5 top tips for budgeting while at university in UK

As students begin their preparations to start university in the autumn, for many young people it’s the first time they’ve had to properly manage their finances. 

From rent, to food shops, to going out, students’ maintenance loans are already stretched pretty far, however with the ongoing cost of living crisis, increasingly students may struggle to make ends meet. 

A recent NUS study found that a third of students are living on less than £50 a month, with most students saying the value of their maintenance package is not enough to cover their outgoings. 

Whether you’re considering getting a part-time job or looking to apply for a personal loan while you study, here are our top 5 budgeting tips to help get you started.

5 budgeting tips for students

1. Creating a clear budget

It may seem obvious but setting a clear budget is essential if you’re looking to manage your costs while at university. 

Calculating exactly how much money you have coming in along with all of your outgoings can give you an overview of exactly how much money needs to go where and how much is left over for things like shopping, eating out and partying. 

If you’re unsure how much you are likely to spend on different things there are various online tools which let you look at the average monthly living costs for individual cities broken down by things like rent, transport, internet and food costs. 

It’s worth noting that you’re more likely to spend more in the first semester as you settle into your new routine, purchasing homeware, textbooks and the necessary technology, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t naturally fall into a good rhythm of budgeting immediately. 

2. Try using two bank accounts

First step is to open a specialist student bank account to take advantage of the interest-free overdraft, along with the freebies they offer such as railcards and cash. 

Utilising this as your main account then channelling your money into a second account that you can use for your day-to-day spending and bills is a great way to manage your money. 

App-based banks such as Monzo and Starling are great options for this since they have handy tools like pots to allocate your budget to. With lock and roundup functions, you can limit how much you dip into allocated saving spaces.

3. Buy used and discounted items

Purchase used textbooks, clothing, and other items whenever possible.

Charity shops and swap shops are low-cost, sustainable options for finding clothing for your nights out, fancy dress events and trips to campus.

To save money on food, shop in the evening time as lots of items are priced-down if they’re approaching their best-buy dates. Often marked with yellow stickers you can purchase fruit, veg, dairy products and ready-meals at a reduced price. 

Additionally apps such as Olio and Too Good To Go are great ways to find food that businesses, cafes and restaurants in your area are selling for cheap or giving away for free. 

Social media is then a great resource to find cheap, easy recipes to follow and experiment with. 

4. Check for student discounts

There are a wealth of student-specific discounts available to take advantage of.

From broadband to streaming platforms to council tax, spend some time researching where discounts are available before making a purchase. 

Websites such as UNiDAYS and Student Beans list dozens of discounts to us across retailers and it’s always worth asking at checkout. 

5. Find out if you’re eligible for extra support

If you are really struggling, most universities offer hardship funds for students that need additional financial support. 

Loans and bursaries are available along with scholarships and grants from charities and special interest groups to employers and professional bodies looking to attract smart graduates.

There are different eligibility criteria based on your course, your university or your personal circumstances, but it is worth doing some research as you may find out you are eligible for something you didn’t expect.