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Budgeting: a Student's Guide to Essentials

Budgeting is a skill that we all have to begin exercising as we grow older.

Budgeting can be defined as:

"the process of calculating how much money you must earn or save during a particular period of time, and of planning how you will spend it" - Cambridge Dictionary

My story

As a university student, money became a topic that I began to think about more frequently. This is because moving to university, like many other students, was the first time in my life that I experienced what it is like to be financially independent. Not having any experience with budgeting and making mistakes have allowed me to develop into a more financially responsible adult.
Whether you receive student finance or not, budgeting is essential to maintaining the health of your bank account. For me, student finance helps cover a lot of my costs such as my rent for my accommodation and living costs, I soon discovered that there needs to be a plan to help manage my expenditure.


First and foremost, plan. Simply calculating how much money is coming in and going out, will help develop an estimate for the amount of money you will have left. This amount is what you then will have to spend on non-essential buys.

Essential costs are costs that you need for living. These are important costs such as your rent, food, and any other financial commitments you may have, such as mobile phone bills and gym memberships. While non-essential costs are costs that you do not necessarily need to survive. These are not important costs such as designer clothing, fast food, and snacks.

Aside from how much money is coming in and out, it is also important to note when it is coming. This is so that you can manage your 'cash flow'. If this is neglected, there is a possibility that you may not have enough to get you by until the end of the month. However, not to worry! Developing budgeting skills is easy and there are even online tools such as Money Helper's budget planner that you can use to help you on your #BudgetingJourney!

Managing the essentials

Managing the essentials can be often challenging, below are the 8 money saving tips i have discovered over the past year:

  1. Shop bulk - Buying bulk can be an excellent way to save money in the long term. For example, when shopping for rice it can be more convenient to buy a 1kg bag of basmati rice however, the cost per kilo will be a lot higher. This can be seen when comparing the prices of different sizes of basmati rice on the Tesco website.

  2. Batch cooking - Cooking in batches will help save money in a way similar to buying in bulk. It is also a time saver as you only need to reheat the portions in a microwave, resulting in more opportunities to study or relax. Remember to buy plastic containers as these will be the 'storage boxes' for your meals!

  3. Compare the prices - Use sites such as Trolley, to find out which shop sells products the cheapest.

  4. Discounts - Keep an eye out for discounted produce, often marked by a yellow sticker, shops will often discount products that are close to their sell by date. Remember to freeze if you are not going to use straight away. i found helpful was going to the supermarket close to the store closing time, as the workers discounted the products towards the end of their shift.

  5. Loyalty cards - Sign up for loyalty cards for supermarkets you wish to shop at. Signing up is free, and it will help you build points as you shop which will equate to more savings. Often loyalty cards also offer offers that are exclusive to loyalty card members.

  6. Seek support - As a student, unexpected costs can come around. Be sure to check if you are eligible for additional funding such as hardship funds or bursaries, from your school.

  7. Plan - If you still have a year(s) for study left, look to plan your accommodation for the following year as early as possible. Often accommodations can be booked a year in advance. This is when accommodations are offered at the lowest prices as they haven't filled up yet.

  8. Student bank account - Student bank accounts such as the ones offered by HSBC, Barclays, and Santander come with interest free overdrafts for up to 2 years after your course end date*. With many providing sign up perks such as railcards and even cash!

*Bank terms and conditions may vary, please look for this information on the website of your desired bank.

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