Managing your money

Managing your money at university can be a daunting experience: you may be away from home for the first time, managing student finance payments (without spending the whole lot), or changing your employment to fit around your studies. Whichever situation applies to you, you may need to make a little money go a long way.

Key things you need to know about budgeting on a low income:

  • What is your income? This is how much money you have coming in. Such as your student loans/grants, earnings, money from family, etc.
  • What are your outgoings? This is how much money you have going out. This would include rent, food, bills, books, etc.
  • What is the difference between the two? You could use a spreadsheet, or a budget calculator, to work this out.
  • Do you have any spare cash to save (or spend) at the end of the month?
Living costs: see an average monthly cost breakdown

Advice and useful links

Review your spending

It is easy to spend money and develop bad spending habits, potentially losing track of what your money is being spent on.

If your income has changed, or you are struggling to cover your monthly costs, it is time to review your current spending levels and habits. You may be surprised at how much of your monthly income is spent on coffees, takeaways or spur-of-the-moment buys.

To review your current spending levels and habits and determine what positive changes you can make, look at Your Spending Review exercise.

Online budgeting

There are several websites where you can put in details about your income and expenditure. An online calculator then works out the difference. Why not try changing a few figures, such as how much you spend on food, or leisure, or travel, to see how much it may change your result? You could also use this to plan ahead, by putting new bills or a different rent amount in to see its effect on your budget.

If you are an undergraduate student funded by SAAS, Student Finance England/Wales or Northern Ireland, take a look at our own budgeting calculator.

Other sites include:

Once you've worked out the difference between your income and expenditure, you can start to take action.

  • Can you cut back on spending in any area?
  • Are there any areas where you could cut your spending?
  • Do you have debt that you need to manage?
  • Should you think about getting a part-time job
  • Are there other sources of funding you could consider?
  • Decide how much you can spend on different things – and try and stick to your budget
  • Check the top tips section below

MoneySavingExpert’s Academy of Money with Martin Lewis

The Open University has joined forces with “MoneySavingExpert” to produce this new free course to give you the skills and knowledge to master your finances. The course was written by the Open University, with MoneysavingExpert providing support and guidance.

Find the course at the Open University

The course has six sessions that each take around two hours to complete. It's packed with video, audio, quizzes and activities that cover all the key aspects of personal finance. 

  • Session 1: Making good spending decisions
  • Session 2: Budgeting and taxation
  • Session 3: Borrowing money 
  • Session 4: Understanding mortgages 
  • Session 5: Saving and investing 
  • Session 6: Planning for retirement

You can stop and start the course whenever you want, so you can fit it around your main studies. Plus, you will receive a statement of participation in the course.


Anyone can fall into debt from time to time. However, it is important that you don’t bury your head in the sand and ignore the debt. There are some easy practical steps you can take to avoid debt.

Trying to avoid debt

  • Managing your money – begin by planning a budget.
  • Maximise your income – look at the options you have to access additional (free) money and the information on University Hardship Funds.
  • Minimise your expenditure – look at your budget and check the things you can do without or that you can buy cheaper. Go onto money saving websites for vouchers and money back schemes, use your student card for discounts, check out websites such as Money Saving Expert.

Existing debt

  • If you have debts before starting university, don't ignore them. Find out what you can do to minimise payments or make the debt more manageable.
  • Some debts are more important to pay than others, for example always make sure that you pay your rent and have a roof over your head.

Useful links