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Budgeting & Planning

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.

The basics

Know your income

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.

If you would like more help understanding the basics of budgeting, or want some recommended in-depth resources, the websites below are good starting points:

One-off and annual expenses

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.

Particular examples where this type of planning is effective are Christmas, birthdays, car costs such as MOT/servicing, and children’s school uniforms. If you look at how much these expenses cost you in previous years, you can easily work out how much to set aside to help you pro-actively meet these costs.

Reviewing your budget

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.

If you feel you are budgeting carefully but still have no money left, then perhaps you are being unrealistic about what you spend. Try a 2 week spend diary to itemise what you spend and get a true reflection of your spending habits.

If you are finding you indulge in life's little luxuries, such as takeaways or fancy coffees, try these tools to find out how much these are REALLY costing you. The reality of how much this costs over a year or how much of your income it equates to, might just scare you out of your habit or at least make you more mindful of these money leaks.

Money Advice Service: Quick Cash Finder

Money Saving Expert: Demotivator

If you are spending carefully but still feel you could be doing better, check out the tips on the Money Saving Expert How to Stop Spending guide to see how to save on your bills and essentials.

Preparing for university

Coming to university is really exciting and one of the most important life choices you will make. Once you have chosen your course, you will want to be as prepared as possible. This includes planning ahead financially, making sure you understand the funding you are entitled to, applying for this appropriately, and considering how this affects your budget. Our UWS Money Magazine features lots of helpful information, tools and resources to help you do this.

The first thing you need to do is find out what student funding you are entitled to apply for. This can differ depending on your chosen course of study, and your circumstances. 


Student Funding you’re entitled to apply for

You should also ensure you take into account any impact that being a student might have on your entitlement to benefits, so check out our Benefits & Tax Credits webpage. It’s important to do this research so you don’t rely on funding that you may not be eligible to receive.

The next thing you need to consider is how being a student will impact your outgoings. This includes thinking about your cost of living while studying, and any financial commitments you will have.

Once you have a better understanding of how your income will change when you become a student, and what your outgoings will look like, it’s important to use this information to create a budget and see how your finances will look during your time at University. Creating a budget will allow you to identify any potential shortfall, and gives you time to readjust your spending to make your budget balance.

Here are some great resources designed to help you plan ahead financially and create an effective university budget:

Students from the UK:

UWS Budgeting Module – This is a web-based tool that takes you through the process of preparing a budget.

How Much – This tool will help you identify the costs associated with living and studying. You’ll be able to use this to work out your cost of living, and plan for one-off or irregular expenses.

Basic Budget – This basic budget template will help you create a budget, and look for areas that need to be addressed.

Students from outside the UK:

UWS Prepare to Study in the UK – This is a web-based tool designed exclusively for those students joining us from outside the UK. It will help you understand more about money and the cost of living in the UK, and will take you through the process of preparing a budget.

How Much (non-UK) – This tool will help you identify the costs associated with living and studying in the UK. You’ll be able to use this to work out your cost of living, and plan for one-off or irregular expenses.

Basic Budget (non-UK) – This basic budget template will help you create a budget, and look for areas that need to be addressed.

Planning ahead for the summer

Unless you are a SAAS funded nursing or midwifery student, student funding does not get paid during the summer break. For most students, SAAS do not ordinarily make payments from April until September, and other UK funding bodies will only pay in 3 instalments throughout the year. Despite this, the funding you receive is intended to be your income for 12 months.

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.

Planning ahead for life

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.

Planning for a family

Starting a family is exciting, daunting and can be very costly. Careful planning and research can help you to manage your finances when you are expecting the patter of tiny feet. With such a change to your circumstances it is important to refresh your budget, taking into account both the new income you might be able to receive as a result of a new baby, and the new expenses that this will incur.

A great resource to make lots of savings in your baby's 1st year is the Money Saving Expert – Baby Checklist.

You should also check out our Benefits & Tax Credits, and Discretionary & Childcare Funds webpages for further information on the potential sources of support to help you with the costs of having a family.

UWS budgeting modules

We have created a set of fun, interactive, web-based resources to help you understand your finances and plan an effective budget for university.

UWS Budgeting Module – This is a web-based tool that takes you through the process of preparing a budget.

UWS Prepare to Study in the UK – This is a web-based tool designed exclusively for those students joining us from outside the UK. It will help you understand more about money and the cost of living in the UK, and will take you through the process of preparing a budget.

Other sources of funding

When you become a student you can become eligible for childcare and discretionary funds, trust funds and scholarships. You may also find that your entitlement to benefits can change, so use the following links to ensure you receive the financial support you are eligible for.

Last updated: 20/11/2018

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