Blog & Insights

How do I… Live on a budget?

The second installment of our “How Do I…” Series: a survival guide to university living.

Student living is tough. Studying aside, how are you supposed to make this the best time of your life if you’re restricted by a budget? It’s a challenge that all students face when they begin their university years. But with the right tools it can be done, and it can equip you with essential life skills to carry into the future. Here’s how.

Know what you have

The most important part about living on a budget is understanding exactly what you have to spend. Very simply: know what’s coming in and know what’s going out. List out all your living expenses from food and toiletries through to transport and rent, and balance this sum out against your income – whether that is from parents, banks or part time employment.

Anything that’s left over is free to go towards the entertainment fund. If there is a shortfall, one of the columns has to change. Either improve the income, or curb the spending. Simple!

Shop smart

Supermarket shopping can be a real drain on the budget, but we all need to eat, right? And that hair won’t wash itself. So think about how you can shop smarter with your money. Buy in bulk to get the best deals, and stake out those promo codes and special offers to really make your money work as hard as possible.

Pitch in with friends to keep the prices down and focus on the products you really need – rather than the ones you may want. Don’t get distracted by a good price if it’s not something you actually require. Embrace those home brand products like a close friend and watch the savings cleverly mount up.

Live smart

There are plenty of ways to help keep the budget in check when it comes to eating. Instead of splurging at the university canteen, or feeling tempted by all the delicious looking (and expensive) cafés you pass on your travels, try packing your own lunch to take to uni. It’s a great way to use up leftovers – and also helps keep your healthy eating plan firmly on track. You’ll savour meals out so much more when they become a treat rather than a habit.

When it comes to cooking, make a big batch that you can freeze for future use. Not only will you save money on ingredients, you’ll have meals ready to go ahead of time – double bonus! Embrace the plant-based movement and save even more money by reducing your meat intake. When it’s time for fun, take some time to investigate the many free entertainment opportunities in the area – and keep the spare dollars for those special occasions.

Get a job

If you are really struggling to balance the books, there is always the option of topping up your income with a part time job. Officially student visas allow up to 20 paid working hours a week during term time. Remember to consider the impact this may have on your studies before you commit – but time spent working means time not spending.

Want to know more? Check out our blog on how to balance a job while studying.

Stay on your toes

Avoid unnecessary transport costs by walking or cycling wherever you can. Most cities have comprehensive cycle ways that help you to easily get around, so it will literally pay to have a bike at your disposal. Exploring the city on foot not only helps you get to know the area like the back of your hand, it doubles up as your daily exercise fix. That’s a win-win for both body and budget.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

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