Having money while you’re at university might sound like a mammoth task, but you’re here doing a degree so if you can manage that, you can manage most things. I’ve been stuck for money lots of times, to the point where I’ve had to pick whether I’d like to be warm that week or I’d like to eat (food wins — food always wins). Money worries are the worst kind of worries, and I’ve had enough of those that I’ve got a couple of tips for you.
Learn to budget:
How do you get started? You can use good ol’ Excel if you’re a clever cat, or there’s free budgeting software out there — though, you should always be wary of what you’re installing on your PC. There’s budgeting software you can pay for, but I know what you’re thinking: Does it makes sense to spend money so you can save money? You know . . . it kinda does. But you definitely don’t need to.
I use You Need A Budget (YNAB) — it’s worth like £40, it’s pretty, it’s easy to use, and the best part is it’s absolutely free for students. You send a picture of your student card in and they send you a product key and a download link. I can’t recommend it enough, and when my time as a student is up I’ll definitely be buying it, because it’s saved me much more than it would have cost.
So why bother? Because when you’re tuned into your money, it’s easy to save. If you know you have birthdays, Christmas, rent, bills, books or a trip coming up, and you know how much you’re going to have between now and then, it’s easy to make sure you’re not in trouble when those things come around. It also gives you plenty of room to figure out if you are going to be in trouble, early enough to do something about it.
Student Loans don’t last forever and stretching them — especially between the start of the year and Christmas, in my experience — can be tough. If you’re budgeting, you can still have fun, but you’re saving money and making sure you don’t need an emergency cash injection from Mum and Dad. Obviously working a part-time job while you’re at school helps keep you afloat as well, but good budgeting skills will only benefit you in the long run.
YNAB has rules you can apply to your own budget: Whether you’re using Excel, jotting your numbers down on paper, or using actual software, these are rules you can follow that will help your money go further. Allocate money to bills, savings, spends, rainy days or debts. Don’t crucify yourself if you overspend: just try to fix it when it happens. Expect your payments (know when they’re due), and try as much as you can to live off money you have now, not money you have coming in.
Finally, don’t be frightened of your bank account. Ever had to check your balance and felt your gut tighten? Yeah. I’ve had friends who outright refuse to look at their accounts until the ATM stops spitting out money. I’ve been in positions myself when I mentally try to guess how much money I have, and then have a nasty surprise when I finally look. If you won’t check how much damage you’ve done it’ll be impossible for you to save. That’s why budgeting helps. If you know you only have twenty quid of spending money left this month, it’ll be less temping to go crazy with it and get yourself into a bad spot.
Good luck, and happy saving!