Excited about the fact you’ve accepted an offer of admission? Starting a course at the university is worth celebrating – so congratulations!
However, don’t forget your lifestyle is going to change and you need to prepare for it. Deciding the right student accommodation for you, which modules to select and most importantly, how much money you’ll need as a student.
This guide on how to budget as a student has been written to prepare you for a great experience without financial struggles. You can be sure to have an exciting stress-free study and social life during your programme if you follow the suggestions below:
1. Decide what matters
First, you need to identify your needs and wants.
During your freshers’ week, you may get invitations to parties and end up spending more than you can afford. Many students have reported overspending during their first week at the university. They wanted to enjoy every activity, couldn’t strike a balance, and so went beyond reasonable spending limits.
Don’t fall into such traps; without planning, it’s easy to blow up all the money that is supposed to last you the rest of the semester in just one week. To prevent this, you should distinguish between needs and wants, and put needs first!
2. Calculate your total income
You can only come up with a realistic budget if you know how much money you have coming in every month. Even if you enjoy some sort of financial support from your parents or a relative, you still need to sum up all your incomings to enable you plan correctly. This includes loan facilities from the government, as well as your wage/salary, allowances from your parents or guardian and any other source.
Knowing your net regular income should guide your daily, weekly and monthly spending limits. Continue reading this guide to find out some apps we have found to help you automatically sort out these calculations, so you don’t have to worry!
3. Make a list of your expenses
Now that you have an idea of how much money comes in regularly, you should begin to make a list of your expenses.
It’s easier to group expenses into clear categories like school expenses (fees, projects and accommodation), utility (house bills and mobile phone), lifestyle and others (gym, personal grooming, travel costs). You should begin to think of items to populate your list as there are smart open source apps that can help you sort each item into relevant categories for you to make your student life easier.
4. Start budgeting
With your overall income in mind and a clear picture of what your expenses would be, you can now start budgeting. But you require an organised way of recording and tracking expenses.
There are many ways of approaching this – you could choose to stick with the old school spreadsheet if that still works for you, or better still, start using budget planning apps.
There are several apps out there to help you keep organised and plan your finances, so do yourself a favour: head over to your device’s app store to download a budget planning and tracking app.
We recommend that you read the reviews first, especially if you settle for paid apps. That way, you should be able to see and assess each app’s suitability to your needs. Still not sure how to proceed? Don’t worry, we have some suggestions for apps that we think are great.
First on our list is an open source app. Mint is a smart app that can track all your incomings and expenses. It assigns transactions on your account to relevant categories to give you a near perfect idea of your net worth in real time.
Mint allows you to plan your finances and has colour-coded indicators to keep you within your budget. This free app also has a reporting feature that lets you customise and generate reports, so you will find more usefulness with the app if you maintain your profile with as much accurate information as possible.
As with every app, Mint also has its downsides: it assumes you have a regular income – and so you have to predict your income even with how irregular income could get as a student, but good luck with that!
Also known as “You Need A Budget”, this app is more of a financial goal setting and budgeting app.
YNAB can help you keep track of your financial account transactions and goals. As with budgeting, the app would require you to create categories and to allocate some money to each category based on how much you have coming in for you.
Sounds like a good way to ensure that you’re only putting money behind what you really need and that you’re not overspending. As a budgeting tool, YNAB has a drawback too – it only offers a free trial period of 34 days, after which you would be charged $6.99 USD (around £5.69 GBP) to continue enjoying the app.
Other free budget planning apps
There are some other free apps you may find useful for budget planning like: Pariti, Yolt, Cleo, and Money Dashboard. Some of these apps also allow you to track your finances and manage your overall spending.
You will also be able to connect your bank accounts and get visualisations (dashboard charts) on all categories of transactions, so you can see what you spend in different areas. For each of these apps, make sure that you read their descriptions and user reviews before you download them.
Budget planning websites can also be a good alternative especially if you don’t fancy smartphones and apps in 2020, or you just prefer having wider visualisation on your laptop screen, then check the ASIC website for the ASIC Budget planner.
There is also the Online Budget Planner offered by CommBank which you may find useful to get a better idea of what you can and can’t afford. Also, visit UNiDAYS’ website for information on student discounts.
5. Plan for your next budget
One final and most important thing to do is to earn money online towards your next budget.
The more money you have the higher your budget can be. So, you should consider having additional streams of income as a student. You will need to explore ways to fund your budget, such that you won’t have to always rely on the regular upkeep allowances from your parents or the wage/salary from your part time job.
You can do this by signing up to take paid surveys and get rewarded for sharing your opinion. This means you will no longer have to force your student life under a low budget.
Our survey site – OpinionWorld – offers a broad range of reward options in turn for your opinions, when you sign up, you can immediately start taking surveys to accumulate rewards which you can redeem for cash!