Living on a budget

Understanding and controlling your finances is an important aspect to being a successful student. Knowing what money is coming in (income) and what you’re spending it on (expenditure), will enable you to manage your finances and reduce money worries.

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“Don’t be lured in by freebies like Amazon gift cards or Cash rewards – keep your eyes peeled for the [student bank] account that gives you the largest overdraft with the lowest interest.”


Make a list of everything you spend money on. It’s easy to remember the large costs, such as rent, but don’t forget regular outgoings (mobile phone contract, hair cuts), occasional spend (birthday and Christmas presents for friends and family), and the small things that can add-up (take-away coffee/tea/hot chocolate). 

Write down a cost next to each item. Some costs are easy to find, such as the price of a hair-cut. Some costs may need to be estimated, such as how much you spend on clothes and shoes.

Be aware of how often you spend money on each item and work out the weekly cost. For example, if you spend £48 per month on a mobile phone, the weekly cost is £12. Add the weekly costs together to find out how much you spend per week.


Now write down your income for the year. What will you receive from loans, grants, bursaries, scholarships, part-time work or family support? Work out your weekly income by taking this total amount and divide by 52.

Your budget

Compare the weekly cost for expenditure to the weekly cost for income:

  • If the two are the same: you have just enough income to cover your expenditure
  • If your expenditure is higher than your income: you have a short-fall and do not have enough money. You will need to either reduce your expenditure or increase your income
  • If your expenditure is lower than your income: you have more income than expenditure and you could save some of your income

Making your money go further

Most students have more expenditure than income. Here are some of the ways they reduce their expenditure:

  • Student discounts: lots of shops, galleries, cinemas, cafes and travel companies offer a student discount  
  • Use free resources: borrow books from the library rather than buying them, look out for freebies and giveaway promotions on campus
  • Groceries: take advantage of special offers and reductions, buy products you use regularly in larger sizes as they are usually cheaper
  • Plan ahead: travel by train, coach or plane is cheaper if you book ahead. Gig tickets are a few pounds cheaper if they are bought ahead of time rather than on the night

Find out about budgeting as a student