Budgeting can be daunting especially if it’s the first-time handling money. But it doesn’t have to be scary. It does take some effort and practise, but it eventually gets easier, not that I’m claiming to be an expert. See below my budgeting hints and tips that I hope you find useful.
Rent is obviously the most important because of the grand repercussions if a payment is missed. Rent should be the first thing that it budgeted for. Student housing sometimes takes payments on semesterly bases, so it is super important that it is paid for. Private renting is normally monthly and so it can be easier to split the student loan up.
1) Get a savings account (I personally do not have an overdraft but there are interest free student overdraft accounts that can help when you’re in need. The Student Services at ARU can help and offer advice)
2) Divide a monthly limit so the student loan is spread evenly. Get a sense of what the limit is each month and work from there, so all parts can be monitored to reduce the chance of being left with nothing before the next loan comes in.
3) Go to the housing fairs – the university runs housing fairs with many different letting agencies across Cambridge and Chelmsford and some of them even offer discounts or deals on agency fees just from talking to them. This can be a good opportunity to test the waters and see all in one place what is being offered to you. It also stops the disappointment of finding a really nice place online and then being told they don’t offer it out to students.
For some, this may be included in the rent price, if so it’s a little less to worry about. If not, then knowing some tips and trick to reduce overusing and overpaying can come in handy.
1) Make sure to ring your energy provider as soon as you move in to take an accurate reading of the metres, so they do not overcharge you for what the previous tenant has used. This may sound scary, but most providers are happy to help and take you through it step by step; just be honest with them and say you are unfamiliar with this and will need a little extra support. You are paying them for a service at the end of the day and they want to keep you as a customer.
2) Search on comparison websites for better deals and then switch, sounds like effort but once it’s done, it’s done, and there are even websites that do the switch for you. If you do find a better price, call your current energy provider and see if they can do a better deal, it is very competitive, and they want to keep you with them, so they may have some offers.
3) Turn off power outlets when you leave the room, turn lights off, kettles, toasters, TV’s. This will only make a little difference but a difference none the less.
4) Reduce water use – here is a list of ways to reducing water
The biggest thing that helped me when it came to buying food was writing a big list of all the meals I liked and felt capable of cooking and then picked 7 each week as I went shopping. I then considered food for lunches and breakfast, so I wouldn’t have to buy those at the local shops or cafes because that is really where it adds up. Students don’t just have to eat pot noodles and cereal bars, in fact, during my time at university so far, I’ve never had a pot noodle and I haven’t gone longer than a day without eating a fruit or vegetables. The stereotypes about student lifestyles being unhealthy don’t have to be true for you.
My five top tips when budgeting for food
1) Write a shopping list – and don’t let the sale items entice you if you don’t need them.
2) Meal prep – write a list of all the meals you like and feel capable of cooking (or if youre brave even try new recipes) and pick 7 of those each week so you know exactly what to shop for.
3) Plan lunches and breakfasts as well as dinners – buying lunches and breakfast from cafes and coffee shops adds up and it will not be long before you realise you have very little money left before the next student loan.
4) Go for the cheapest versions of the foods – it sounds simple, but many people are used to going for the branded foods like Heinz Beans when own brand items are the same and will do just fine.
5) Don’t worry about others opinions – if your friends are buying lunch every day and you have a packed lunch, don’t feel pressured to buy lunch out with them. If they can afford it that’s fine, and once in a while if you have some money left over then of course treat yourself, but don’t fall into the trap of buying food when you can make it at home for free.
So, I hope these tips help, and that it doesn’t feel too overwhelming. You will get through, and it will get easier. Before you know it, you’ll be budgeting without realising!