Student Budgeting: How to Budget As a Student (with template)

What is Student Budgeting

One of the main issues in a student’s life is making sure you have enough money throughout the academic year. Having a budget is a key part of making sure your money can stretch as far as you need it to. A budget is essentially the art of managing your money wisely, making sure you have enough for your tuition, rent, food and social life. By budgeting you can find that balance to help your life run smoothly. Although it may mean you may not be able to afford the latest gadgets, it also means that you will not be worrying about having enough funds to cover your rent. 

What is the 50/30/20 rule?

Within budgeting there is a simple and popular guideline which can help you manage your finances. This 50/30/20 rule suggests dividing your funds into 3 categories: Needs, Wants and Savings. In order to follow this rule you need to allocate 50% of your funds to cover essential ‘needs’, such as your rent, transport fees, food and other non negotiable items that are needed for your basic wellbeing. You then allocate 30% of your funds for your ‘wants’, this means anything within your social life, eating out, shopping for non-essential items, entertainment etc. The final 20% of your money would then be for ‘savings’. As a student this is easier said than done sometimes but having some funds squirrelled away can be very handy when surprise expenses occur.

What should you include in a student budget?

When making your budget you should make sure that you include all your incomings and outgoings so you can be sure you have an accurate view of your finances. When adding up your incomings, make sure to include:

  • Your student loan
  • Any grants, scholarships or bursaries that you are eligible for
  • Any regular financial support from family members
  • Job income
  • Savings that are specifically for your time at University

When figuring out what your outgoings will be, be sure to include:

  • Tuition fees
  • Rent
  • Household Bills (if you live in accommodation that does not include these in your rent fee) 
  • Contents insurance (while this may feel like an unnecessary outgoing, it is wise to protect yourself against theft or accidental breakages) 
  • Travel costs
  • Credit cards or any other debt repayments
  • Phone bill
  • Food allowance 
student budgeting 2024

How to make a Realistic Weekly Student Budget – Step by Step

Step 1 – Determine your income:

Know your realistic income each week, identify all your sources and calculate this for a weekly allowance.

Step 2 – Determine your outgoings:

Take account of all your outgoings and figure out how much they cost you weekly.

Step 3 – Categorise your expenses:

Some of your expenses will be fixed and others will be variable, for example your rent will be a stable amount each week whereas your weekly grocery bill will fluctuate each week. Identifying the distinction will help you prioritise your spending.

Step 4 – Allocate your funds according to the 50/30/20 rule:

Adjust these as you need to make it work for you but make sure you find a balance.

Step 5- Track and Adjust:

Keep a track of your spending throughout the week and evaluate weekly to make sure you are staying within your means.

The main thing to remember when working within a budget is that flexibility is key to making it work for you. Reviewing and adjusting your percentages will ensure that you stay within your financial means and that your budget stays a useful tool throughout your student life.

Our top 10 student budgeting and money saving tips

Stick to your budget

There’s no point in putting the effort into making a budget if you’re not going to use it and stick to it and make it work for you. It’s also the easiest way to keep track of your money.

Home cooking

Many students head off to University with very little cooking experience, but cooking your own meals, (or even better, batch cooking) is easily the best way to save money on food expenses. If you have shared accommodation with a shared kitchen space, working together to cook and pay for your meals is also another great way to keep your food bills lower. Meals with a cheap and filling base, such as pasta, have long been a staple in the student diet for a very good reason! 

Student discounts

Many shops and restaurants now offer discounts to students. Many of these will accept your University student card as proof but others may want a Totum or UNiDAYS membership (for example). Your university student card is free but many other student cards have an initial cost (normally between £10-£30) but in the long run these can save you money. Some of the best discount cards to consider include:

  • Totum Card – Formally known as an NUS card, these cost between £0 and £24.99 depending on the membership level you choose. 
  • UNiDAYS app – Membership is free, however they do not send out cards, you have to download the app and show that to the establishment you’d like a discount from. 
  • 16-25 Railcard – Especially useful if the train is your main route back and forth from University. Railcards cost £30 a year but they get you a third off your train travel fees. 
  • Student Beans – Another free membership card, you do have to remember to reapply for each year you are studying.
  • Shop club Cards – Not just for students but shop club cards such as a Tesco Clubcard or a Nectar Card are great for making savings on your food shop.

