Budgeting at university

If the stereotype is to be believed, students never have any money and they survive on Pot Noodles and beans on toast. But what if you knew the secret to having a bouji lifestyle as a student? And we don’t mean winning the lottery or robbing a bank. It’s not that hush-hush – it’s budgeting! Take a look at our tips to guarantee your student life will be fancier than beans (not that we have anything against beans. We love you, beans.).

VOD budgeting article

Before starting university

Make a plan

First things first: decide how you want to play it at uni. Are you going to get a job? Want to focus all your time on your studies (and the SU?). Work out how much money you’ll likely be receiving each month, whether that be from a part-time job, your loan or grant, or maybe from the generous bank of mum and dad.

Set up a spreadsheet (just a small one, don’t panic), and plot out your incomings and your projected outgoings. This will help you work out roughly how much money you’ll have each month for things like food shopping, nights out, socialising and any extras, on top of the ‘sensible’ things you need to be paying each month, like your phone bill…

Don’t worry too much

Everyone worries before a big life change, and we won’t lie that there aren’t pressures and responsibilities when you start uni and move away from home, but the worst thing to do is to over-worry yourself. Yes, you might not have loads of money – but don’t be stingy with yourself and end up having a miserable time. You deserve to get out and about with your new friends and giving yourself a treat every now and then. It’s all about making compromises – night out with your new flatmates and making friends for life is worth a night or two back to your old friend beans on toast, we reckon!

Practise your skills

Whilst you’re still at home, you can practise things like doing the food shop and budgeting with your current wages or incoming money. Give yourself a budget for the week, then for the month, and see if you can stick to it – what things can you live without, and which things do you definitely need to make sure is allowed for in the budget? We’ll cover our tips for sticking to a budget in our food shopping section – keep reading!

At university


Sack off the spreadsheet once you’ve got your plan sorted, and get yourself a budgeting app to keep track of what you’re spending, and where. A lot of the apps on the market now can sync to your bank account to track things for you easily, so you can keep an eye on how much you’ve got left, and if you can treat yourself to that Nando’s at the weekend.

Get a job

Need some extra cash, or fancy saving up a bit for holidays or a splurge in the Bullring? Think about getting a part-time job to supplement your income. As long as it doesn’t stop you from having enough time to study, a part-time job is a great way to add something to your CV whilst still studying, as well as building your confidence, giving you new skills and giving you the opportunity to meet people.

Student discount

You need to make sure you apply for a student discount card once you enrol and have your university email address. The TOTUM card and Unidays account are absolutely vital student staples and are well worth checking before you make any purchases online or in store.

Food shopping

We’ve got one thing to say to you: don’t go food shopping when you’re hungry. Trust us on this one. Always take a list, and stick to it! Keep an eagle eye out for offers, and remember that supermarket brands are often just the same as the big brands. If you meal plan for the week or fortnight, you’ll be able to do your food shopping efficiently and cheaply, whilst still making plenty of meals to keep you going in the library (or after you come in from a night out…). If you’ve got freezer space, make sure you nab any reduced items you see, especially meat or fish.