Budgeting your student finances
5 min | 20 September 2022
Life as a student can be tough on your wallet. Here are tips on how to budget like a pro, manage your student loan and give yourself the best chance of staying on top of your money while you build your future.
Keeping (and sticking) to a budget is tough at the best of times, and if you’re a student, it can feel like an uphill climb. But here’s the good news – you’re working towards a qualification that should set you on your career path for the years ahead. And in the meantime? Learn more about student loans, get tips on budgeting and discover where to find those all-important student discounts.
Student loans offer (some) support
There are two main types of student loan. One helps with the cost of tuition (up to £9,250 in England) and the other with the cost of maintenance. Depending on where you live in the UK, things vary a bit around the specifics of each type of loan. To qualify, you’ll need to tick a few boxes to do with where you’re studying and whether it’s your first full-time course.
As for how and when you pay off each loan, you’ll only start once you’ve left your course and are earning over a certain amount (in England and Wales, it is currently £27,295 for undergraduate loans, but this depends on which plan (Opens in new window) you are on). If you’re between jobs and have stopped earning, your loan repayments will be paused until you’re up and running again.
You'll have up to 25 years, 30 years or until you turn 65 to pay off the loan, depending on the type of plan, after which it will be written off (Opens in new window), but there are proposals to increase this time frame to 40 years – with lower interest rates – and the changes could take effect in 2022/2023. It’s worth knowing that if and when you come to apply for a mortgage, your student loan won’t affect your credit rating, but your mortgage lender might take the loan into account when deciding how much to lend you.
On the plus side, tuition and maintenance loans can go a long way to help cover your costs at university. But they're unlikely to cover everything, and this is where some budgeting hacks could help.
Becoming a budget pro
As a student, you’re in charge of your money – that means you’re the boss, and you decide where it goes. Having a budget can help to keep you on track.
- What’s your income? It could be from a part-time job or help from family – add up everything coming in.
- What are your weekly expenses? List how much you spend on food, study, housing, transport, mobile phone, utilities, entertainment and everything else.
Now it’s time to crunch the numbers. If you can break even and get to the point where your income minus your expenses is either zero or leaves you with some left over, you’re in good shape. As for those extra pounds and pennies, you might be able to put some away into a savings account every month.
By tracking your spending down to weekly outgoings you’ll have a better idea of where your money is going and where to spot any bad spending habits (takeaways every weekend?) or chances to save (meal planning and bulk buying during your weekly food shop).
Spotting those opportunities where you could save
- Buy used textbooks or book swap with your friends
- Consider living at home. It might not be ideal but could save you a lot in rent and living costs. Check that your belongings are covered by your parents’ contents insurance
- Choose public transport over Uber
- Get off a mobile contract that includes the handset: use your phone for as long as possible and switch to a SIM-only deal if you're not already on one
- Eat out less
- Keep those offers or coupons from your local supermarket for the next time you’re shopping to save money on your regular purchases
- House shares or flatshares can often be cheaper than staying in a halls of residence – giving you more for your money
- Try to get a part-time job
- Make the most of your college or university’s entertainment events
- Blitz your belongings and sell stuff you don’t need. Think about clothing swaps instead of buying things brand new
Be savvy to student discounts
What is one of the best things about being a student? Discounts! You could save from around 5% to 40% depending on what you’re buying. As well as retail savings (even on sale items) you might find your local bars, clubs, restaurants and cafes offer discounts too. And don’t forget the deals available in cinemas, at bookshops and on public transport.
Some music streaming platforms offer monthly savings for students, as do online software and cloud service providers. Don’t be shy: check with the provider first, whatever you’re up to. Your college or university ID card may be enough to claim your discounts but some places (especially online) might need to see another form of student ID.