early taster of debt and cashflow crises!

There are lots of apps and programmes which can help, but we’d suggest starting with a good old-fashioned spreadsheet or piece of paper so you can see the simplest version.

First, you’ll need two columns – income and expenditure. In date order, jot down all of money coming in (student loan, earnings from paid work, contributions from family) under income.

Then in the expenditure column write down all of your known expenses first, accommodation, subscriptions (think music, delivery services, cloud storage), membership fees for university societies or clubs, mobile contract, TV licence, ongoing costs for sports and fitness.

Next, estimate a figure for all of the expenses you’ll definitely hit. Food, books, travel, laundry, hobbies, haircuts and beauty expenses and bills if those are not included with your student accommodation deal. We understand that these unknown and fluctuating amounts can be stressful, so Almero is all-inclusive, meaning with us you’d just have one consistent figure in the accommodation row and no bills to guesstimate.

Now we’re ready to do some basic maths. Work out your total income for a university term by adding up everything in the income column for that date period. Minus your expenses, and then divide the resultant figure by the number of weeks in your term. This gives you the money available for non-essentials including treats, hobbies and socialising.

To help you stick to this budget, there are plenty of apps. There are also dedicated bank accounts which not only have preferential student rates but accompanying apps to help track spending. It can really help to see the reality of where your money goes, and give you back some control! Look for an app which allows you to set money aside for specific things, as this allows you to protect the amounts required for your essentials. Starling Bank and Monzo have functions like this.

Living within your budget can also help you get creative! Cutting out takeaways can encourage you to gain confidence (and friends) in your kitchen. Cancelling your gym membership might inspire you to try a new fitness activity, with or without friends.

Here are our top quick-fire tips to help you get cash confident!

  • Stick to estimated costs. If you’ve budgeted approximately £80 for groceries make it your mission to stay at this mark!

  • Look for ways to guarantee costs. Can you buy a printer credit subscription for the library which offers better value? Is your mobile plan a fixed amount? Consider student accommodation where the quoted figure is final. Whether that’s all-inclusive student housing like Almero Student or a university managed student flat where there’s a guarantee of no call-out charges if things go wrong.

  • Protect your deposit! Respect your student housing and you will get that money back.

  • Run two accounts. If you’re struggling to stick within your weekly allowance, have income paid into one account and then transfer a fixed amount into another debit account each week. This means you’ll be able to visualise what you’re actually working with, not get distracted by a false larger figure!

  • Plan ahead. Think about the events and socials in each month and set money aside for them (at least mentally!) so you can enjoy them when they arrive.

  • Be very careful of credit cards. Think seriously, and get advice, before taking one on.

  • Ask yourself if something is a ‘want’ or a ‘need.’ The latter is an essential which you need to find room for in the budget, the former is an optional luxury which there may not always be space for.

  • Question whether something offers value. Can you really taste the difference between £3.50 takeaway coffee and something you could make at home?

  • Find ways to make the economical option attractive; it doesn’t have to be nasty instant, even buying nice ground beans, a v60 and filter papers rather than going to coffee shops will save you a heap over the course of a term.

Be realistic about the style of living your income can afford and remember that coming out of university without unnecessary additional debt will feel way better than anything you could buy tomorrow!