Whether you decide to go to your local university or move away, budgeting for your studies is really important. It can be tough to be disciplined with your money but if you want to avoid running out of cash before the end of semester it’s a good idea to follow some kind of plan. And great preparation for life after uni.

Student loans are essential for most students, and applying for a fee and/or maintenance loan can be a massive help. You never actually see the money for your fee loan (that goes straight to The Student Loans Company and you pay it back later) but if you apply for a student maintenance loan you actually get the real-life cash arriving in your bank account in three instalments throughout each academic year. This money needs to be treated wisely – it needs to last.

Bear in mind that your cost of living will vary depending on where you go to uni – luckily for Teesside students, you tend to get a bit more for your money here than you might elsewhere. Something else to consider is that your expenses may vary depending on the course you study – will you need to buy equipment or resources? Does your course include a paid placement year giving you an income? Is there a chance your course might organise a trip that you need to pay for? It’s useful to consider these questions so you can plan for it.

Budgeting is about balancing your incomings and outgoings. It’s a simple ratio of money in and money out, and once you’re in control of that you’re sorted. Let’s get you started.

  • Consider your outgoings. Make a note of your major fixed expenses such as accommodation, bills, travel and insurance. Don’t forget monthly direct debits such as your phone, gym membership, Netflix etc. Then note down other, variable outgoings such as food and leisure.
  • When you have your outgoings nailed down, consider your incomings – where are you going to get your money from? Your student maintenance loan is likely to be the biggest provider of cash here. In addition to that you might be lucky enough to get some regular help from your family, income from a part-time job, or a University scholarship.
  • Now it’s the important bit – work out the difference between money going out and money coming in. Is it balanced? Have you got enough coming in to cover what’s going out? If not, how can you increase your income, or reduce your spending?
  • Use a spreadsheet to keep track of everything – there are loads of free templates online.

Now you can get smart about your budget. Here are a few tips to get you ahead of the game.

  • Buy used textbooks and use your University library. It might be tempting to buy everything on your reading list brand new, but that can be expensive, and it’s a cost you can cut by only buying what you really need, by buying second-hand and by borrowing. And remember to sell back the books you buy when you’re done with them.
  • Meal prep – there are tons of recipes online, follow some foodie stuff on Instagram and be creative with trying new dishes and making the most of ingredients. Have a rough idea of what you’re going to cook or prep each week and go shopping with a list reflecting this. If you know you’ll be in lectures all day, make some lunch at home and take it in with you – it’s tons cheaper than buying sandwiches every day.
  • Do not under any circumstances go food shopping on an empty stomach! It’s not a good idea…you’ll end up buying way too much food and things will go to waste.
  • Eat in when you can, it’s a good chance to bond with whoever you’re living with, it’s lots cheaper, potentially lots healthier and you can keep in control. If you do eat out (which is also fine), choose where you eat carefully – use the cafes and restaurants in and around campus and make the most of student deals. It might be tempting to eat out all the time at fancy places but it will end up being costly.
  • Apply for scholarships and bursaries – at Teesside Uni there are loads of options.
  • Use price comparison sites. You know the score with this, don’t just go for the first deal you see – shop around.
  • Get a student bank account. Lots of banks do special welcome offers for students at the start of the academic year. See what fits you best – you might have the option of a lump sum reward for signing up, or for something longer-term like a railcard.
  • That brings us on to travel – be smart with it, if you’re going to use the train a lot, get that railcard. If you’re moving away from your family, work out the cheapest way to get home for visits. It might mean getting a railcard or a bus pass, or making the decision to bring your car to uni, or not.
  • Don’t use cash machines that charge!
  • Enjoy socialising at uni, it’s a massive part of being a student. But don’t overdo it. There are so many fun things to do on and around campus that you can get stuck in a trap of trying to do them, all. But being sensible and realistic about how often you can afford to go out means you’ll enjoy and appreciate your downtime more, and you won’t find yourself struggling to afford other things.
  • Consider a part-time job. The Students’ Union at Teesside Uni has a brilliant jobs board offering lots of roles to fit around your studies. We also have an amazing student ambassador scheme where you can work for the University at events such as graduation and open days – you get a brilliant wage and tons of experience at the same time, adding lots of strings to your bow and chunking up your CV.
  • Make some money in your University holidays. Until you get a full-time graduate job you’ll never fully appreciate just how much time off you get as a student. You’ll need lots of your time off for revision, assignments and relaxing, but use some of your downtime to earn some extra money for the year ahead.
  • Get a student discount card and use it wisely. If you need new clothes, choose a shop that you know accepts it. And look out for special deals for students at the start of each semester.
  • Ask yourself, do I need this? If you don’t, don’t get it.
  • If you’re living in University accommodation, share essentials with your flatmates – you don’t need five spatulas and six kettles, keep hold of that cash for something else.
  • Save! Work out what you can put away each month – a separate savings account is a good option as it means you’re not as likely to dip in and out of it. And if you find yourself stuck at any point you have something to fall back on.

Do you have any other ideas? Head to our social channels to share your secrets!