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The complete guide to managing your finances as a student

Here are some tips to help you manage your budget sensibly, and still do the things you enjoy every month.
By Editorial on Mar 5th, 2018   @freelotteriesuk

Students are often defined as malnourished and poor with exceptionally high blood alcohol levels (though research from last year would actually suggest otherwise). These descriptions are to some extent unavoidable - all that is, apart from struggling with money.

As a student you are likely to be somewhat used to the idea that for the next few years of your life, money will be tight. While it may sometimes be tough, you are in the same boat as the vast majority of students and getting by is definitely doable.

Here are some tips to help you manage your budget sensibly, and still do the things you enjoy every month.

Know your outgoings

Most students get handed their loan in a lump sum at the beginning of each term. It’s a lot of money in one go so it’s really important to be able to spread it out. Otherwise you might find yourself surviving on 28p instant noodles and vitamin tablets for the last few months of the year.

The first step to creating a budget to see you through the term is getting to grips with exactly what you spend every month. To do this, make a list of all your regular outgoings. You’ll have your own variations but some staples are: rent, bills (internet, water, gas, electric and phone), travel, food and, let’s face it, Netflix.

Add all of this up, multiply it by the number of months left until you receive your next loan payment and set that much aside. This way you’ll definitely be able to pay for all your non-optional expenses throughout the term.

You know you can spend the remaining money because you have the essentials covered.

Find the deals

Loads of places offer student discounts or some sort of student deal. They can make a serious difference to your budget so it’s definitely worth keeping an eye out for them and always checking before handing over your money.

Shops will usually make their student offers fairly obvious, but you can also check student deal websites to see what’s on offer. Just make sure you carry your student card with you so you can take advantage. Here are a few offers worth knowing about:

  • All students get an NUS card as long as they attend a participating university. This is your key to lots of instore discounts. However not everyone knows about the NUS Extra card – it’s £12 a year and offers loads more discounts – find out more here.
  • Amazon student allows you to get free next day delivery and discounts on everything from books to laptops for six months.
  • At McDonald’s you can get free food every time you buy a meal.
  • Students are eligible for the completely free Office 365 Education suite, which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. Microsoft will also give students 10 per cent off tech which is very handy for when your laptop packs up two days before your dissertation is due!
  • A 16-25 railcard reduces the cost of all of your train tickets by 33 per cent. It costs £30 for a year, and you’ll make that money back in no time.
  • Keep an eye on the best student discount websites. Ones we’d recommend include StudentBeans, Student Money Saver and the student deals section on MoneySavingExpert.com. 

Be realistic

Even by setting aside all of your essential monies at the beginning of the term and having the rest to play with, don’t expect to spend exactly the same amount every month. Some months are unavoidably more expensive and you’ll need more spending money. Equally, some will be cheaper, when you’re going out less because of exam revision for example.

Don’t panic if one month seems to be getting out of hand compared to the last, you’ll likely be able to compensate for it later in the year.

Be savvy with food and learn to cook

There are lots of ways to cut down on the cost of food, the main one being, stick to supermarkets and cooking at home over eating out and takeaways. Some basic cooking knowledge will go a long way and will help you save a fortune on food – and it will be healthier.

When you do your shopping, try the supermarket own brand. They are generally significantly cheaper, you often get more food, and the quality is just as good.

Finally, cooking in groups can hugely reduce the overall cost of meals. If you take turns cooking meals in a group of four, it’s possible to get the cost of each serving down to £1 per person.

These tips should help you get into good financial shape in no time, and most importantly, allow you to have enough money set aside to make the most of your time at uni.

Kevin Pratt is marketing executive and student budgeting guru at Access Self Storage