A budget is possibly the single most important tool for effectively managing your money. A budget identifies whether you have enough money coming in to meet your outgoings, and how much you can afford to spend. It allows you to see when and where you need to make changes to your spending, and can help you plan ahead for big purchases.
Know your incomings
The first step to creating your budget is to establish how much money you have coming in. This can be income from a job, grants, benefits, your student loan and any other sources.
If your income fluctuates, go with the lowest figure it is likely to be. Be aware of any anticipated changes to your income and plan ahead.
Your student funding is for the whole year. We strongly advise you divide your student income by 12 months and put the surplus aside to use during the summer months when SAAS and SLC do not make payments.
Know your outgoings
Now you need to establish how much money you will be spending. There are two types of outgoings:
Fixed outgoings like your rent and TV licence
Non-fixed outgoings like your food shopping
While it is easy to budget for the fixed costs, setting a realistic limit on other costs will help you keep on track.
The UWS Money Magazine can help you to estimate your costs and expenses.
At this stage, it might be useful to categorise your outgoings into essential and luxury. That way, you can identify the areas to cut back on should your budget not add up.
Essential outgoings might include payments like rent, electricity and a TV licence, and common non-essential expenses include gym memberships and entertainment subscription services (Netflix, NOW TV, Spotify, etc.).
Use your budget to track when your payments are due. That way, when you look at your bank balance, it is easy to see what payments are still to be made.
Planning for emergencies is really important too, so try and set a small amount of your income aside each month to cover you in case of the unexpected.
There is no point preparing a budget if it doesn’t take everything into account. Make a note of all of the one-off costs you expect throughout the year and when these will occur. Put aside enough money each month to cover these and your budget won’t be affected.
Income changes and the amount you pay for bills can fluctuate, so it is important to update and review your budget regularly.
If you are regularly spending more on certain items than your initial budget allowed for, reassess your situation and adjust your budget, or your expenditure, accordingly.
It is important to remember that your student funding is intended for the whole year. We strongly advise you divide your student income by 12 months and put the surplus aside to use during the summer months when SAAS and SLC do not make payments.
Summer employment can help to boost your finances and make managing during term time a bit easier. Some students may also be able to access benefits in the summer period between years of study.
Life is full of big, expensive purchases, from holidays abroad to buying a home. No matter what you have in mind, it is never too early to start planning ahead.
You can also use your budget to work out if you can afford to take on more financial commitments, like car payments, repayments of debts or mortgage payments.
If your budget indicates that you won’t be able to afford adding on a new regular expense or setting money aside for a one-off buy, you should carefully consider whether you should go ahead with your purchase and should think about the impact this might have on your budget for the future.
Remember that having funds available on credit cards is not the same as having money in savings.
This fun, interactive UWS budgeting module is designed to help you understand your finances and plan an effective budget for university.
A free tool from Money Saving Expert that will help you manage your money.
Advice on running a bank account, planning your finances and cutting costs.