Budgeting After Term 1
Most of us would be lying if we said we hadn’t at least tried to budget at the start of university. We opened our student bank accounts, promised mum and dad we would never touch the sacred overdraft unless it was a COMPLETE AND UTTER EMERGENCY, and maybe even bought a nice new journal from Paperchase with ‘Budget’ written across it in reassuringly bold letters.
Inevitably, this all goes out the window after a SALE sign appears in our favourite clothes shop, and after three weeks of ‘one little treat’, both the notebook and the promises are gathering dust. Although this doesn’t seem like the end of the world, staying on top of your budget really does have its benefits. I managed to stick to mine for the whole of first and second year, and by doing so I saved money for holidays, ate well and didn’t skimp out on treating myself every now and again. So, here’s my handy term-by-term budgeting formula, and a few tips on how to stick to it!
1) Maintenance Loan (of term) minus Rent (of term)
2) Take remainder and divide by 10 (10 weeks of term)
3) Take this number and minus an estimated weekly food bill.
4) Divide the remainder as you like between savings, other regular costs (e.g phone bill), and a ‘personal’ budget for nights out, clothes, books etc.
This has been my formula for budgeting since Term 1 of first year, and it has worked really well for me. I made sure to set up a savings account for my leftover cash, and by making a weekly commitment to it I saved up enough to go on five holidays between the end of first year and the end of second year. No, really!
The added benefit of the budget is that you can keep your independence and not have to rely on your family for cash when you come up a bit short at the end of the term.
Having the budget is one thing, but sticking to it is a whole other ball game. Although it’s tedious, writing it all down really is the best way to manage it. You can find apps to do this for you, but I would usually rely on good old-fashioned pen and paper. It does seem like a lot of effort at first, but once you get into the habit it’s easy sailing, and eventually you’ll be so good at budgeting that you won’t have to write anything down to stick within your limits!
Another tip for saving cash is planning your meals. Have a set day for food shopping and write out everything you need the night before. You can usually use your supermarket website to get an idea of how much your shop will be, and whether or not it fits into your allotted food budget. When you get to the shop, STICK TO YOUR LIST. If you wander round aimlessly, there is the risk of seeing unnecessary items that seem like a bargain, but eat into your budget. Another tip is to not go food shopping when you’re hungry, as this means you’re more likely to impulse buy snacks, or other items you don’t need.
Overall, the main advice I can give you about sticking to your budget is to make it habit. It seems annoying and tedious to start with, but it really is worth it. Once you learn how to manage your money properly, you realise just how much of it you have to spare. This year I opened a Help to Buy ISA and have used my budgeting formula to incorporate this into my savings habits. The budget is not only helping me through uni life, but also helping me prepare for what comes afterwards. Once you learn to budget at uni, it really is a skill that you keep for life.