Written by Katrina Eastwood
BA (Hons) Economics
Applying to university can be a stressful time for all those involved and the main concern is usually the financial side of student life. You may be wondering how you are going to manage your spending and income while at university. Being an Accounting, Finance & Economics student, I am at a slight advantage. I would like to share some advice of how to manage your finances while at university. The tips will also come in handy when you leave university when money becomes more of a serious matter.
Most students, like myself, are funded through SFE with a loan and/or grant. Others receive funds from elsewhere. Regardless of the source of income, once you have received confirmation of your income you can begin to budget and quickly put your financial worries to rest.
Moving to university, for many, is the first time living away from home and so it will take some time to get to know what kind of person you are in terms of spending. It is a good idea to consider this when you are beginning to budget. I started by listing all the various goods/services which I would consume within a year. This will vary for each student, depending on their lifestyle. However, all students will need to think about how much money they are likely to spend on food each week. I personally spend £30 per week. It is important to really think about what you will be spending; you may have fallen into the habit of your parents buying things such as loo roll. Once you have listed all the things which you are likely to spend your money on, give each area a minimum amount and a maximum amount. This enables you to, at the end of your initial budgeting, pick out areas that perhaps need reducing. You can use whichever timeframe you like – I prefer to use weeks as I find this more manageable.
An example budget – yours might be different!
So, that’s your expenses sorted, now to consider your income. This will vary, but nevertheless list them (Student Finance, any contributions from your family, bursaries, jobs etc!) and give them a weekly, monthly or yearly value. To evaluate your financial situation, take the total income and subtract it from the total expenses, be sure to use the same time frame. You can do two reports, one with minimum amounts and one with maximum amounts.
The initial budgeting will help give you an estimate of your financial situation, however it is a good idea to regularly check your finances, especially in the first month, since you may have incorrectly guessed your spending pattern. By creating an excel document is it easier to make adjustments and stay organised. The way I calculate my monthly check is by taking my bank balance adding other sources of income, subtracting expenses such as food and phone bill for the months remaining until the next SFE payment and then dividing by the number of weeks remaining. This gives you the amount of money you are able to freely spend per week on things such as socialising, haircuts or clothes. Some may like to include the cost of socialising but for myself, I do not include it as it really does vary from week to week. This monthly check is a good indicator of whether you are over spending.
Budgeting for university is initially stressful and worrying, more so for the parents but is easily managed with regular reviews, realistic evaluations of spending patterns and knowledge of funds available to you. Budgeting really is not a problem at university if you have good self-awareness and have carried out an initial financial report to get an idea of the life ahead of you.
By Katrina Eastwood