How is your budgeting? Is it possible to get value for money, have a great student experience and not find yourself skint at the end of the term?
Let’s face it, student life should be full of more than just study but if you’re short on cash, there will be no chance of going out with friends and doing all of the activities you love. It doesn’t have to be this way – just a bit time and thought can help you get the most out of your student income and make sure you are budgeting correctly.
At the beginning of each academic year, take the time to check your student finance assessment and make sure that you are getting all of the income you are entitled to and budgeting accordingly.
You should read your Student Finance notification carefully and get advice from your University’s adviser if you think your assessment is wrong.
Help is also available if your student finance application is taking a long time and there are problems with Student Finance assessing your claim.
Make sure that you apply on time before you come to University or in the summer term of your previous academic year so that your funding is in place when you arrive in September.
Working out a budget
Figure out your budget and consider whether this will be termly, monthly or weekly. Think about what you will need to spend particularly your rent and any utilities, food, books and travel.
Is there any item you can save money on? Can you get discounts because you are a student? NUS have a discount card called Totum but you have to pay for it and often the companies offering the discount will apply it just by showing your Uni card but you can check it out here – Totum
Other discount sites include Unidays which has the benefit of being free – UniDays
After you have done all of this, when you look at your budget, is there anything left for nights out and treats? If you have nothing left or you don’t have enough to pay all of your essential outgoings, you will need to gain some income from another source.
All universities have bursaries and scholarships to give out to their students who satisfy the criteria such as hitting high entry points or being particularly talented in music or sport so make sure you haven’t missed out.
Separate Support Funds are also usually available but you will need to be in a priority group. Often these are for final year or mature students, or those with families. There are always provisions for students who are struggling so if you find yourself in this situation, talk to someone within your university.
Get a part-time job
If you find that you can’t secure any money from your institution (and parents can’t help), you will need to secure a job. Often, support funds will not be available unless you have a job so be prepared to work first.
Get some advice from the careers department of your university as they will be able to help with your CV and recommend where to apply.
Many universities have an agency on campus where you can find a job so if this is the case, check this out. A lot of students already have a job before they come to University and are able to get a transfer from their current role to the local branch in the area they are studying so do explore this.
If you don’t have a job or any money from your University yet, you should create your budget based on the income you will definitely be getting which sounds obvious but it is a common mistake to assume income and spend too much!
Student Housing and money
When budgeting, try to look ahead to the next year when you select your accommodation, you might know what your student finance assessment will be (depending on when you sign your contract).
It’s impossible to look into the future but you can make an educated guess as to whether you can afford the property based on the funding you received last year and the other income you had.
Don’t sign for a house that you know or think you can’t afford. Once you have signed your contract, it is virtually impossible to change your mind and you will need to find another student to take your place. This will seriously affect your ability to find another property as it is not a good idea to sign another contract when you are committed to the previous one.
Problems paying your rent
If you could afford your property when you signed for it but things have changed, don’t ignore the problem.
Also don’t bury your head in the sand and ignore your landlord when they are chasing you for your rent; it’s important (however difficult it can be) to talk to them about your situation and let them know what’s happening.
It could be that there is a compromise to be reached about a payment plan or just an extension on the deadline to pay. If you’re not sure how to handle this or just need some support, talk to your university or Students’ Union adviser who will definitely be able to help with budgeting.