The Guide to Budgeting at Uni

A simple guide to managing your finances at university.

Heading to uni? Money can be tight but as long as you make a budget and stick to it you shouldn’t have to worry. Use this guide to stay out of your overdraft at university (or at least try to).

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  1. CALCULATE YOUR INCOME: The first step in working out your budget is to calculate your income. Make a list of all the money that will be coming into your account each month. This will include your student loan, any grants you are eligible for, job earnings, savings you are willing to spend and money from your family. Once added up this will give you an idea of your yearly income.

  2. ALLOCATE BUDGET: Now you are aware of how much money you’re dealing with it’s time to work out where it will be spent and how much (if any!) you will have left over. Start with essential costs such as rent before allocating money to things like entertainment. Your monthly expenditure will include:

  • accommodation
  • books
  • clothes
  • entertainment (e.g. bar/restaurant bills)
  • food & drink
  • phone
  • transport (inc. travel home and household bills)


  • Consider splitting up your annual budget. Whilst usually it may be advised to make a monthly budget, as a student, it is much easier to do it on a termly basis to fit in with the academic year. Remember that there will be times when your income or expenditure varies (e.g. going home outside term time) so be sure to adjust your budget accordingly.
  • It is wise to leave some of your budget in reserve in case any unexpected costs arise – keep a small contingency fund for variable costs such as nights out.
  • Make sure it is a budget you can stick to, if you know there is something you tend to spend more on account for it by allocating money accordingly.
  • For greater accuracy use a budget calculator. Online budget calculators include this one from UCAS and this one from Natwest. Compare the results to double check accuracy.
  • Ensure that you calculate your budget to account for the whole academic year.


Whilst it can be a struggle making ends meet as a student there are some perks such as student discounts and not having to pay council tax (if you’re living with other students). Being frugal and taking advantage of student deals is the best way to save money, here’s how:


  • STUDYING: Avoid spending money on textbooks you will not use. A great alternative is checking whether your university library has copies, keeping a lookout for former students selling theirs and looking in your university’s second-hand bookshop. Study expenses such as library fines are also easily avoided.
  • FOOD: When it comes to meals, plan ahead so you are less likely to be tempted by a takeaway. Make the most of reduced items and freeze meals in bulk. Cooking shared meals with flatmates can also reduce the cost of your food shop.
  • WORK: Consider getting a part-time job or casual work to earn some extra money. Take a look at our jobs section for vacancies near you. Remember that if you are earning less than £11,000 a year you are exempt from paying income tax so claim it back through HMRC if you have been charged.
  • TV: Use online streaming subscription services such as Netflix as opposed to watching live TV and having to buy a TV licence – you could club together as a household for a subscription and it’ll be much cheaper than a licence! If you do buy a TV license and have 3 months left on it when you leave university for the summer you can claim a proportion of the money back. If you’re watching BBC iPlayer, you do need a license UNLESS your parents have a TV licence and you’re watching on a device that’s powered solely by it’s own batteries and not plugged into the mains. So unplug before you catch up on Bake Off!
  • UTILITIES: Research energy suppliers to get the best deal for your utilities. Don’t be afraid to change providers when you move in (not applicable to halls of residence). Don’t waste electricity and water. Remembering to turn lights off when you leave a room, using energy saving light bulbs, monitoring how much water you use and wearing more layers of clothing instead of turning the heating on can save you money in the long run.
  • OVERDRAFT: Check the overdraft limit for your student bank account and ensure you do not exceed it. Don’t worry about going into your overdraft, it is very common. However, try to avoid it if possible and use it for emergencies only – remember that the money is just on loan to you and you will have to pay it back.


This article was written by Ellie Hilborne.

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