Budgeting for university

Going to university is often when we first become financially independent and have to start dealing with rent, bills, food shopping etc.

The most important point is to be realistic when budgeting, there is no point budgeting £10 per month for food if you usually spend £80!

Student finance is paid in instalments termly (around every 3.5 months). However, most of your bills are likely to be monthly so it is important to divide your termly student finance income by 3.5 to get your monthly income.

To budget effectively you will need to understand what your income and expenditure will be.

Income: is any money you have coming to you – including, student finance, scholarships, benefits, grants, wages and birthday money!

Expenditure: is the money you will spend. This can be more challenging to calculate. Firstly, think about your essential purchases – your needs. These include; rent, bills (including TV licence), basic food and contracts (phones, gym etc). Then consider things you would want e.g. new clothes or a night out.

You will need to make decisions regarding your spending and it is unlikely you will be able to afford everything!

What if my expenditure is more than my income?

You will probably have three options, increase your income, reduce your expenditure or a combination of both!

To find ways to increase your income, check out our financing your studies page.

To reduce your expenditure, you will need to check each item on your budget, is it essential? Can you shop around to find it cheaper? Essential items (needs) shouldn’t be cut for unessential items (wants), e.g. you shouldn’t substitute your food shop for a night out!

How to stick to a budget

To do this, you will need to monitor your spending.  This includes reading your bank statements and checking payments.  Below are some top tips other students have shared on how they manage their money on a termly basis.

Budgeting apps like Squirrel, Yolt or Daily Budget can help you monitor your payments and set spending limits, so you can easily keep track of spending.
Separate money into two accounts to help you manage your money for needs and wants. It will help to ensure you don’t spend your rent money for the end of the term by accident.
Set up Standing Orders and Direct Debits to ensure you don’t miss payments for bills, rent and other essentials.
If you find you are spending more per month than you have budgeted for and cannot stick to your budget, it may mean you have set an unrealistic budget, adjust if necessary and check it against your income.


We have put together two example budgets to help you get started, download them using the links below:

Studying in London    Studying outside of London

Budgeting – Top Tips

Finally, check out this helpful video from Becky at MyBnk where she discusses some top tips for managing your money at university.

Start organising your spending now!

Download our helpful student finance budget worksheet

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