Student budgeting proves popular
Thanks to the success of our household budgeting blog, this week the Choose Wisely team have been focusing on student budgeting. I know from personal experience that living off your minimal maintenance loan and overdraft isn’t easy, so I’ve put together a super simple student budget sheet just for students! I’ve used my own (slightly embarrassing) student finances as an example for you. Creating this spreadsheet shone a light into how vital budgeting really is for students. It’s a fantastic way of highlighting where you’re spending too much, and how much of your income you’ll actually be left with before your next instalment comes through. So, whether you’ve just started university or you’re close to graduation, it’s never too late to start budgeting.
Step 1: Open my student budget sheet
My example is in Google Sheets, which is free and easy to use. It will also work in Excel if you prefer using that. All you need to do is open it up and take a look at what I’ve done. I’ve filled it in from September to January (or from your first loan instalment to your second).
Step 2: How’s your money coming in?
As you can see from my example, to start with, you need to fill in where your income will be coming from. This is likely to be from your maintenance loan, wages you earn, any money given to you from your family, or any other income (such as savings you’ve put aside for uni). Once you’ve filled in your monthly income, you can work out how much income you’ll have in total.
Step 3: Where's your money going?
The second thing you need to do in your student budget sheet is work out your monthly outgoings and categorise your spending. I’ve made my own categories, but your spending may be slightly different. Feel free to add and delete rows that are relevant to you. The best way to work out how much you’ve spent each month is to take a look at your previous bank statements. This will give you a pretty good idea of where your money’s going. Once you’ve worked out where your money is going, you can total it up under ‘total outgoings’.
Step 4: What am I left with?
Next, all you need to do is work out your income take away your outgoings. For example, in September, my total income was £1629.75. I spent £730.99, so my remaining balance is £898.76. In October, after adding my income, my current balance is £1148.76. I spent £690.59, so my new balance is £458.17, and so on.
Step 5: "I don’t have any money left… help!"
So, unless you’re already a super savvy saver and/or you have a high income it’s likely you’ll end up with a negative balance at some point in your student budget sheet. Although you may have a student overdraft acting as a security blanket, it’s not ideal to spend three years living with no money to your name. So, the next step from here is to work out how to make some positive changes: which categories are you spending too much in? What are some quick, easy fixes? If you find you’re spending more than you should on transport, for example, you could consider buying a yearly bus pass, rather than an individual ticket every day. Or, if you find you’re spending too much on groceries, you could try buying everything you need in one fortnightly supermarket shop, rather than popping down to the (extremely overpriced) corner shop every other day.
Making small changes like these will make your student budget sheet look much healthier. By going through this process, you’ll realise just how easy it is to keep track of where your money is going each month, and what you can afford to spend. To make life even easier for you, we’ve reviewed two fantastic budgeting apps for you can find out about keeping track of your spending on the go, so have a read of our reviews for MoneyHub and Pariti.
About to graduate? Get to know your financial options and what to do next. Happy budgeting!
Mark joined Choose Wisely in 2015. He continues to work in close contact with the providers, brokers and journalists operating in the world of consumer credit.