It’s Freshers; you’re away from home for the first time, living in a big city with brand new people, and SAAS has just transferred you a lump sum of £900. Anybody who says this cushty boost to their bank account doesn’t fill them with excitement is lying. What tends to slip our mind, however, is the fact this money WILL run out if we don’t budget properly. So, here’s a handy dandy list of budgeting tips to hopefully make your first month of independence that little bit easier.
#1 SET UP A SAVINGS ACCOUNT
This is my number one budgeting tip for anyone – not just Freshers. Setting up a savings account which you can easily access makes separating your money and budgeting so much easier. Most banks allow you to have your current account and savings account side-by-side on your digital banking app, making it super hassle-free to transfer money back-and-forth as and when you need.
#2 SET YOURSELF AN ALLOWANCE EVERY WEEK – AND STICK TO IT
On that note, I always recommend people who are trying to sustainably budget have most of their money kept in their savings account and set themselves a weekly allowance. Now, this part might take some trial-and-error to uncover how much money you will realistically need in a week. When I was in first year, I found that I could live comfortably and still manage to do the things I enjoyed on £50 a week. It was sometimes a struggle, but I kept it up for the whole of first year with the odd exception here or there. Once you have decided on your allowance, transfer just that amount across to your current account from your savings account on the same day every week – it works a treat and you find that you are never ever skint at the end of the month.
#3 SHOP AT BUDGET STORES
This one is self-explanatory, but supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl can honestly reduce the cost of your food shop by a pretty substantial amount – make the switch, if you can.
#4 SHOP SMARTER
Sometimes, Lidl or Aldi is not the most convenient depending on where you are placed in the city. That’s okay; you can still accrue a cheap food shop at the bigger supermarkets like Asda, Tesco, and Morrisons if you choose the right products. For example, never underestimate the quality of a shop’s own brand equivalent to the product you usually go for. They usually taste just as good and are half the price! If you manage to make this switch with most things on your shopping list, then you can make a pretty big saving. And even if the saving is only £4, that’s an extra spirit mixer at The Bobbin you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise!
#5 MAKE MEAL PLANS
This might sound like a strange one for an article about budgeting, but let’s be honest with ourselves, we want our weekly food shop to be as cheap as possible, so we have more money for nights out. One of the best ways to do this is to only buy the food you need for that week and avoid waste as far as possible. Creating a meal plan every week will help you do this. If you know exactly what ingredients you need then you will not over-buy and therefore will not waste any food that has gone off and, subsequently, will not waste any money – easy!
#6 DO NOT BLOW YOUR STUDENT LOAN
It can be so easy to see that first SAAS payment and think you have limitless amounts of money to spend – you don’t. Blowing your student loan on nights out and needless shopping in the first month of semester will bring more issues down the line when rent payments start to come off, so please don’t make this mistake. As mentioned previously, set yourself an allowance!
This is what budgeting at uni all comes down to. There are going to be times when you simply can’t afford to do and pay for all the things you want to, and you will have to prioritise your finances carefully. Rent and necessities always come first – failing to pay rent only causes a larger problem, and you need food to survive… unfortunately. So, when you’re down to your last £20 of the month, I speak from experience that I know how difficult it is to spend it on food for the rest of week rather than that night out your friend has invited you on, but you’ll be much less stressed financially if you do.
The good news is if you follow all these tips, set yourself an allowance, and account for nights out etc. then you’re unlikely to land yourself in a situation like the one I just mentioned. It takes some time to learn how to handle your money independently in the real world, but you’ll figure it out in the end. Sometimes we need to be silly and spend all of our money on something we wholly regret just so we can understand the value of money and how terrible it feels when you have none.
That being said, if you are ever truly struggling financially then you can ask for help. We don’t all have parents who are able to give us a hand when we need it, but the university does have some financial services and assistance available, particularly the Hardship Fund, which you can apply for if you are experiencing a financial crisis. Things sometimes happen unexpectedly, and no amount of budgeting can account for that but, as students, we are all in this together and have all probably been in a position where we can’t afford our lunch one day because we went too hard the night before – independence is hard!