Moving into your first home as a student is an exciting time. It is your first real taste freedom, away from the parents and siblings, and often your first taste of real financial responsibility. Whilst the temptation to spend that student loan in fresher’s week can certainly be strong, some level of budgeting is pretty much the only way you are going to make it through your time as a student without having to go cap in hand to the bank of Mum and Dad.
If budgeting is an alien term to you, or perhaps you just need some practise, then this guide is certainly for you.
Unfortunately, as a student, the rent you pay for your halls of residence or other accommodation is going to make up the largest part of you expenditure. Hence it is incredibly important to sit down before you select your accommodation and work out exactly how much you can afford. Take into consideration your student loan and grants, any savings you have, any paid work you’ll be doing whilst at university and any contributions you might be lucky enough to receive from your parents. From this you should be aiming to allocate around 30-40% to your rent; anymore and you may struggle to make ends meet.
When signing for your first house it can be tempting to sign quickly without proper investigation or budgeting, particularly as homes for students begin to get snapped up midway through the first term. Do your homework and don’t rush into something you feel like you can’t afford!
Many landlords and halls of residence actually offer all-inclusive bills and roll the charges up into the rent. This is fantastic for taking the stress out of having to worry what and to whom you may or may not owe every month. Typically these deals include water, gas, electricity and internet although you are less likely to get things like Sky TV thrown in too.
That said, it is wise to do the maths yourself if you feel a landlord is trying to charge you too much for an all-inclusive bills package. Whilst it is certainly more hassle, dealing with the utility companies yourself could save you money.
Sadly your days of home cooked food from high-end supermarkets are numbered, as a student you are most likely going to need to learn how to sniff out a bargain. Fortunately, the stigma once attached to shopping at discount supermarkets has now gone and it to be seen saving money is certainly not looked down on as it perhaps once was. These stores are far cheaper than the high-end chains and can save you in the region of 30-40% on your weekly shopping bill.
Sharing the cooking or cooking in bulk will also save you money. Vegetables are cheaper than meat, so use plenty to pad out dishes like chili-con-carne or spaghetti Bolognese. A budget of £25 a week for food should be plenty if you are thrifty and well prepared.
As any knowing second year will tell you, resist the urge to buy all the recommended text books on your reading lists in your first year. You will never even open half of them, and the rest will be given even the faintest of glances. Some of these books cost upwards of £50 brand new.
Wait until you start your course to find out exactly which books you need and whether you can borrow them from your university library. If you find a textbook that is absolutely essential to your course look online or at your student union for book fares or second hands copies. Buying new is expensive and absolutely not necessary!
During your first year and, in fact, throughout your university career, there are going to be countless opportunities to go on nights out with your new course mates and friends. Whilst embarking on marathon boozing sessions or heading out five nights a week might sound fun, it will quickly catch up with you not least in terms of your budget. Make sure you sniff out the student deals, cheaper nights and pick the ones you’re most up for. You don’t have to be the guy or girl who is always up for it and out every evening.
Drawing up a weekly limit for nights out is a sensible way to approach it, with a small kitty in reserve for special occasions.
If after all that you still have some cash to spend, then well done – you’ve budgeting excellently! Fortunately, as a student you’ll have access to all kinds of discounts; from clothes to travel to cinema tickets. Make the most of it as once your student status is over paying full price is a bitter pill to swallow!