For many students, the first time the maintenance loan hits it is the first significant amount of money to enter their bank account. This can cause some students to go a little bit spend crazy. Therefore it is very important to create a budget.
It is important to know where your money is coming from so you can plan out your budget. To begin with, for example, are you reliant solely on your maintenance loan? Do you have any savings that you are planning on using at university? Have you considered getting a part-time job to supplement your income? Will your parents/ carers be supporting you and will it be regular payments or a one-off? Organising it this way means you are less likely to get into debt and will also have a better time as you will not be worrying about where your money is going.
With the maintenance loan, most students receive minimum £1100 every three months roughly. Rent for student housing is done weekly so it is important that you budget it into your allowance from the very beginning. Rent can vary depending on the location of the accommodation, the type (self-catered or catered) and what it contains, whether it’s an en-suite with a shared kitchen, or shared bathroom, or a mix.
Generally, the most expensive sort of accommodation is a studio as this is essentially a self-contained flat. It is important you are comfortable wherever you stay, for example, my first year I was very nervous about sharing a bathroom with strangers, so I decided to pay more for an en-suite, shared kitchen flat. For me, this was a great idea as I met new people without having to share too much. However, as it did cost more this required me to plan my budget carefully. This is entirely your choice, many of my friends had shared bathroom which was cheaper, and they enjoyed it thoroughly.
The clue is in the name, it is a maintenance loan. It is there for maintaining your life whilst at university which means rent and food primarily. This does not mean maintaining your social life either. Then once the necessities are paid for, you can treat yourself. A key thing to note is not spend all your loan at once, for example on a Vivienne Westwood handbag, it is not something you need. That is always a key question, do you need it… or do you just want it?
A little trick I found is if you go into a shop and want to buy something, say a dress. Leave it that day and then if you’re still thinking about it in a week then go and buy it but you have to ensure you can justify it and you really want it. If it’s just going to sit in your wardrobe after, then there is no point.
Make a budget, and try and stick to it. If you are going to spend £20 on food a week but go over by £10 one week then you’ll need to accommodate that missing £10. An easy way to keep track of your spending is in excel. This can add up the money for you, you can make columns for incoming, outgoing, totals, and whatever else you need. Using a journal is also helpful, you can store your receipts, so you know when you’ve spent money and where. Also, this is more of a personal preference but using cash over your card can reduce your spending. When you physically see where your money is going, it does make you question whether you actually need certain items.
Many students see their overdraft as free money, but all that money needs to be paid back. It is essentially an extra load of debt. Also, the minute you leave university, your overdraft provider starts charging you fees for every day you’re in your overdraft. The best way to avoid this is for you to use this if it is only if it absolutely necessary, don’t use it for that one drink at Ocean, it all adds up. Once you are in your overdraft, try and pay it as soon as possible. If it is any significant amount, set up a standing order in order to pay it off on a regular basis.
Planning out your money this way can help you in later life. For example, when you want to buy and car or a house. These are items that you need to save up for. So therefore planning out when you are at university will help you plan out your life later.
A little tip for student life is to have a student account. Many banks have these specially for students with little perks. Santander is a popular one, it offers student rail cards, Lloyds offers a free totum card. Also having a separate account from your main one can help you see your incomings and outgoings in a clearer way.
Being strict with your budget is necessary but this doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, or you can’t buy that item that you want. What is more important is moderation. If you are the sort of person who can stick to what they have planned out, then a budget may not even be necessary. However, if you are the sort of person who likes spontaneous nights out and will order a takeaway when you’re not feeling cooking, then a budget will probably be good for you.