Top of main content

How to budget as a student

Budgeting for university can help you stay on top of your finances.

From food bills to course materials and transport, here are some tips on how to budget and save money as a student. 

How to plan a budget

Creating a budget can help you see what you have coming in and going out, and if you’ll have any money left over each month. Use our budget planning tool to help.

Your income may include:

  • your student loan
  • any grants, bursaries, sponsorships or scholarships you're eligible for
  • salary from a job
  • money from parents

Your outgoings may include:

  • tuition fees
  • rent for accommodation
  • household bills, such as gas and electricity, water and broadband
  • transport costs
  • food
  • course materials

It’s worth taking expensive periods, like Christmas and holidays, into account as well as one-off purchases, such as a laptop. Make sure to include some money for the occasional treat too, and anything you want to save for.

Tips on managing your outgoings

Your student loan is usually paid into your bank account at the start of each term (or monthly in Scotland). But remember, that money needs to last – so think about your spending over the longer term. Looking for ways to reduce your outgoings and save money can help keep your budget on track. 

Find out what your spending personality is, so you can stay on top of your outgoings.

How to save money on food shopping:

  • buy food in bulk (where possible) and batch cook meals for the coming week – to help you resist the temptation to splash out on takeaways
  • freeze any food you don't use so nothing goes to waste
  • instead of just food shopping for yourself, see if you can do a group shop with your housemates
  • look for reduced items at the supermarket
  • make packed lunches instead of going to the campus canteen every lunchtime

How to save money on course materials:

  • head to the university library to see if you can borrow the book you need, but remember, if you take the book out, you'll need to return it on time to avoid any late fees
  • if you need to buy a book, many universities have second-hand book sales

How to save money on tech and appliances:

  • find out what your halls or private accommodation has available
  • if you have your own printer, print in black and white and on both sides of the page to save on ink and paper
  • use reputable software for cloud storage

How to save money on transport:

  • save a third on rail fares with the 16 to 25 Railcard
  • save a third on standard and fully flexible coach fares with National Express Young Persons Coachcard
  • get a discount on travel in London with the 18+ Student Oyster Photocard (you must live at a London address in term-time to be eligible)

Remember to make the most of any student discounts available and TOTUM – the new name for NUS extra. 

Open a student bank account

Opening a student bank account can help you manage your finances. You’ll be able to set up Direct Debits for your bills, and keep an eye on your spending. If you use mobile banking, you can check your balance on the go and receive notifications if your balance dips below a certain amount. 

If you’re an HSBC customer, you can also use Balance After Bills, in the HSBC Mobile Banking app on compatible devices. It shows you how much you could have left, once your bills (scheduled Direct Debits and standing orders) have been paid. 

We have more mobile money management tools in our app to help you keep an eye on your spending and stay on top of your finances. Not only could they help you keep within your budget and improve spending, they may also help you grow your money and achieve your financial goals.

Most banks offer student bank accounts, which may include an overdraft. It’s worth checking what happens if you go over your overdraft limit, and if there is a charge. 

Explore: Banking 101: Opening your first bank account

Some student bank accounts also come with a credit card, which can help pay for necessary expenses or give you protection on big-ticket items, but be careful not to overspend. Anything you buy on a credit card will need to be repaid.