Unless you’ve got very accommodating relatives, managing your finances at uni can be an absolute nightmare. That cursory budget written on the back of a takeaway menu may appear to be feasible, yet once you arrive, things can go terribly wrong.
It’s essential that you work out a detailed budget that includes all incomings and outgoings. You can work it out from scratch, or you can use an on-line version, such as the Brightside student calculator, found here. These can be useful, as their list is quite comprehensive.
This list of outgoings can be scary, as it’s long. If you live on campus, it’s unlikely you’ll have to worry about Council Tax or utility bills, apart from your phone, which is something. If you’re sharing a house off campus, then you need to consider rent, Council Tax and all utility bills (gas, electric, water, landline, internet, TV subscription, TV licence). And of course you’ll have to feed yourself. Quite daunting, if you’ve never had to budget for these before.
If you’re sensible, you might decide to walk or cycle everywhere, which would be good for your health and bank balance. If you choose to have a car or motorbike, then you’ll have to cover insurance, road tax, parking fees, fuel and maintenance. You need to ask yourself if it’s worth it. Even if you intend going home every month with washing (shame on you), it may work out far cheaper using public transport than running your own car.
Going out drinking and clubbing is very expensive, yet this is commonly why students end up in financial trouble. Even buying beer and wine from the supermarket soon adds up, so treat it as a luxury. It might even improve your grades. If you do succumb to peer pressure once too often and end up needing a short-term loan, a company such as Smart-Pig specialises in loans for students and could help you out. Their terms and interest rates are designed not to take advantage.
Obviously there will be course books and materials to buy. And don’t forget about software, such as Microsoft Office, althoughthere are Office-compatible versions that are completely free, such as Apache OpenOffice.Gym memberships aren’t cheap and will you use it? Is your Spotify subscription essential? Keep your clothing budget down by buying in charity shops or at jumble sales. Many high street stores give overstock items to charity shops. And upcycling is very on-trend.
If you calculate a detailed budget right from the start, and at least try to keep a sensible head for most of the time, your finances shouldn’t cause you too much distress.