No body likes it. Nobody wants to actually pay for food or toilet roll. Then again, nobody wants to be left with no money and starve for a month because all their student finance money has been blown on a 52″ TV because wow now I have money and I can spend it all. I’m just going to straight up say it – no you can’t spend it all on everything you’ve ever wanted since you were five!
Okay, rant over. Well, nearly. Here’s my guide to actually living well and having lots of money to spend whilst paying for your essentials like, you know, food and rent. Once you’ve got your musts sorted, leisure-spending can be worked in. It’s this easy – work out what you absolutely need to pay for like rent, and how much food you’re roughly going to buy each week/month, then other things like going out, getting a takeaway and going clothes/games shopping won’t leave such a big hole in your bank account that your rent isn’t covered by the measly amounts left in it.
Don’t be scared; a lot of students don’t get budgeting right or it takes a while to get into the swing of it – and scarily some adults struggle too! I’ve found a way that’s worked for me, so I’m going to tell that to you today. Aren’t you lucky? 🙂
Step One – Income
Before you can think of spending anything, you need to get a rough idea of how much money you’re going to have. This includes your student finance maintenance loan/grant, any financial help your parents/relatives may give you, scholarships/bursaries, wages from any jobs you may have etc. Then what you need to do is work out how much you’re going to get each term/semester; you’ll usually get student finance money each term, so that’s a good place to start.
Step Two – Rent
Rent and bills will be the biggest thing on your expenditure list, so this comes first – always! You’re likely to have to pay rent each term/semester, and these might be split so one term costs more or less than the other two – so just check it out first, as it could leave you with a hole in your bank account you weren’t expecting! The average living costs for the UK (excluding London) is said to be £4,834, so that roughly equates to $1611.33 a term if split equally. Your rent amount depends on a number of things: contract length, location, single/double bed, bills included, house/halls, ensuite/shared bathroom, catered/self catered etc. If you have to pay for bills separately, it’s about £13-£23 a week for gas, electrics and internet, with a TV license on top of that if you want it.
Step Three – What you have to work with
Take your rent costs away from your income to give you everything you have to work with for that term. It may surprise you – it certainly did when I first did this! If you’re looking at your costs before you go to uni (great stuff, as you’re being prepared!), you may want to search out for any scholarships your chosen universities may offer based on academic performance, to give you little extra money to help you out. If you find your term costs are in the minus, you might need to search for a part time job to help you live a little easier, or ask parents or relatives if they will be prepared to help you out. Alternatively, if you’re looking at accommodation and haven’t actually started uni yet, you might want to chose a cheaper, alternative accommodation to reflect what you can realistically afford!
Step Four – That thing everyone loves called FOOD
I’d say £30-£40 food shopping money per week is absolutely plenty; I had £50 budgeted per week for all living costs last year, which included food, any leisure, going out for meals, other shopping etc., and my budget sheet I made said on average my weekly spending for food was around £15-20! It can be done, and I will make another post soon about how to actually eat like royalty on a student budget – I won’t disappoint. The most important thing you need to do is stick to your food budget. This can be per week (my preferred method) or per month I’d say instead of per term, as that can leave you high and dry if your spending is much greater at the start of term. Keep your receipts, or use a budget spreadsheet (again, I will make another post soon including the spreadsheet I used – it has useful calculations to see how much you’re spending each week, and how what you’re spending affects the other weeks you have to plan for.) to keep track of what you’re spending, and how well you’re keeping to your limit.
Step Five – Toiletries and Household Essentials
You’ll need toilet roll, toothpaste, deodorant etc., so don’t forget to factor in these things! I can’t say from experience, but I can only imagine how annoyed I’d be with myself if I’d spent a great deal on creating an impressive stash of beverages or games let’s say, but have to go for a month smelling like an old sock because I have no money for deodorant. That’s not a good look. I’d guess about £30 would be a high estimate of these costs per month, including things like laundry if you need to pay for it separately.
Step Six – Anything left is what you have to spend
You might find by this point your balance is teetering on the verge of going negative, is negative, or if you’re one of the lucky students, you have plentiful amounts of cash to spend how you wish. I’d say the first option is the situation most students will be in. If this is you, there are ways you can help yourself! Here are a few:
- Cook from scratch
- This will save you money and is ultimately a lot better for you. I find cooking a good stress reliever too 🙂
- Don’t eat out insane amounts
- Treating yourself once in a while with some friends is nice – but make it stay a treat, so every so often
- Supermarket value products will be your saviour if you want to save money!
- Buy food in bulk, or share bulk foods with friends and split the cost
- A 3kg bag of Tesco pasta is £3, whereas a 500g bag can be like £1.50!!
- 3 for £10 meat – your freezer will be your best friend. Bag up meat separately and in portions, and freeze for a later date
- Markets are always cheap; fruit, veg, meat is all good
- BIGGEST STUDENT TIP and everyone does it… put your loaf in the freezer when you buy it! It keeps for ages and you only have to defrost a slice as and when you need it
- I’m not going to tiptoe round the fact that students and alcohol are usually practically a pair; I don’t drink that much, but on the occasion that I do go out, I’ve found that buying x cans of drink and sharing them with a friend cuts costs, and is a good way of moderating yourself! Alternatively, buy a bottle of a spirit or whatever and make it a flat bottle, so everyone chips in
- You don’t need that cute top, or that must-have game
- …Yet, anyway. There is such thing as Christmas and your birthday!
Set yourself a budget each week for everything other than the essentials; if you spend less one week, you can up that amount for another week – or vice versa. All you need to do to budget successfully is be conscious of what you’re spending, and how what you’re spending will affect you later in the term or later in the year.
Phew, if you’ve lasted this far, well done! I suppose that’s all I have to say on the matter right now, and I hope I’ve given you a little bit of an insight in how to keep your money in your pocket and not in your overdraft!
~ Until next time 🙂