Student blog post

Budgeting advice for students

Danila explains her favourite budgeting tips

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Unless you have gone on a deep dive into every single thing you spent any money on over the last year… chances are you are not as aware of how much you are spending on things as you might think.

Particularly if you are struggling with money or if you find yourself living on ramen the last week before SAAS* or your pay comes in. Student life is stressful and exciting, and I get it, you want to focus on what is important so sometimes you feel too tired to do the grocery shopping, cooking cleaning, etc and just want some takeaway a bit too often. You also want to enjoy these few years of your life to make friends, build memories and just… enjoy going out and having fun – an important part of student life as long as it does not get in the way.

Budgeting does not mean giving up on things that bring you joy or help you feel better while you grind away in the library. But it is something where, with a bit of intention, you can take a lot of the stress off your shoulders.

It takes time and effort to learn to manage your finances in this way. When I started, I was having a hard time estimating exactly how much I was spending on different things – I simply wasn’t paying enough attention as I was tapping my card.

Here are some of my tips and tricks to make it easier:

Monthly budget

To be able to plan your spending, you need to understand it. Go through all your payments over the last 6 months and review on average how much you spend on different things and make a list. Then you fill out your budget sheet and fill out the amounts you added up in your expenses.

First, you need to make a list. That will generally go in two sections: In and Out

In – all your income, payments you receive whether is SAAS, your job, parents, bursaries, savings etc;

Out – all your expenses. I split that up into 2 sections again; “regular payments” such as bills, food, rent, subscriptions, transport, food, weekly allowance etc – this will usually be the same amount from month to month. Then you have the “one-off stuff” such as gifts, events, social costs, and shopping. Everything that is not regular but you still need to spend money on like, buying clothes or getting a haircut or gifts for special occasions etc.

You tally up all your income, and expenses, then compare the figures: this is your budget.

If your expenses are more than your income, this is where budgeting is a lifesaver and you will have to be strict… if you are still left with some money after you’ve recorded everything, then this is where savings come in.

Round up, Round down rule

Ideally, you want to have a bit of wiggle room with your money. It is scary to feel like you are completely in the red and this is where you become more at risk of digging into overdrafts and credits – which helps in the short term but holds many risks you may have to battle with down the line.

I am in no position to give advice on credit banking, this is entirely based on my experience and my personal preference is to avoid as much of it as I can.

So, to give myself that little safety net, I have a rounding rule when I am estimating how much income I can expect at the end of the month and how much I would need to spend on predictable expenses:

Round DOWN income: When I plan my budget I add up the hours I have worked multiplied by the hourly wage, then take off any taxes I may have to pay, and then whatever is left, I round down to the nearest 100 number (Example, I earned 956 after tax, but rounded down to 900).

Round UP expenses: I do the same with expenses in reverse (For example rent is 420, I count it as 450, my internet is 14, but I budget it as 20). This way, I am prepared to pay more than I actually have to so if any surprises happen, I am ready for it.

It may seem silly, but it helps me not get as stressed if I have a particularly stressful month. Sometimes I cannot work as much as I need to due to deadlines or my health. Not to mention things out of my control: in the past, I have been taxed the wrong amount, had my cat need an emergency vet, had events come up or just had to buy a ton of Christmas gifts for family and that was a big expense I was not prepared for.

Planning for a little wiggle room to tackle those unforeseen things has a big impact on money anxiety. Added bonus if you intentionally dedicate some of your budget towards savings!

*SAAS refers to a bursary from the Student Awards Agency Scotland. Further information can be found on the SAAS website.

For more information on budgeting, check out the University’s guide on managing your money

Danila Petrova

Originally from Bulgaria, studied Digital Interaction Design.

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Student voice category Campus life, Money and finance