Accommodation with bills included

If keeping track of all your household bills is something you find quite daunting, you can always look for accommodation that offers the bills included with the price of the rent. At Future Generation, all of our properties are bill-inclusive so you won’t get any nasty shocks when you open an electricity bill. This makes sticking to your budget so much easier. We also offer a whole range of other perks that are price-inclusive such as on site gyms and cleaning services which are not generally included in other forms of student accommodation.

Save on travel

Travel expenses are sometimes a bit of a hidden fee for students. Taking a bus everyday may not feel very expensive but over the academic year, the price can quickly build up. As mentioned above, a 16-25 railcard is a great way to save money on rail travel but when it comes to getting to the University campus everyday it is a good idea to find the cheapest (or ideally, a free) way to get there. 

All the Future Generation buildings are within walking distance of the University campuses and some of them also offer a free shuttle service for days you don’t feel like walking.

Find cheap or free entertainment

As fun as it is to attend escape rooms or head to the cinema to see the latest blockbuster, as a student these sorts of activities can mount up and quickly take a large chunk of your weekly budget. As such it is always a good idea to have plenty of cheap or free forms of entertainment to keep you occupied. Some of our favourites include:

  • Visiting the local museums to learn more about your new neighbourhood
  • Walks in the park
  • Listening to music with friends
  • Set up scavenger hunts
  • Head to the library to find new reading material or get some University work done!

If you live  in one of Future Generations’ student accommodations, you’ll find a plethora of events to enjoy. These range from movie nights and free cocktail-making classes to Easter egg hunts and immersive food-tasting sessions, to highlight just a few of the cost-free activities organised for our student residents this year. And this is just the beginning—we have a monthly events calendar that’s sure to fill your days with activities and new experiences you’ll always remember.

Use the campus library

Universities will always have a library that is free for students to make use of and should be full of the types of books you need for your course. Make sure to make good use of these resources where you can and don’t spend unnecessary money on books when they are available for free. 

Check your University perks

Most universities will have perks specifically for their students listed out on their websites. Make sure to check these so you can see exactly what you could be entitled to discounts on. Some universities even offer discounts for visiting friends and family so it’s always worth a look.

Use free educational resources

Make sure to use everything free at your disposal when it comes to educational resources. The university library, other city libraries which are free to join and of course, the internet are vital resources for students. Make sure to only pay for resources as a last resort. 

Build an Emergency Fund

For life in general, not just as a student, it is always a good idea to try and build up an emergency fund specifically for when unexpected bills come your way. If you have this fund in place, these unexpected bills, while annoying, are not such a big issue and are easily solved. 

Our Student’s Favourite Budget Tools

We interviewed some of the students who live in our Future Generation accommodation to ask them about their favourite budget tools and they had some useful responses. One second year said getting a part time job was the best thing they did for their finances. A postgraduate student suggested getting a student bank account which has special features for students.

Student budget apps

There are plenty of apps available for helping students keep on top of their finances. Apps such as TopCashback helps you earn money back as you spend it. There are also apps such as Squirrel which can help you split your money into segments to allocate it easily. Monzo and Starling student bank accounts let you put money into pots for specific items. 

Student bank accounts

Student bank accounts offer more than just a place to store money; they’re designed with student needs in mind, featuring perks like 0% interest overdrafts, discounts on various essentials, and sometimes rewards on purchases. Additionally, some come equipped with budgeting tools to help streamline your finances. 

Check out our in depth article on best student bank accounts in the UK in 2024

Student budget template

If you’d like more support, UCAS has a handy planner available to start you off on your budgeting journey. This Student Budget Planner has helpful hints and tips and space for all your incomings and outgoings. 

Where you can go if you need help Budgeting

If you are struggling with budgeting, you can head to your bank and ask them for budgeting tips or to change your current account to a more student friendly version. The Students Union should also have tips for helping students with budgeting as well. The main thing to remember is there will always be help available and following a budget is the best way to confidently handle your student finances.