NSMW16 – How to create a student budget and stick to it

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“Loan day!” – Two words all students are excited to hear. For the past two weeks you have been living on jam on toast and scraping around for coppers in your wallet. But now the loan has come in, and everything’s good again. But you know that by the end of term the coffers will be empty again. Then how will you pay for your friend’s birthday present, or society balls? It is time to make a budget plan.

First things first – Get organised. How long does this loan instalment have to last? Work out the length of time between now and your next instalment. This makes it far easier to track your spending week by week and stay within budget. Work out how much money will go on rent between now and then, and mentally put this amount to one side. So, the remainder is left to be spent on food, vodka, bus fares, 2am coffees in the library before deadlines…you get the picture.

Secondly – look ahead. As it happens, all your family and friend’s birthdays, your niece’s christening, and your cousin’s wedding all happen to fall in March. Great. You know that it may be unavoidable to go over-budget that month. Then how do you avoid running out of money before your next loan? Taking all out of the ordinary expenditures into consideration, allocate a certain amount of money, (e.g. £200) to put aside for specifically for those events, and when the time comes, you know you will have it there. If you, like many, aren’t great at seeing money sitting in your bank, perhaps put it into a separate account which you don’t use on a day to day basis.

Unexpected costs may arise, especially when arranging housing for next year. Don’t forget that if you are moving into new accommodation, it is likely you will have to pay a fairly substantial deposit, which if not budgeted for, can really hurt the bank.

So now you have…..how much left?!?! Darn – that sum looks small. Perhaps you are starting to rethink all those New Year’s resolutions and promises you made to your mates last term to be more sociable. DON’T PANIC – make a weekly budget to include all food, drink and partying expenses. One way of doing this is to divide your money by the number of weeks until your next instalment. The maths is the easy bit. The next bit is more difficult….

Stick to it – religiously. Seriously, if you want to be able to enjoy more than just the first few weeks of term, perhaps a slow and steady approach is best. It is far too easy to lose track of spending; grabbing a quick sandwich on campus because you couldn’t be bothered to make your lunch the night before, getting the bus to Uni because it’s raining… the “it’s only £1” attitude is all too dangerous. Keeping track of your spending is surprisingly easy. Keep hold of receipts instead of putting them in the bin, and keep a small notebook recording everything you spend. This way, throughout the week you can review how much you have spent so far, and see whether really you can afford to go out twice in one weekend.

It may appear pedantic, but it will put you streets ahead of those who end up taking out loans from the Royal Bank of Mum and Dad at the end of every term. Encourage your mates to do the same – this way, you can all live similar lifestyles and you won’t feel pressured to spend money when they are, or that you may be the only one left with money at the end of term, when none of your friends can afford to go out anymore. Don’t forget, socialising doesn’t always have to be about spending money and going clubbing. I mean, in the olden days they actually liked talking to each other….. Consider organising a night in or a game of cards or movie as a social one week instead of hitting the same sweaty club, for another night which you probably won’t remember.

So, organise your money, and don’t let it organise you!

Rowan Staden-Coats lives at Liberty Gardens in Birmingham. She is in her 1st year studying International Relations and Russian

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