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Student life

10 tips for living on a student budget

Last updated: February 2023

As you’ll probably already know, your student loan is paid into your bank account in three instalments at the start of each semester. And when you’ve suddenly got lots of cash to splash, it can be really tempting to do just that.

But hold on… before dropping all your spare cash on that new videogame you’ve been eyeing up, it might be worth getting a handle on your finances to check you can really afford it – after all, those funds need to last all term.

It might not sound like the most exciting way to spend an evening, but budgeting your money is probably one of the most important things you need to do when you’re at university. Knowing how much you have to spend each week will stop your finances from getting out of hand and, more importantly, will stop you from constantly worrying about money – so less stress!

A smiling student sat at a table with a laptop, some paper and a calculator

To make it a little easier, we’ve pulled together a list of potential incomings and outgoings you might have at university to help you work out what’s left for you to spend each month. You may also want to consider opening a student bank account that will give you an overdraft facility, as this can be really helpful when it comes to cash flow.

Before signing up, it’s worth checking out which student bank accounts are giving away the best deals. From 0% overdrafts to free railcards and free cash, here’s a guide to the best student bank accounts this year.

Potential income at university

  • Student loan
  • Grants, sponsorships or any scholarships you might be eligible for
  • Monthly income from parents (if any)
  • Income from any part time work

Potential outgoings at university

  • Tuition fees (if you’re an undergraduate, these should be paid directly to the university from Student Finance England)
  • Accommodation fees or monthly rent if you’re not living in university halls
  • Course supplies (books, art equipment etc.)
  • Student contents insurance or gadget insurance (your contents might already be covered by your accommodation provider – you can check this out by registering with My Endsleigh. You may also be covered under your parents' home insurance policy – ask them to check with their insurance provider). Read more about insurance in our ultimate student insurance guide.
  • Utilities - gas/electricity/water
  • Mobile phone / Wifi
  • Groceries / eating out
  • Transport - rail/bus/tube/coach
  • Petrol
  • Car insurance and tax
  • Leisure (gym membership, socialising, cinema etc.)
  • Clothes

Once you’ve worked out how much you need to save each month for your outgoings and how much you have left to spend, you’ll need to keep track of your budget throughout your time at uni. There are some great apps available to help you keep on track such as Wally and Money Dashboard, and others that help you claim money back when you spend online like Top Cashback Squirrel.

If you’d rather not use an app because you’re worried about security, you can find a handy student budget sheet on Save the Student which allows you to enter all your incomings and outgoings and the does the calculations for you, tracking whether you’re living within your means each month.

A student in a blue and white striped jumper sitting at a table with a calculator and sheet of paper - smiling

Here are a few more useful money-saving ideas.

10 tips for living on a student budget

1. Spend in cash

Once you’ve worked out how much spare cash you have to spend each week, take out the amount in cash and spend no more than that.

2. Is it essential?

Before buying anything, think about whether you actually need it. If you’re running out of money and it’s not an essential, then it might be worth saving it for a special occasion (or just a month when you’re not so strapped for cash). Find it difficult to save? Why not try an autosaving app like Plum or Moneybox which use tech to find out what you can afford to save then automatically moves money from your bank account to a vitual savings account.

3. Split up your allowance

Split up your monthly allowance into different envelopes for the different areas of your budget, for example, food, travel and socialising. Only spend the amount of cash in each envelope each week.

4. Recycle

If you’ve finished with something that’s still in decent condition, why not sell if for some extra cash online? Online selling platforms such as Ebay or Gumtree are an easy way to make some money back on your old stuff, or swap or sell second hand clothing on sites such as Vinted or Depop to keep your wardrobe fresh without having to splash out.

5. Make stuff from scratch

If you can knit, crochet or draw, why not make the most of your talents and get creating for money? You can sell pretty much anything, from greetings cards and candles to bath bombs and jewellery. Alternatively, you don’t even need to sell the things you make to save money – restyling your own clothes, for example, can be a quirky and cost-effective way of revamping your wardrobe.

6. Switch bank accounts

It pays to keep an eye out for any deals or cash incentives being offered by other banks. Some will even give you a cash incentive to switch. Equally, some banks offer better deals on overdrafts and interest rates for students, so do your research.

7. Save, save, save

Why not open a savings account for any surprise funds you might receive, such as birthday money, bursaries or even for those items you’ve sold on Etsy – it soon adds up, and if it’s in a separate account you’ll be less likely to dip into it.

8. Be a savvy food shopper

When it comes to your weekly food shop, supermarkets are often packed with offers and discounts that can be particularly tempting when you’re living on a student budget. However, it’s worth calculating whether these offers will actually save you money, or whether you’re just going to end up with far more food than you need. The app Too Good To Go tells you where you can grab magic bags of food that haven’t been sold in time at cafés, supermarkets and restaurants at knock down prices.

9. Buy second hand books

If your degree comes hand in hand with a reading list of expensive textbooks, its worth popping into charity shops to see if any former students have donated their old textbooks. Of course, there’s always your local library and if you’re looking for an online option, World of Books is website dedicated to selling on second-hand books at much lower prices.

10. Stay insured

Have you ever thought about what you’d do if something happened to your belongings whilst you were away from your accommodation? Whether it be a burglary, flood or fire, how would you manage if all of your stuff was destroyed? Making sure you have student gadget cover could give you peace of mind as it would mean that if anything was to happen to your favourite items, you wouldn’t be left too out of pocket.

If you’ve done everything you can to make your money last but you’re still not as financially secure as you would like, then there are still plenty of places to turn to. Most universities have hardship funds, opportunity awards and other options available if you require financial support whilst in full time education.

If you’ve got a part time job, it might be worth talking to your employer – they may be able to let you have a few extra shifts in the short term to help you bolster your income.

A student taking a picture of a cream and red striped top to sell online

Finally, whilst you might not want your family to know that you’re struggling, it’s always good to talk to people who care about you and want to help. Even if they’re unable to help financially, two heads are always better than one and sitting down together and going through your expenses might throw up some more solutions on to save those extra pennies.

If you live in halls and feel like problems with your finances are getting on top of you and you need some professional help, our My Endsleigh app has a 24 hour wellbeing helpline that provides access to a confidential helpline.*

Looking to protect your favourite gadgets?

Cover your gadgets against theft, accidental damage (including cracked screens!) and mechanical breakdown. Includes a 15% Endsleigh discount on up to two gadgets!

Find out more about Protect Your Bubble’s student gadget insurance.

Staying in student accommodation?

You may already have insurance through your accommodation provider! Check and confirm your cover today via the My Endsleigh app.

*Please note this feature is only available to you if your accommodation provider has opted in for this service.

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