Budgeting can be a real nightmare at times as I’ve learned from my first year of study. To be honest like most students, I’ve never really budgeted in my life, so starting university last year and having to budget for the first time was extremely difficult. But here are a few things that I tried in my first year of study in order to budget, which I hope will be of some use to many of you who are about to start uni this September.
Draw up a plan of your income and expenditures
This is just to get a rough idea of how much money you’ll have coming in and how much money you’ll be spending. Your sources of income may include things like student finance loan/grant, savings, part-time job and maybe even your parents. In terms of expenditures there are a lot to think about. Here are a few things to consider: Tuition fees (which you don’t have to worry about as it gets paid directly to the university), rent, food and drink, toiletries, laundry, books and stationary, clothes, shoes and transportation costs amongst many other things.
Decide how much money you are going to spend every week
This can be very hard. So what I would advise is that before the student finance money is paid into your account or building society, you do the maths. In other words work out how much money you will have left once you have paid your rent. And from there it should be a lot easier to see how much you have left for the term and essentially how much you can afford to spend on a weekly basis. Most times the amount you’ll be left with after rent has been taken out will be very small or even non-existent at times to last you for the whole term. So in order to resolve this problem you may have to sit and talk to your parents about how to work around this issue. Maybe they will be willing to assist you with some extra cash over the course of the year. Another way of getting some extra cash would be to find part-time job but it is essential that you do not work more than 15 hours a week as you do not want this to get in the way of your studies. At Aston uni we have a jobshop that you can use to find part-time work to support yourself with some extra income. You could also consider becoming a Student Ambassador like myself because it’s a great job that is totally flexible as you decide when you want to work. This is a brilliant way to represent your university and earn some extra cash at the same time.
This is the one week that students tend to spend the most money in, so make sure that you set yourself a limit of how much you can afford to spend in Fresher’s week, so that you don’t end up struggling through your first term, as most, if not all your money would have been spent on having a good time during Fresher’s week.
Shop in bulk
Shopping in bulk is a great way to save money. You should aim to either do one big food shop every week or every fortnight. Always shop around first before you finally decide where to buy something because it might be cheaper elsewhere. Before you go shopping make sure you write a shopping list, because when you walk into the supermarkets there are likely to be loads of great offers and deals on display and you may end up buying stuff that you really don’t need as a result. Therefore it is a really good idea to carry a shopping list with you and try your very best stick to it- I know it’s hard, but it has to done. When writing up your list I highly recommend buying a lot of dry food such as pasta, noodles and rice, as well as stocking up on the tin soups and the baked beans, these tend to come in very useful when your fridge/freezer starts to look a little empty-sad times:-( I would also advise that you do your shopping online because you just search for what you need, whereas when you are in the supermarket it is very easy to get distracted by something that you don’t need. I would recommend doing your online shopping at Asda because out of the four major supermarkets, their produce tends to be cheaper. And having lived on campus in my first year I can officially say that Asda seems to be the favourite online shop for Aston students- so welcome to the club! Instead of doing all your shopping in the supermarket you could use the local Bull Ring market (roughly 10 minutes away from Aston Uni) to buy fresh produce like fruits, vegetables, meat and fish just to name a few because they’re usually a lot cheaper there than in the supermarkets.
Having a meal plan is something that I haven’t tried out yet, (but it is something that I definitely want to try out this year as I think that it will contribute to me being able to better manage my money). Remember those days at primary and secondary school when you used to line up and wonder what was on the lunch menu for that day? No, me neither, it seems like such a long time ago. Well the point I’m trying to make here is that you could use that idea of having a lunch menu at school and turn it into a weekly meal menu. To do this I have decided to draw up a timetable from Monday to Sunday and I’m going to outline in it what to have for breakfast, lunch and dinner on each of those days. I think that this will also help me with my shopping list because if I know what meals I’m going to have each day, then I can decide what ingredients to buy. To all you new students that want to give this method a go I would suggests that when planning your meals you should aim to keep them simple, tasty, and nutritious. The good thing about this is that instead of cooking just one portion, you could cook two or three portions of that meal and then put it in the fridge or freezer ready to eat another day during that week or even in the following week. This can come in real handy, on those days when you have lectures that finish late and you go home feeling really tired-not in the mood for cooking. All you need do then is grab your home-cooked pre-prepared meal out of the fridge or freezer and warm it up-ahh the good life. And obviously throw in some treats for yourself every now and again by having a takeaway, say once a week or once every fortnight- but don’t get too carried away with the takeaways though.
If you are living on campus in your first year you don’t have to worry about transport because that is one of the main advantages of studying at Aston University, lack of transportation costs. Everything is literally within walking distance because Aston uni is situated in the heart of Birmingham and the nearest shopping centre the Bullring is approximately 10 minutes away from the uni, likewise Birmingham New Street Station. Sometimes when going out with your friends or flatmates on nights out you may have to take the bus or a taxi which is fairly cheap and even cheaper if you travel in large groups. The only other time that you’ll have to spend money on transport is when you’re visiting home. If like me you come from another city to study at Birmingham you may want to consider buying a 16-25 Rail card which will save you a 1/3 on all rail fares to and from Birmingham. It’s a worthwhile investment if the costs of travelling home is a bit on the hefty side. Alternatively if you chose Santander as your student bank account they’ll give you a 4-year 16-25 Rail card worth £120 for free- now that’s what I call a bargain!