It’s been a week since I officially finished my first year at uni and what a whirl this year has been! I honestly still feel like a fresher!
Moving to another country and living on my own was probably one of the hardest and most fun things I’ve ever done. While there have definitely been times where I have messed up, overall it’s been great having the freedom and independence to live your own life.
Since I know how hard it is to manage academics, social life, food, budgeting AND still find time to sleep, I thought I’d share some tips about budgeting to help other prospective students.
1) Always plan ahead.
If you know how much money you are going to be getting per term or per month, then make sure you plan out your weekly expenditure. This includes food, going out, utilities like Wi-Fi or heating (if you live in private housing) and always leave a little extra because something ALWAYS comes up.
If you know you’re going to using the bus frequently, then I highly recommend shelling out for the yearly bus pass. I can’t stress how useful this has been for me, especially on night outs or those days when you wake up ten minutes before class starts.
2) Make the most of being a student.
You’re a student, which by definition means you’re going to be perennially broke. But things don’t have to be so bad. From £2 pizza at Domino’s and Sainsbury’s meal deals to Topshop student discount, there is always some way to cut down on your spending. Save all those flyers you get during Welcome Week, you never know when they might be useful.
Make sure you carry your student ID around everywhere and don’t forget (or be ashamed) to ask if the place offers a student discount. Likewise, an NUS card is also useful and well worth the price. If you travel a lot within the country, then a 16-25 railcard will save you a lot of money.
3) Shop smart.
NEVER go to a supermarket hungry; you will always end up buying a ton of stuff you don’t need if your stomach is making decisions for the brain. Also, make a list beforehand and try sticking to it. Buy quick, easy staples like rice or pasta in bulk. Don’t fall for pretty packaging or branding; in some situations, the cheaper stuff works just as well.
If you’re anything like me, then most of your money will most likely go on shopping. You might not be able to spend as freely on designer gear like you used to, but vintage stores and thrift shopping works just as well. Decide if you really (like really) need something before buying; my tip is to see if I can pair that item with at least three things I currently have. Also, keep an eye on sales and plan your shopping trips accordingly.
4) Be realistic.
Most students (including myself) tend to panic buy during the first weeks of uni. Don’t believe everything you read online or on student blogs (even this one!). Don’t buy brand new books before coming to uni. There are always students who are willing to sell them at a lower price and the library is pretty well-stocked. Some courses, like mine, don’t even need any books!
Remember, you will overspend during Welcome Week or near the holidays, so make sure you set aside some money for that. Don’t fall under pressure to spend more than you are comfortable with just to make some friends.
Similarly, even though having a student job is useful and definitely helps your budget, make sure you can handle both uni and work. Your priority should be academics, after all that IS what you’re here for! I found my course too time-consuming to hold a proper job but there are always alternatives like freelancing from home or working within the uni. You just have to be a little creative about your options.
5) Don’t be so hard on yourself.
Living alone and managing everything is hard and stressful, but go easy on yourself! You’re new to this and it is not the end of the world if you mess up once in a while. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you really need it.
And remember to treat yourself once in a while! Trust me it’ll make sticking to a budget much easier.
And lastly, good luck and I hope you have a great time at uni!