Students: How to get your finances in ship shape

A student using an ATM machine
If you’re at university, it’s likely that you’ll have a lot more outgoings than you did when you were just at secondary/comprehensive school. From your uni accommodation to student nights out, and from food and not to mention all the books and university equipment you’ll likely have to buy, the cost of these things can soon add up.

You may also be wondering “how can I manage my money as a student?” in order to better your budgeting skills so that you’re not worried about your student finances every month.

In our guide to money management for students, we give our top money tips on how students can organise their finances, how you can maximise your student budget and how you can benefit from student discounts to help you save money.

How to create a simple student budget

Creating a simple student budget is one of the best ways to manage your finances as a student and get them looking in ship shape.

To create a student budget, you should first work out all your monthly outgoings such as your accommodation costs and any utilities you have to pay, how much you spend on groceries, your mobile phone contract, money spent on nights out, etc.

Once you’ve done this, you can start to see approximately how much money you will need to live on as a student and these finances might also influence your decision as to where you go to university, depending on if you need to budget more for your accommodation or overall living expenses.

What if your student loan isn't enough?

If you’re eligible for student finance but the money that you’re likely to receive won’t be enough to cover all your student expenses, then it’s important to look into other options to see how you’ll be able to manage your finances as a student. There are several additional options that you can research if your student loan won’t be enough to cover all your outgoings.

Additional funding such as bursaries, grants and scholarships

As well as a student loan, there are also other means of obtaining student finance such as grants, scholarships and bursaries. These things are like special pots of money that universities, charities and trusts give out to select students each year and in order to benefit from one of them, you usually have to fall into one of the following groups:

  • Top performing students with the highest grades.
  • Talented and gifted individuals in specified subjects such as music, arts and sport.
  • Low residual household income.
  • Care/foster leaver, estranged students, carers.
  • Disability.
  • Placement/year abroad, or travel.
  • Non-UK/international students.

Choose your accommodation options carefully

The cost of accommodation at university will likely be your biggest living expense, especially if you decide to move away from home and live in a shared house or university halls.

You can save money on your student accommodation by considering the following:

  • Opting for halls with shared bathrooms rather than a private, en-suite bathroom.
  • Choose a more basic room that you can decorate yourself with pictures and paintings.
  • Check whether it’s cheaper to be in university halls or a shared house with friends a little out of the way of the university in your second and third year.

Take a “gap year” and save up money before you go to university

While this doesn’t necessarily solve your financial issues if you want to go to university straight away, taking a gap year before you head off to uni could help you massively when it comes to your student finances.

If you take a gap year and spend the whole year earning and saving money, by the time you do head off to uni, you’ll have likely saved enough money so that you can budget incredibly well.

Ask your family for financial help

Asking family or friends for money is something that no one likes doing, but if you’ve got your heart set on going to a particular university and you’ve exhausted all your other means of trying to obtain finance, then this might be your only option.

Even if your family can’t pay for your university fees upfront, they might be able to help you in smaller ways such as continuing to pay for your phone bill or covering the cost of your grocery shop once in a while.

How much does a university student need to live on?

The amount of money that a uni student needs to live on differs depending on where they live, which university they attend, what kind of accommodation they reside in and how much their monthly incomings and outgoings are.

According to the UCAS ‘Spend Student Lifestyle 2020’ Report, the average student spends around £247 a week, and that’s not even including accommodation or the hefty £427 they spend during Freshers’ week.

In a further survey carried out by Save the Student, they found that the average student spends £421 a month on their rent. As you can see, these costs soon start to add up, so while we can’t give an exact figure of how much money you need to live on as a student, it’s fair to say that you need to be able to budget well in order to manage your finances as a student. 

A good monthly budget for a university student, therefore, could be anywhere between £800 and upwards of £1,200, depending on where you live and your monthly outgoings.

How to build your credit score from a young age

While you are young and trying to look after your finances, it's important to bear in mind your credit rating, as this is something that will help you in the future. The best way to start building it up is to be financially sensible from a young age.

There are several ways you can build your credit score from a young age, including:

Read more: 12 ways to improve your credit score

The best money-saving apps for students

Take a look below at some of the best apps for saving money as a student to help you manage your finances better.

  • Starling
  • Monzo
  • Idealo
  • Chip
  • CheckoutSmart

Related guides