How to stick to a budget at University
Once you get the hang of it, devising a budget becomes fairly simple, but like revision timetables, the hardest part is sticking to them. Follow these five tips to avoid financial stress at University.
Develop a Budgeting Routine
Set aside some time each week to pay your bills and update your budget. Rather than withdrawing cash as you need it, or paying by card, work out how much cash you’ve got each week once you’ve paid any bills, and withdraw this amount. If, by Tuesday, you’ve spent up, you’ve either missed an expense off your budget, or seriously underestimated some of your figures.
Revise Your Budget
Spending more than you intended is easier than falling over drunk – it happens, but when it does, it’s what you do about it that counts. Don’t bury your head in the sand and keep spending until the money runs out, go back straight away to your budget. Go through your receipts and identify where you’re spending too much. By using a spreadsheet, you can forecast your spending, and doing this in September, October and November is preferable to leaving it to the following year. Leaving it to January to discover you can only afford two nights out a month instead of four will leave you struggling when you didn’t have to if you’d updated your budget as you went along.
If you’ve reduced your expenditure to the minimum and you’re still spending more than you have coming in, explore other ways of generating an income. The best money is free money, can a loved one give you some, and if not, second to this is earning it. However, if you’re already working, only you can judge whether increasing your hours will affect your degree. If it will, don’t.
Beg, Steal or Borrow…
If you can’t persuade loved ones to give you some money – and of course you’re just not the kind of person who steals – the only remaining option is to borrow. You’ll already likely have a Student Loan, if not this is your first port of call, but if you do consider asking your bank for an overdraft. Although debt, like your loan the rates are favourable, and often free whilst you’re a student – use websites such as moneysupermarket.com to check out the best deals. If you already have a loan and an overdraft, a temporary solution may be a hardship grant or loan from your University, but these are not guaranteed and cannot be relied upon routinely. Similarly, grants are available from charitable organisations, but these are in very short supply and fiercely sought after. Unless yours is a “special case’ pursuing these may not be the best use of your time.
Seek Professional Advice
If you have followed all of these steps and you are still struggling to balance your budget, approach your University for advice and guidance. All Universities offer various kinds of budgeting services, and they will be able to re-check your calculations and offer advice on either increasing your income or reducing your outgoings. If you are in University Accommodation, they may also be able to intervene on your behalf if you are struggling to pay your rent.