Perhaps people get the wrong idea about students. There’s maybe the assumption that students are horrifically poor and live off a diet of beans, toast and cheap vodka.
I am delighted to tell you that this stereotype is somewhat unfounded. Being a student with a limited budget is by no means easy, but thanks to cheap supermarkets, the Internet and modern banking techniques, it’s perfectly possible for a student to live a healthy, active and entertaining life without breaking the Bank of Mum and Dad.
So what exactly is budgeting? Perhaps the easiest way of looking at it is that budgeting is ‘spending appropriately, setting yourself a target and sticking to it.’
With the various amounts of funding available comes a variety of different expenses, ranging from accommodation rent to sports team or society membership and (if you’re a forgetful student) library fines. Keeping track of all of these expenses is probably my first piece of advice!
So why should you get budgeting right? Well, firstly it will reduce amount of debt you will have when it comes to graduating – you get charged interest on your student loans so the less you spend the better! Also, just because you’re a student, it doesn’t mean you don’t have to abide by the agreement you have with your bank (they will charge you interest and the like, so avoiding your overdraft is always a good idea!) Working to a nice budget is really a life skill if I’m honest. The earlier you start it, the better you’ll be in later life when budgeting becomes a lot more serious. If nothing else, budgeting correctly takes a load of your mind. There’s nothing to distract you, least of all a nagging feeling in the back of your head that might have an impact on your studies.
So how do you get budgeting right? Here are five tips for you:
Make a plan at the beginning of the year – Think about your day to day living expenses and how much you realistically think you’ll be spending each day and use this to form a plan. Consider how much you’ll want to be going out to parties (it’ll be more so at the beginning of the year with Fresher’s Week, but with assignments and exams it’ll hopefully tail off.) Consider how much your rent will be (if you’re living in halls or a house) and how often it needs to be paid. All of these things will factor into a budget which can be used every day. Monitor your budget regularly too to see where you can make savings if you have to. I personally would recommend getting money sent to your account each week instead of getting it all in one lump (obviously excluding rent if that is paid in big chunks) via a scheduled payment from another account.
Money tight? Choose budget – literally… Let’s face it, unless you’ve got a job that pays you a small fortune you won’t be buying caviar each day. When you’re in the supermarkets, look down. I don’t mean that in a snobbish way – literally look down towards the bottom of the shelf. The cheaper ‘value’ products are down there! For essentials like baked beans (pardon the stereotype) you often don’t know the difference. There’s always budget stores about like Lidl, Aldi and Iceland that offer solid quality for a reasonable price.
What I have noticed is the rise of the market. Gone are the days of markets being for the wealthy only, a local fruit and vegetable market is actually at times cheaper than the supermarket. Meat can be expensive, though if you’re in a rural area you’ll find it coming out of everywhere – in Lincoln there is a butcher that sells large packs of great-quality meat. With their mix-and-match deal on all of the meat, it works out cheaper than going to Morrisons. For the socialists among you, you’ll even have the satisfaction of contributing to the farmers more than the capitalist corporation….
Limit the going out and don’t go mad – OK, the first few weeks at uni are likely to be fuelled by parties, discount entry wristbands and the discovery of what a bar crawl really is. I know some people who save up over the Summer for one last week or two of freedom – that’s fair enough. However, when the work starts you need to settle down and hit the nightclubs less. Not only will it help your learning, I guarantee it’ll save you money. As a rule of thumb, avoid VIP sections of clubs (they do the same drinks in a quieter area for 3 times the price!) and watch out for ‘glamorous’ sounding names… In Lincoln one night run is entitled “Entourage” – it’s the same as another night but with ramped up drinks prices. Don’t fall for it.
A cash world really is a better world – Once you’ve got your money in your account, withdraw the money from a cash point and find somewhere safe to put the plastic. That way, it’ll remove any temptation to withdraw more money out later… or commit the cardinal sin of student nights out and pay for drinks on a card when you run out of cash… (I deny everything.)
Get a job – if you want to have a more relaxed approach to uni life or are prepared to spend a little more, consider getting a job. No, I don’t want to hear moans from students who say that there aren’t any jobs…. where there is a student market there will be jobs. Supermarkets, offices and bars will all take you, even your Student Union will have paid work going. Where there are nightclubs there will be promotional work to be done (making you instantly the most popular person about) and many other places. Getting a job eases financial strain on your day-to-day living and can even help you save for the future.