How to create and manage a budget

Information and advice on how to create and manage a budget, budgeting tools and savings. You can also speak to one of our money advisers.

Why you need a budget at university? 

Becoming a student can bring many changes to your life including your finances. It is important therefore to understand not just how much money you have to live on but also to know what you will need to spend it on and how far it will stretch. Budgeting is possibly the single most important tool for effectively managing your money so that you can make the most of student life with us. 

Creating a budget will allow you to see if you have sufficient money coming in to cover all of your costs,  help you to control your money and make informed decisions if your income doesn’t stretch far enough.

If you haven’t thought about budgeting or don’t have a budget in place, the sections below provide what you need to get started.

Remember, the key to budgeting is to budget and still live your life. Our budgeting information is intended to help you spend only what you need to on essentials, and still, hopefully, have money left over for the things you like.

Find out more about living costs in travel, food and energy.


How to create a budget

What to consider when creating a budget:

  • What is your income? This is how much money you have coming in. Such as your student loans, grants, earnings and money from family.
  • What are your outgoings? This is how much money you have going out. This would include rent, food, bills and books.
  • What is the difference between the two?
  • Do you have any spare cash to save (or spend) at the end of the month?

If you haven’t created a budget before or aren’t sure about what to include, check out our step-by-step guide to creating a basic budget.

Budgeting tools

Once you have mastered the basics of creating a budget, find the type of budgeting tool that works best for you. There is not one best way to budget.

Our Budget Planner is an excel spreadsheet which allows you to increase or reduce your income and expenditure to determine the impact this has on your budget.

If you are looking for a more detailed and comprehensive budgeting tool, Money Saving Expert's Budget planner tool provides this in both word and excel format.

Your bank may also have some budgeting tools to help you track your spending. Check your bank’s website and the information below:

If you would like more help understanding the basics of budgeting speak with one of our Money Advisers by booking an appointment through the Student Services Hub.

The following websites provide in-depth information:

Reviewing your spending

If you have a budget and feel that you are spending your money carefully, but your income is not covering all of your expenditure, easy lifestyle changes can make a big difference.

It is also a good idea to keep track of your spending to get a true reflection of your spending habits.

One of the easiest ways to go into debt and lose control of your finances is by not living within your means. It can be hard to say no to a social event, especially in university when it’s a key time to build relationships but there are ways to enjoy your life, have fun, and stick to your budget. For example, if you can’t afford to attend an event or social, you could suggest a cheaper or even a cost-free alternative.

The best way to review what you are actually spending your money on is by carrying out a Spending Review exercise. This helps you to examine and identify where you can make changes and cut back your costs.

Your Spending Review guide

Download our Your Spending Review guide to help you get the most out of your money.

Minimising expenditure

If you are struggling to cover all of your costs, it may be a case of needing to spend less and do less until you are living within your means.

Looking at your non-essential expenditure and identifying where you can cut out or reduce costs is one way of regaining control of your spending. Socialising, takeaways, coffees, shopping are just a few areas where costs can be reduced.

If you indulge in life's little luxuries, such as takeaways or fancy coffees try the Money Saving Expert: Demotivator tool, an easy and fun tool to show how much you spend on non-essential items and see how what seems like insignificant spending, when accumulated, can add up quickly and strain your budget.

It might make you think twice and change your purchasing habits. Do you know cutting out the daily weekday coffee would reduce your annual expenditure by over £900 and cutting out £20 a week on takeaways would reduce your annual expenditure by over £1,000.

Ask yourself three questions for every aspect of your life:

  1. Do I need it?
  2. Do I need it now?
  3. If I do, could I do it more cheaply?

If you struggle with living within your means, here are a few tips.

  • Wait 24 hours before buying something you see online or in-store.
  • Suggest a budget-friendly alternative instead of just saying ‘no’ to a plan.
  • Practice mindfulness: do you really need that T-shirt or are you feeling down and could use a friend?
  • Turn on notifications from your bank so you get an alert every time you spend - it will help you make more conscious financial decisions.

More information on minimising expenditure

Check out our money saving tips.

You can also check out the tips on Money Saving Expert's How to Stop Spending guide to see how to save on your bills and essentials.


Saving whilst you are a student may seem like an impossible thing to do, especially if you are living on a tight budget however, it can be a helpful part of managing your money.

Even saving a small amount each month provides an emergency fund for any unexpected costs or expenses or treating yourself. By looking at your budget you can decide how much you can afford to put by each month, whilst not leaving yourself struggling. Have a look at our budgeting webpage and see if this is something that could work for you – remember, something is better than nothing:

Find further information from Money Saving Expert on banking and Save the Student on savings accounts.