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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. You could 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 part-time job, if you have one

  • money from parents, if they'll be contributing

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 in your budget.

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 that you can stay on top of your outgoings.

How to save money on food and shopping:

  • buy food in bulk and batch cook meals, then freeze what 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 yellow-sticker 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 avoid late fees if you’re taking the book out

  • 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/paper

  • use reputable software for cloud storage

How to save money on transport:

  • save a third on rail fares with the 16-25 Railcard

  • save a third on standard and fully flexible coach fares with National Express Young Persons Coachcard

  • get 30% off 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 to 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. 

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 that can help pay for necessary expenses or to 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.