The mania of money management: How to create a practical budget
Since many of us move away from home to attend university, this means getting used to doing many new things for ourselves such as cleaning, cooking and budgeting. Contrary to popular belief, budgeting does not mean ‘spend absolutely no money on anything fun at all’. Budgeting is all about giving yourself a reasonable spending limit that covers necessary things like food (and also has room for a few treats such as going out with friends) and then sticking to this limit. While it may be tempting to spend all your maintenance loan on pints of purple and Smack Q jumps, living off instant noodles for the rest of the term sounds pretty miserable. Here I will share some tips on how to create and stick to a sensible budget while you are at university.
The first step to creating a budget is working out how much money you have for the term after you’ve paid accommodation fees, and then working out how much money you will be likely to spend. Personally, I set myself a weekly budget, as opposed to a monthly one, as I find this makes it easier to keep track of exactly how much money I have available to spend. Find your maximum weekly spending limit by dividing your total amount of money by the number of weeks in the term. However, remember that your maintenance loan is also meant to last over the holidays until your next payment so take this into consideration. For example, if you find you have £60 a week to live on, maybe reduce this to £50 a week then you will have some spare money to spend during the holidays. If you have a job and have money coming in weekly/monthly the same process still applies, however you set your budget based on how much money you know you will have coming in per week/month.
After finding your weekly budget, then work out how much of this you will need for necessities such as food, transport and doing the laundry. It might take a few weeks to work out how much you spend on food each week, however once you have worked this out, it will make sticking to your weekly budget much easier. Set aside a set portion of money from your budget that will go towards necessities and try not to go over this amount. To make your money go further, try to shop at places like Aldi, rather than Tesco as it is considerably cheaper. Furthermore, visiting the shop itself rather than doing online delivers usually helps you to save more money. Plus, visiting the actual shop allows you to see any offers or deals they might have in store that aren’t online. Buying own brand products will also help to reduce costs and most of the time they taste exactly the same as name brands. To ensure you’re not wasting food (or money) only buy things you will actually eat. While you may buy three huge bags of carrots with the intention of eating healthily all week, it’s not healthy for your wallet if you end up not using any of the carrots and have to throw them all away. Instead, only buy things you will actually use and if you have leftovers, consider freezing them to eat another day. Making your own food instead of buying from cafes or restaurants everyday will also help you save money.
To save money on transport, consider walking or cycling if possible, or getting a bus pass rather than always taking an Uber. Buying a clothes drying rack will also help you save money on your laundry as you can dry your clothes on the rack, instead of having to pay to use the tumble dryer. If you need books for your course, consider borrowing them from the library instead of buying them. Alternatively, look for PDF versions online or second-hand copies as these nearly always cheaper than new textbooks.
Budgeting is not just about spending money on necessities and you should put money aside for the occasional treat. For example, you could sometimes treat yourself to a drink from Costa or go out with your friends once or twice a week. Many students have already discovered the money saving skill that is pre-drinking before going out since drinks in clubs are often expensive. I recommend putting any spare money left at the end of the week into a savings account for use in emergencies.
I hope this way helpful and if you have any questions feel free to leave a comment!