Budgeting and Money Management

Love it or loath it, once you have mastered the art of budgeting you will be on the road to success. You will be able to spend more time concentrating on your studies and the other aspects of university life that you should be enjoying. 

People tend to budget using different methods. Whilst you need to choose a system that's right for you, you also need to ensure you have accounted for all of your spending in a format that others can also make sense of if needed.

Budgeting is not simply a case of creating a budget once, overspending in the first week, and then throwing it away in frustration. Especially if you budget for the first time, you may forget to add something or you might be a bit unrealistic in your expectations. Budgeting is a rolling process that you need to keep up to date regularly. For instance, if you spent twice as much as expected on groceries last week, enter the new number into the budget and see if that is sustainable. If you end up with a big gaping minus, you'll have to make sure you spend less on groceries for a while or find another place to make savings.

Before you use any budgeting application there are a number of things you need to consider.

  • Work out the time you are going to be using the budget for - are you going home during the holidays, or does the money have to cover that time, too?
  • Try and estimate an allowance for one-off expenses. Christmas presents, weddings, car repairs and other surprises can be financially troublesome unless you plan for the unpredictable.
  • Don't forget to plan ahead for things like phone and fuel bills which you may receive on a quarterly basis.
  • If you need to make savings cut back on the non-essentials rather than the essentials. Don't stop paying your rent, travelling to university or buying food to pay for clothes or entertainment.
  • The spreadsheet will work out the amounts for you; all you need to do is check that you have a positive at the bottom rather than a negative!
  • You need to ensure that you have an accurate picture. Don't miss out expenses to push you into a positive amount.
  • Make sure you account for everything! You may think you know where the bulk of your money is going, but what about all those little extras? This is a very important step if you are serious about finding ways to stretch your money. One way to do this is to jot down your spending in a notebook, after you have done this for a few days you will start noticing how the small things really add up and more importantly where you can start cutting back.

After you've planned your budget, you shouldn't forget about it. Check your outgoings regularly. Have a look at your mini-statement once a week, compare it to the week before and see whether you're within the estimates you made in your budget. If you have a credit card, don't forget to keep track of the money spent with it.

At some point, you will probably find yourself having spent more than you expected. Then it becomes important to look at where the overspending occurred - and decide whether it was a one-off, or whether there is a pattern behind it. (Many one-offs can be a pattern of their own!)

If you think that you systematically struggle to keep within the budget, it might be time to re-assess the original plan, and possibly seek some advice. The Student Money Advice Team is not just there to bail you out when you've run out of all money - they also offer financial advice and might be able to help you spot problem areas in your budget. They might be able to help you tweak the budget to be more realistic, but still manageable.

Making your money go further

If you have maximised your income and you are still in the negative then your only solution is to reduce your spending.

Only you can decide what you can and can't cut back on but one of the easiest ways to do this is to look at your expenses and ask yourself:

 Is this category absolutely necessary?

  •  If not can I do without it?
  •  If I can't do without it, can I substantially reduce my spending in this area?

Important things to remember

Whilst it would be ideal it's important to remember that you don't have to have a perfectly balanced budget month in month out. It's far more important to create a budget that's realistic and works for you. When budgeting make sure you remember the following things:

  • be honest: you're only cheating yourself and no-one else
  • prioritise: it's important to put enough money aside for the essentials, like rent, food and services
  • remember, if you are paying by quarterly instalments make sure to include these in your monthly budget
  • be disciplined: stick to your budget
  • don't make impulse purchases: take a shopping list with you and resist items you don't need
  • work out your budget as early as possible: this will ensure that you don't overspend in the early weeks of term
  • remember, it's got to last: loans and grants are intended to cover the whole of the academic year. It is important to budget for the full year irrespective of the time you receive your payments.

The Money Advice Service has an excellent Budget Planner to get you started

MoneySavingExpert has masses of information and top tips to keep you on the right track

Information regarding general Living Cost whilst studying at the University

If you would like some advice and guidance regarding budgeting and how to manage your money then please Contact Us to book an appointment with an Adviser.