Budgeting as a student can be hard! Learn from our students top mistakes.

Karl McCormack, Lecturer, Staffordshire Business School


Being a student is a great time in your life, but living off a budget can create stress and anxiety. We start university often with limited skill in budgeting and managing our finances. Students frequently mention spending mistakes that eat up chunks of their bank balances.

The key is to develop good spending habits starts with budgeting. Yes, it is time consuming and a real pain, but it enables us to track money coming in and going out.

By learning to budget well, you will be able to:

  • Understand your spending and adjust bad spending habits
  • Spend less on useless items
  • Save more money
  • Keep out of debt
  • Have money for emergencies or important future expenses
  • Learn and prevent future spending mistakes

Learning how to budget will save you a lot of hassle and you will be learning skills for life.

Biggest mistakes:

Not having a budget!

Sounds crazy doesn’t it? But failing to have a visual budget instead relying on memory for what you have to spend and what you have spent, often leads to thinking you have more money than you really do. It becomes difficult to gauge if something is over your budget and impossible to not overspend as you start to socialise more.

Using your debit card when you pay for something.

Everyone uses their card right? Using cash is old fashioned? But there are many more pros than cons in using cash rather than your card. Putting everything on a card creates the illusion of having more money than you think, that you aren’t actually spending. The realisation that you do not have unlimited funds, that you are a student living on a budget (now with no money) will soon kick in.

Students often say they have no idea what they were spending money on. Tapping a card  and not even registering the amount you are tapping for. This along with not looking at a  bank statements or just being confused by the names you see on it.

So stop using your card, use cash for daily expenses. Yes you still need a card (online purchases, transport, larger expenses) for necessities. But for fun expenses, things you don’t really need, pay by cash. You will notice as the cash disappears and this will give you greater knowledge of where you are spending your money.

Don’t buy textbooks before attending your first classes.

Every course has a list of recommended texts and required reading. There are certain benefits to being organised and preparing. But wait. Internet searching can often reveal the information you are after.

But what if the book is compulsory? In some lectures the tutor may refer to a core book each week and the questions can only be found in them. You may need to get your hands on a specific book then. You could try:

  • The university library
  • Classmates and friends (may have copies they are happy to share)
  • Social media chats and groups (may get a battered old copy cheap)
  • Online marketplaces
  • Online, traditional and second-hand bookstores

Lazyness! Not packing your own lunch.

Ask any student they will say a lot of money is spent on buying lunch on the days you are in uni. Often prices are not too high, but they are higher than making your own. You may start with good intentions, but as time passes the laziness creeps in and you stop packing your own lunch. Purchasing a lunch can cost £7 or £8 then a drink etc… multiply this by the number of days you are in uni and the weeks and suddenly you are talking about a large sum of money.

By knowing what you spend your money on, learning from those mistakes means you can take steps to ix it. Develop good spending habits, don’t buy things that you do not need and learn from others.

What are your own spending mistakes? What are your tips?


Our Accounting and Finance courses at Staffordshire University will teach you how to guide every business decision from financial reporting, tax planning and business strategy.

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