Uni is… not cheap. When going to classes is almost like a job, it’s hard to factor in a real job that pays you in actual pounds. You have bills now – rent, food, tuition, and much more. Not to be the bearer of bad news but budgeting is the answer.
Budgeting is something that you may not have learned. If you were, you have learned a valuable life lesson and you are ahead of the game. (High five!) But if you don’t know anything about budgeting or you struggle with it, no worries. We’ve got your back.
Why do I need a budget?
You may be asking because you just don’t want to do it. We get it.
Before we lose you, hear us out on how this is going to make your life so insanely easier. You will wish you started these money-saving hacks in secondary school. Pinky promise.
Imagine you have a bucket of water. You have to carry that bucket from the back of the house to the front to wash your car. As you walk, the water splashes out, all over the place. By the time you get to the car, at least half the water is gone (maybe more). It would be ideal if you had another person to keep adding water so your effort wouldn’t be wasted.
That is how your bank account is. It can feel like a sloshing bucket of water. As soon as the money comes in, it’s spent. It needs to be replenished or you have to learn to stretch a pound. Make one pound feel like two. The only way to feel like you have money is by (you guessed it) a budget.
How do you budget effectively?
First, take a look at your expenses and how much income you have coming in. Starting here shows you what you have leftover after your bills have been paid. Figure out how much you have for food, streaming services, takeaway, and activities.
Try these tips to keep your “bucket” from running as dry as the desert.
You know you have money that is going out. It’s crucial to have money coming in as well. This looks different for everyone. Some have help from relatives, full scholarships, and some have part time jobs. Look for flexible work that is supportive of your University schedule.
Waiting tables, working at your campus book store, or something remote gives you some flexibility. This provides you with a financial cushion to fall back on. Use this as an opportunity. Show employers your experience in time management and problems solving skills, post graduation.
Textbooks can feel like extra tuition because they are so costly. But there are ways around the high price tag. Buy or rent your books from an online store or other students who previously took your class. It’s common to find used books for the fraction of the price of brand new textbooks.
Remember to look for digital copies as well. If you decide to buy your books, try your best to keep them in optimal condition. Sell your books when you’re done so you get some of your money back. Second hand stores are happy to accept gently used books. Try protecting it with a cover so you can get some money back.
You need food to survive. That’s not something you can skip. Practice planning out your meals if you can cook at home or pack a lunch and snacks. Talk with your flatmate about splitting essentials like milk, bread, and eggs. When you both will be using it but you can’t eat it all by yourself, they are happy to pitch in.
You can always opt for a meal plan. Be sure to pick the cheapest option that fits your needs. But do the math. Meal plans can be convenient but that doesn’t mean most affordable. Decide if you would rather have convenience or money in the bank. It’s totally up to you.
University towns usually offer many discounts for students. Restaurants and cinemas take good care of their students. Be sure to bring your student ID with you to take advantage of these perks.
Your university likely has a list of activities it offers for a low price or for free. See if they have a website or a master list with things going on at school. Dances, concerts, theatre, sports, and campus gyms are a few things you can enjoy without breaking the bank. Find out what is included in your tuition and fees.
When you live near a university, you can usually make do without a car. You may have imagined going off to Uni with your own set of wheels but please take our word for it. You don’t need it. Use that money on a bus pass, a bike, or walking to your classes.
Easily save that extra money to have on hand or in case of an emergency. Or put it into your “fun fund” for going out on Friday nights. Avoid paying for maintenance, fuel, and parking. It all adds up even if you don’t owe money on your car.
Finding reasonably priced housing is not as far out there as it may seem. You can find a single room or have a flatmate. If you choose to have a roomie, splitting some expenses comes in handy.
Live close enough to University but far enough away that you aren’t paying top dollar is the ideal solution. Look for student accommodations that offer water, utilities, gas, electricity, wifi, and insurance. One bill that includes everything at a reasonable price relieves stress.
Understand your financial aid.
Knowing what is included in your financial aid will help you budget everything else. What does your aid cover and what are you responsible for taking care of. Look for a loan that allows you to wait until after graduation to make payments. That means less for you to worry about right now.
Grants and scholarships are amazing for students. Those types of money loans, you don’t payback. That’s more money now and less to pay back later. Not sure how your financial aid works? Ask for help from a financial aid counselor so you stay on top of your payments and on budget.
Become your own barista.
Let’s be real. Coffee adds up when you get it every morning (or twice a day for some of us). It really doesn’t take that long to brew your own cup of joe and it will save you in the long run.
You can find an espresso maker or a milk frother at an affordable price. Add flavors so it tastes like a fancy drink from the coffee shop down the corner. This doesn’t mean you can’t ever get coffee that you didn’t make. Limiting it to once a week will save you money in the long run.
Sell items you don’t need.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Ok, so your old stuff may not be trash but you don’t need it or want it anymore. Try selling it for some extra money. Sell clothes, furniture, and books when you no longer need them.
Use social media platforms like Facebook marketplace or apps designed to sell nearby. Post your items in more than one place to increase your chances of a sale. Post it for a little higher price than you want to sell it. When people try to haggle to get a “good” price”, you actually get the amount you wanted and no one knows the difference.
Use the school gym.
You already know about the “freshman 15”. So, why not take advantage of your campus gym. Some even have even gotten into fitness at University and it’s become their full time career. This is usually included with your tuition fees or other miscellaneous fees.
They usually include tracks, pools, fitness classes, or rock climbing walls. If your campus doesn’t include the gym or you don’t have one, try some outdoor activities. Staying active invests in your health now and prevents medical bills later.
Often referred to as an RA, they volunteer in the halls. They are there to support students and keep things peaceful and running smoothly. They keep everyone happy in their accommodations. They don’t get paid but they get discounted room and board – sometimes in exchange for free housing.
You can find out more about how to apply and what is involved on your University’s website. You will find the hours, commitment, and duties for the position. This isn’t for everyone. But if you are conscientious about your budget, this is definitely an option to consider.
Switch bank accounts.
Many banks treat you well when you have been there for a long time. That’s great but that doesn’t help you financially. Did you know that some banks will give you a cash incentive to open a new account?
Yep, that’s right. Free money just for opening an account! Find out if you meet the requirements for the cash offer. When you switch, check to see if your new bank offers savings accounts that earn interest. Interest on savings isn’t as high as it used to be but money is money. Every little bit helps.
See, that wasn’t so painful.
You don’t have to live like a monk all the time. You can still treat yourself to an occasional coffee, happy hour, concert, or nightclub. Enjoy your University experience.
Keeping an eye on your finances will help you stress less and set you up with good habits for life. Habits that some never learn. Get ahead of the game.
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