Budgeting and Managing Your Money
There is a lot to consider when managing your money, from tuition fees and housing to food, course materials and your social life. Student funding may seem like a lot when it lands in your bank account, but it is designed to last for one term of 12 to 13 weeks. To make sure this money lasts, you will need to plan and budget.
Budgeting is the only method that puts you in control of your spending. It is an essential life skill and can help you develop good money habits by encouraging you to think about your spending in a practical way. Budgeting can also be used to save money. You might want to budget to help provide for an unpaid placement or a summer holiday abroad as a treat for passing your year!
Everyone has different expenses and ways of managing their money, but our money saving tips will help you make the most of your cash:
BUDGETING AND MANAGING YOUR MONEY
How to budget
In order to maximise your money and make it go further for longer, we recommend that you follow our simple steps:
- Try our budget calculator to keep track of what is going in and out of your account.
- Divide your money into weekly or monthly amounts, either in an app, a spreadsheet or a cash withdrawal so that you become more aware of what you are spending. Small withdrawals everyday may seem like nothing, but they quickly add up.
- Pay your bills by direct debit where you can. It will help your budgeting to focus on the things that you can control.
- Read and keep all your bank statements. Mistakes do happen. Go paperless if they are charging you for printed copies.
- Choose your student bank account carefully. A free overdraft is useful but only as a backup or else you’re just getting into debt. Many banks offer perks such as free rail cards, vouchers or cheap cinema tickets. Look for hidden charges in the small print. Make sure you do your research to find the best deal.
Consider using budgeting apps, especially if your bank account does not have budgeting tools.
Saving money at home
- Think about staying in a University Hall of Residence. There are halls on campus where you get internet, gas and electricity, TV licence and use of a gym all included in your rent. Halls are popular with first year students as they are a great way of getting into university life. However, it can also be more expensive, so think about your priorities before you commit and sign the contract.
- If you choose to live in private accommodation, shop around. Check what is included in your rent and remember that you may have to pay extra for internet and bills.
- You may want to consider living with reliable friends. You will save when you split the bills too.
- Put your heating on a timer and stick to it. Invest in a hot water bottle and some big jumpers to keep warm when you are studying.
- Have showers instead of baths as this uses both less water and less energy.
- If possible, cook meals with your housemates. Stews, chillies and curries are much cheaper when cooked for a few people than buying one ready meal.
- Make use of your freezer if you have one as this is a great way to store leftover food that can be reheated for a quick meal. If you are making fresh food, make extra and use the freezer to store the rest.
- You can compare providers for broadband, TV and phone using sites such as Cable*. This assures that you’ll get the cheapest deal but make sure you read the small print and know exactly what you’re paying for.
Other ways of saving money
- If you use public transport, look at investing in a bus pass or rail card. If you’re using public transport everyday then this can save you loads. Even better, cycle or walk whenever possible. You will get fit and help the environment as well.
- The NHS Low Income Scheme can save you money on prescription charges, dental treatment and eyesight tests. To apply, complete a HC1 form. The website has more details.
- Shopping right at the supermarket can help your money go further. Make sure that you check out their reduced section as this is where shops try to sell off products that are close to their use by date for up to 75% less. Try buying own-branded products too, as these are often identical but at a cheaper price.
- Packed lunches are another great way of saving cash. Not only can buying your lunch cost up to £5 everyday, by making your own it could be healthier too.
- Be creative with your clothes. Customise, swap with friends and browse the charity shops instead of spending £50 on a new outfit.
- Books on some courses can be very expensive so make sure that you get to the library early to see if they have a free copy. If you do need to buy materials, try to find second-hand books or even go to a Book Swap event. There may be other options so look at websites such as savethestudent.org* or price compare websites for good deals. Sell on your old ones when you are finished with them.
- When shopping online, be sure to look for student discount offers. These are often found through providers such as TOTUM, which costs £12 a year or less, but there are free options too such as Unidays and Student Beans.* Make sure you ask in-store as well but remember that discounts and special offers are often only there to persuade you to part with your cash.
- Money Saving Expert* has a great overview on managing your money as a student. They provide free tools such as a budget planner, details on student bank accounts and many money saving tips.
Opening a bank account
All students need a bank account of their own. For your own safety, do not keep large amounts of money in your bag or in your accommodation and pay any large sums of money into a bank account as soon as you can.
If you have not opened a bank account before you arrive at University, it should be the first thing you do once you are settled in. There are many banks in Manchester City Centre and Salford Precinct, and there is Santander on campus.
Choose your bank account carefully. Some things to think about include:
- Can you get a debit card?
- Does the account provide budgeting apps or other useful services?
- Can you set up direct debits? This makes it easier to pay regular bills, rent etc.
- Can you do instant ‘top-up’ transfers between your accounts?
- Can you get a free 0% student overdraft and what are the charges if you go over?
- Can you transfer money to accounts overseas or use your debit card abroad? This is useful if you are an international student or plan to study abroad.
- Can you convert to other currencies quickly?
- What perks do you get? Most student accounts offer rewards such as rail cards, cash back and reduced concert tickets.
You will need to bring identification with you when you apply for your student bank account. Documents that help include:
- A passport or UK driving license to prove your identity
- A letter from the University confirming your registration and showing your home address
- A document confirming your address whilst at University (e.g. an accommodation contract or tenancy agreement)
You may also need the following:
- An official letter of sponsorship
- Other official letters which show your UK address
- If you are an ERASMUS student, you may also need a letter from your home institution.
For help choosing an account, you can compare Student Bank Accounts at MoneySavingExpert.com.*
Increasing your income
There are lots of things you can do to increase income, not just by earning money. Here are a few things you can look at before starting university or whilst you are currently studying:
- Cut down on non-essential spending. For example, do you really need to run a car?
- Often it is easy for students to combine study with some part-time work. This will increase your chances of not running into financial difficulty and may give you extra money to spend on items which you would not be able to afford otherwise. If you need assistance in finding a job, Careers & Enterprise are here to help. We also have a temporary job agency in University House called Unitemps that can help you to find work.
- Check your student funding with your awarding body. Are you entitled to the full amount? If you have children and/or partner, are you claiming the full allowances such as Parents' Learning Allowance or Dependents allowance?
- Student overdrafts are a good way to help manage money from one month to the next. Try not to max-out the overdraft with the first week as you may have difficulty paying it back in the future. Most student overdrafts are interest-free for the period of study and sometimes a few years after as well. Most come with great repayment plans too, such as reducing an overdraft by £500 each year to help you clear it off more easily.
If things go wrong
If you do get into financial difficulty, it’s important to ask for help. Debts will only grow if you ignore them and a bad credit rating can cause you problems later. You can discuss your finances with an askUS Specialist Adviser or confidentially by contacting Stepchange or the Citizens' Advice Bureau. In certain circumstances you may also be eligible for help from the Salford Support Fund.
Contact a member of our finance advice team for further information or to book a one to one appointment if you need further help.
*While suggestions are made about external sites and services, choosing to take a product from them or based on their suggestions is entirely at your own risk. Seriously consider the product before choosing. If you share a student house, ask all residents' permission before switching or choosing a product.