First of all, apologies for my random absence from the blogosphere last week. I’ve been having a series of bugs and colds one after another. This week I have another one, and this morning I suddenly lost my voice, but fortunately technology means I can still talk!
My time is composed pretty exclusively at the moment of two things – wedding planning (2 months to go!) and driving lessons. I have my driving theory test a week tomorrow, so I’m living in that book and CD-ROM a little bit right now! Since I don’t have much student-y stuff to narrate for you, I thought I’d start a series of posts with advice about student life, starting with everyone’s favourite – budgets!
If you’re receiving student loan like I did, I had a system that while it didn’t always work exactly to plan, at least it meant I had a plan.
You’ll receive a loan timetable that tells you when Student Finance will pay you your loan and how much it will be each time. To create yourself a budget term by term, first write out a list of expenses you know you’ll have to pay – things like rent or subscription services, like a phone contract – things that go straight out of your bank. Subtract those from the amount of your first payment. Now count how many weeks there are between Payment 1 and Payment 2, and divide the amount of money you’ll have by how many weeks there are to stretch it across. Boom. You now have a budget per week to stick to. Repeat for each period between payments.
You can use that info however you like, but if you have a number in mind it’s a lot easier to stick within your means.
If you tend to spend impulsively when you have a card on you, perhaps try taking out a set amount of cash at the beginning of the week and promising yourself not to withdraw more until next week, and not to fall back on spending by card. You could even hide your card in your room if you really want to discipline yourself, though I generally preferred not to in case of emergencies.
A personal trick for avoiding unnecessary luxury spending is that I don’t buy something first time I see it – if I go away and remember it, and can think up more than 3 reasons it’d be useful, I might go back and get it. A more fool-proof trick of course it just not to go into shops unless you’re looking for something specific, but I’ve never been very good at resisting a browse!
In terms of keeping costs down generally, look out for student discounts – nus extra is the usual student card stores ask for, and Unidays often have great offers on. While this is fun for shopping trips, the thing to remember (especially when you’re coming to the end of Uni life…) is to keep an eye out for things that will be useful after Uni which you can get cheaper while still a student.
In the very beginning of course it’s important where you choose to set up your student bank account – often banks will offer freebies with the account that can end up being worth a lot. When I got mine I got free nus extra membership for three years, which while it only saved £11 on the card each year, it saved a lot of other money on other stuff.
At the very basics, always check through your bank statements to see what you’re spending where. If I know I haven’t been very good at budgeting, I’ll go through my statement with a highlighter and mark things that I know I could’ve done without – which means next time round, I’m less likely to do it again.
As with anything, it’s all a learning process, and very few people get it right straight away.
There is loads of advice available online for student budgeting and there’s help on campus too. The union can help with money advice and if it all goes wrong, the Financial Contingency Fund is there to get people back on their feet.