Managing your money
If you're away from home for the first time it can be a daunting experience, and if you receive payments from a student loan it can be tempting to spend the whole lot at once. Or maybe you've left a job and are now trying to live on a student loan (perhaps with children to support). Whatever situation applies to you, you probably need to make a little money go a long way.
Key things you need to know about budgeting on a low income:
- How much money have you got coming in? (loan/grant/earnings etc.)
- How much are your monthly outgoings? (rent, food, travel, books etc.)
- What is the difference between the two?
- Do you have any spare cash left to spend at the end of the month?
Take a closer look at our guidance below on online budgeting, money-saving tips and debt.
Advice and useful links
There are several websites where you can put in details about your income and expenditure. An online calculator then works out the difference. Change a few figures and see the impact of spending more or less on different things or the result if you gave up a part-time job.
If you are an undergraduate student funded by SAAS, Student Finance England/Wales or Northern Ireland, take a look at our own budgeting calculator. It's on the Student Money Advice pages on Canvas.
Other sites include:
- MoneySavingExpert.Com's budget planner – a different approach which looks at how much you spend over the whole year, not just each month. Really useful for all students.
- Student Finance Calculator – a helpful calculator for undergraduate students who get their funding from Student Finance England
- The Money Advice Service's budget planner – very useful if you have children or a mortgage. There are some other budgeting tools on the same site including the cutback calculator and moneystretcher.
- NUS – some tips and advice for budgeting
Also – you can take the Money Saving IQ test here to assess your money-saving skills and analyse your strengths and weaknesses to boost your consumer power.
What to do next:
- 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?
- Do you need to do something about debt?
- Could you apply for Discretionary or Assistance Funding?
- 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 for living well on not a lot
It’s YOUR money; don’t settle for less, plan for more.
- Go shopping with a friend and share the multi-buy offers
- Buy Store's own brands; cheaper but just the same
- Never go to the supermarket hungry
- Always use a price comparison website – use cash back sites like QUIDCO
- Try charity shopping for clothing, books, gifts etc. – lower your carbon footprint too
- Always ask for a student discount even if not advertised
- Download vouchers from Money Saving Expert – good tips too!
- Look out for voucher codes at www.myvouchercodes.co.uk/student-discounts
- Don't take kids shopping with you!
Write it down
- Always write a shopping list and only buy what you have written down
- Give yourself a budget and stick to it
Eat well for less
- Cook food from scratch and freeze the rest for later
- Learn to cook – avoid ready meals. See www.beyondbakedbeans.co.uk
- Cook together with your flatmates
- Bring a packed lunch instead of buying lunch
- A coffee a day, costs mount up. Bring your own coffee flask
Some useful sites
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.
- 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.
- Money Advice Scotland – links to free advice agencies in your area.
- National Debtline – telephone helpline, fact sheets, model letters, debt advice and more.
- Debt Help Plan – free advice from moneysaving expert to help you manage your debts and work out a successful route to financial freedom
- Dealing with debt: finding your feet – online information pack from the Scottish Government
- Step Change Debt Charity – offering free, confidential advice and support to anyone who is worried about debt.
- Find out all about credit rating, including a quick credit checker tool at Money Saving Expert.