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If you’re a college student preparing for university, you’ll need to learn how to budget. Budgeting can be easy when you stick to realistic goals and create them by looking at your income and expenditure. Below, we’ve covered the steps you can take to learn how to make a budget plan for college students.

Create an initial financial goal

Defining a goal is a great start to making a budget for university. It can help you to create smaller rules to follow because you’ll know your ideal budget or savings goal. 

For example, you might want to save £500 every year at university. Once you know this, it will be easier for you to work out how much you should put into a savings account each month.

You can also create separate goals, one for before university and one during your time at university. It’s a good idea to save up some money before university for any items or activities you might have to pay for. 

To define your financial goals, first determine how much money you’re getting in scholarships or loans from a sponsor or your parents. How often are you getting this? It all depends on what kind of financial assistance you’re getting.

If you receive money every month, you can easily divide this into smaller amounts which can be used for different things. For example:

  • food: this is the amount of money you’ll need every week to spend on food items
  • weekly accessories: this can be anything from buying a cup of coffee to buying new clothes
  • transport: this will be any amount you’ll need to spend on public transport each week
  • academic items: this could be an amount spent on books, trips or events relating to your course
  • accommodation: how much does your rent cost?

Once you know how much money you’ll have in your account, you can work towards some sort of goal. This goal could be any of the following:

  • save £500 over a specific time period
  • save £1000 over a specific time period
  • never spend over £100 a week
  • never spend over £200 a week

There are many possible goals you could choose from. It all depends on how you want to spend your time at university.

If you’re looking to determine a financial goal but can’t decide on what that goal should be, why not make an appointment with a financial advisor? Most universities, like Newcastle University, have a dedicated team of financial advisors that are here to help you with information on living costs, tuition fees and budget planning.

Set a weekly budget

Setting a weekly budget is a clever idea if you want to save money. It means you will be better prepared each week for shopping. If you have a budget, you’ll definitely spend less than a student without one because you’re putting more care and effort into your spending.

So let’s create a weekly budget. And remember, there’s a big difference between an essential item and a non-essential item. 

1. Create a food shopping list by researching cheapest options

Write down all the food items you’ll need to buy each week. Next, do some research at the shops in your city - where can you get these items the cheapest? Creating a shopping list that you stick to each week means you’ll always know how much you’re spending on food.

2. Determine how much money you can spend on non-essentials

Non-essentials are things like coffee, clothes, trips to restaurants and other activities. If you spend a lot each week while at university, it’s a good idea to look at these. You’ll be able to find some things you’re buying that you don’t need. 

Reducing your spending on non-essential items will reduce your weekly spending, which means you can create a lower budget.

3. How much money will you need for transport?

You might need to take the bus from your accommodation to your lecture hall or the local supermarket. You may even need to take a train a few times a week. Figure out all the essential trips you’ll need to make and add up how much it will cost.

This figure can be your weekly budget for transport.

4. How much will you spend on academic items?

Academic items can be anything from textbooks, stationery, library fees and other course-related spending. This might not need to be a very big budget as you’ll probably have bought all your textbooks and stationery at the start of the year, but it’s still a good idea to make one. 

After all, who knows how many notebooks you’ll fill with writing from all your studying?

Remember, anything you don’t spend from your budget can be put into a savings account or added to another budget. 

Redefine your financial goals

You might be thinking ‘but I’ve already defined my financial goals’. You have once, yes. But  when you’ve figured out your weekly budget, you should go back to your goals and see if they’re still realistic.

Add up each weekly budget for the university year. If you’ve created a budget for the whole year, does it add up to more or less than this number? If it’s more, you might have to rethink your weekly budget.

If your financial goal is to save money, does your weekly budget allow you to put money in the bank each month? For example, if you have £400 a month to spend and a financial goal of saving £500 a year, do you have enough money left over each week to save? 

But if you’re budgeting £90 a week, that extra £10 can go into your savings account. 

Once you’ve looked over your weekly budget and financial goal, do they work together? If you’re spending too much money each week, your goal might not be attainable. If the goal you’ve created is unrealistic, your weekly budget won’t be very effective.

It’s all about creating a nice balance between the two and it’s pretty simple to follow.

Follow your final budget and financial goal

Once you have a goal in mind and a weekly budget to use, it’s a good idea to have two bank accounts. One to use for keeping your loan safe and another to have for your budget.

You can transfer money from the first account into the second each month, so you know how much you have to spend. This is especially easy using banking apps on your phone. 

If you’ve created a good budget and know how much you’ll have to spend on living costs, you shouldn’t need to draw more money out each month from your original loan. 

If you need help with student fees and living costs, get in touch with your university’s student financial support services. For example, Newcastle University has services set up to help fund you while at university. 

Money-saving tips for university

To help your weekly budget be even more effective, try out these money-saving tips that are incredibly helpful for university students:

  • buy a student railcard or student bus pass. These will get you cheaper tickets for bus or train journeys
  • buy supermarket-brand food rather than mainstream brands. Supermarket brands are always cheaper than other versions
  • use a reusable coffee cup. Most coffee franchises reduce the price of coffee if you give them a reusable coffee cup to use
  • use price comparison websites. These websites allow you to compare multiple versions of the same products to see where you can buy it the cheapest

Creating a budget plan for university can help you to save for a specific goal or just help you live a little more comfortably. To help you create a budget, we’ve created a handy student budget calculator you can use.

Create your university student budget today

For an international student heading off to your first year at university, this cost calculator will help you compare your income and expenditure. You can then create a realistic budget that will aid in saving money while at university.

Click below to begin creating your own university budget


Budget Calculator