How to budget as a student: 6 steps

New figures show students are struggling to make their budget cover the essentials. Here are some tips to help.

You’ve planned out Freshers Week, and clocked where your first lecture’s going to be. But have you thought about managing your money for the first time?

2 in 3 students try to budget but struggle to stick to their plan, according to research by Finder. Meanwhile, only 1 in 5 students feel confident in their ability to budget and manage their money.

Now more than ever, students are feeling the squeeze. A 2023 survey from the UK’s Office for National Statistics found that 9 in 10 students were worried about the cost of living during the last academic year – some even had to skip meals or leave the heating off to help with rising costs.

So if you’re just about to head off to uni, here are 6 steps to help you budget confidently.

1. Know your income

The first step in budgeting is to understand how much money you have coming in overall. As a student, you may have different types of income, but your main source is likely to be your maintenance loan.

Your maintenance loan will land in 3 big instalments, so you’ll need to budget to make sure it lasts the entire year.

Many students top up this income, too. Here are some common student income sources:

  • Student loan
  • Any grants, bursaries, sponsorships or scholarships you’re eligible for
  • Money from parents or guardians
  • Income from a part-time job
  • Savings

While you may have an overdraft with your student account or a student credit card, it’s important not to include these as income. They can be useful to have, but should only be for an emergency.

2. Know your outgoings

There are some things that you’ll need to budget for – and some things that you’ll want to budget for.

If you’re living away from home, you’ll need to budget for some essential outgoings. These will vary depending on whether you’re in student halls or in a rented house. So take a look at this list and have a think about which will apply to you:

  • Tuition fees (these will be covered by your tuition fee loan if you have one)
  • Accommodation costs
  • Groceries
  • Contents insurance (unless you’re covered by your parents’ home insurance)
  • Utilities (gas/electricity/water)
  • Broadband
  • Mobile phone
  • Travel
  • Course materials such as books

3. Budget for some fun

It’s important to budget for nights out and entertainment. The reality is that you’re likely to be doing these things, so if you make sure you include them in your budget, you’re less likely to overspend.

Look to include things like drinking and eating out, going to the cinema, a new outfit, haircuts, and TV streaming subscriptions. If you build these into your budget, you’ll feel much more in control.

4. Build in a buffer

While you may feel that you’ve accounted for everything down to the last penny, there’s inevitably going to be something you’ve missed.

It’s a good idea to build in a buffer, say £20 a week, so if you go a little over on a night out you’ll still be on track. But obviously don’t deliberately aim to use your buffer. It’s there just for emergencies!

5. Calculate your budget

Now that you know what money you have coming in and what you need to spend it on, you can calculate your budget. You’ll need to think about whether to have a monthly or weekly budget – or both.

It’s more straightforward to create a monthly budget so that you can easily take into account rent payments and monthly utility bills. Then drill down into a weekly budget, so you have more control over your day-to-day spending.

6. Always look for a student discount

Try to make use of student deals and discounts to get money off where you can, to make your money go further. Plenty of shops offer student discounts – occasionally you can even use them on top of sale prices. And you can search for student discount codes for your favourite stores on code websites.

It’s all about sticking to your budget

A budget only works if you stick to it. Keeping an eye on how you’re doing is the key to feeling confident.

You can use an old-school spreadsheet to record everything, if you like spreadsheets. But there are also free budgeting apps available which give you full visibility of all your accounts.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to adjust your budget. If you’re finding your essential outgoings are getting more expensive, then you’ll need to adjust your non-essential budget to compensate.

About the author

Kate Steere is a deputy editor at, specialising in banking and fintech. She has previously written for The Motley Fool UK and Fitch Solutions, where she covered a wide range of personal finance topics and kept a close eye on market trends. Kate is regularly quoted in the national media about banking, fintech and mortgages.

This article originally appeared on and was syndicated by

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