How to take control of your student budget

Whether you’re at university or just about to start, one of the main worries for students is money. Guest blogger Nikki Elkin is back to help! Having learnt the hard way, she’s made mistakes managing her money and in her latest blog post shares her tips for getting it right.


Budgeting is so important. University is a really good chance for you to show yourself and your family that you’re independent and budgeting your money and not being dependant on them is an excellent way to do this.

It can be quite difficult because university is the time where you want to be out socialising as much as possible (mainly to keep you sane from the workload) – there are lots of opportunities to meet people and make friends, and there’s usually something going on.

I’ll take you through a few stages and DOs and DON’TS of budgeting and ways to make the most of your money as a student:

life-saving-swimming-tube-737370_6401) DO NOT GET A CREDIT CARD!

In my first year of university, I stupidly had a credit card. It was easy for me to get at the time as before I went to uni I had a full time job and didn’t have a bad credit history. I was silly with it and it was supposed to be just for ‘emergencies’ ie. if I was starving and needed to buy a loaf of bread. Instead I’d keep it with me at all times and it would become my ‘magic card’ on nights out where I’d end up buying rounds of drinks for all my friends (not exactly what you would call an emergency, eh?).

Basically I wasn’t responsible enough to have a credit card and I don’t think anyone is until they’ve probably left university and have a full time job whereby it isn’t essential to budget. So, my advice to you would be if you have a credit card PLEASE cut it up or give it to your Mum or someone you trust like a housemate and only allow them to give it to you for actual emergencies.

2) Remember that you have the power to change your financial health

Whatever it’s called in the world, money is what gives us the ability to do things. Money gives us ‘freedom’ almost, it allows us to follow the latest fashion trends, to do fun activities, to go on nights/days outs etc.

An excellent idea if you are struggling for money is to get a part time job whilst studying. It’s also a great way to be more independent, learn a new skill and about a company, and to meet new people from your city. I really enjoyed working whilst I was at university as I met some great people and my in-goings increased which meant I had more money to spend on the things I wanted to (mainly shoes).

3) Prioritize

It is really important to prioritize your money and student savings, budgetestablish the differences between what you need and what you want.

Imagine you’re going to the shops and write a list of everything you think you need. It can be basic necessities, such as milk, or more expensive items such as a handbag or shoes. Once you have a list of approximately 10 items; label these 1 to 10 in order of importance. Then take items 1 to 5 and look at the importance of the actual items – buy these if you need them.

Then with numbers 6-10 do not buy them straight away, simply do the same thing in a week’s time (or however often you go shopping) and revise the previous week’s list seeing if numbers 6-10 creep up on your list again. If they don’t appear on your list, it’s most likely these items aren’t necessities and can wait for a later date. You might even establish that you don’t actually want them after a while and your previous habits may have consisted of just buying things for the sake of it.

4) Thou Shalt Pay Thyself First

This rule is very important. We spent so much time paying others first that, when all was said and done, we had very little to nothing left at all from our pay check/loan or bursary. Pay yourself first, then pay others.

By putting a predetermined amount of money aside for savings before anything else, you’ll be setting yourself up for savings success and you’ll no longer be short changing yourself after paying your bills, entertainment and other expenses.

The key is to list every expense you have in a given month and label the fixed bills/expenses that must be paid no matter what (think rent, car payment, phone) as well as the variable expenses used for things such as groceries, restaurants, clothing and household utilities. If you add up your total fixed, variable expenses and savings and subtract it from your total income after taxes and other deductions from your pay check (net income), you’ll have left what is called your ‘discretionary income’.

Net income – (Fixed expenses + variable expenses + savings) = Discretionary income

The discretionary is used for things that aren’t necessities but more luxuries. It’s used for such expenses such as going to the movies etc. These are things that you could focus on cutting back on if you’re looking to save more money or want to pay off more debt.

By determining what your actual discretionary income is and by really focusing on cutting back some of these expenses, you’ll find that you gain a level of control over your spending you’ve never had before. It may seem like a challenge at first, but believe me when you feel empowered over your financial health it makes you feel awesome!

5) Save for a rainy daystudent budget, budgeting

If you’re saving, what are you saving for? Saving for a rainy day could mean saving for a set of golf clubs (especially if you play a lot), a guitar you’ve been really interested in for quite some time, or a vacation. Start saving for a rainy day now and when you do actually buy those set of golf clubs you’ll do so guilt-free.

6) Thou Shalt Not Give Up!

Let’s face it, budgeting can be very frustrating, even if you’re doing everything correctly. Approach it with confidence and stick to your plan and you’ll find you can do it! It’s no secret that the key to not giving up is teamwork, so it might help to surround yourself with people with a similar mind-set to you in terms of budgeting.

Teamwork is so important, not just with finances, but with life in general. With this comes negotiating what your priorities are as a household. For example, if you live in a shared house and sometimes split the money on groceries to make meals for the whole house, make sure everyone is in agreement on the budget.

If you find yourself surrounded with people who aren’t interested in budgeting and spend their money as soon as they get it, do not be put off. Be aware that there are cheaper ways to live!

Thank you for reading and I really hope you’re able to find a way to budget that’s right for you! Good luck!

Nikki ?



Hi my name’s Nikki and I used to be a student at UWE Bristol. In my spare time I enjoy; attending music festivals, listening to music, cooking, yoga, meditation and blog writing. I have been blogging for a couple of years now and I hope my writing encourages people to take positive steps in life to reach their personal goals.





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