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By Philippa Dobree-Carey, From High School to Uni

The first question every parent asks me, an experienced mum whose children have successfully navigated university with no student debt, is “how do you create a budget”?

A survey conducted amongst students in 2020 revealed that over 70% of them worried about making ends meet, and yet at least 10% of students had never even attempted to compile a budget.

If you don’t know how or where to start, read on. By following these tips and using the interactive budget calculator on my website, you will be able to calculate what works best for you, within your means, and learn how to budget successfully.

Why do you need a budget?

If you’re going to be receiving a scholarship or student loan – that means you have a bottomless pit of funds, right? WRONG! You need to make your finances stretch to cover all essentials, from rent to food, to mobile phone costs to socializing. It may be fun to have a night out clubbing, but if that means eating crackers and drinking water for the rest of the month, was it worth splurging on alcohol, or could you budget appropriately to make sure you know how much your social funds can cover?

What is your currently financial situation?

First, add up the funds at your disposal from scholarships, parents’ contributions, salary (babysitting money saved), etc. This is your income. Calculate this income over the academic year (usually September to June).

Calculate the essential monthly expenses.

Essential monthly expenses usually include rent, tuition fees, utility bills, Wi-Fi and mobile phone, food, transport costs, etc. Next deduct these projected essential expenses from the projected income. The remaining figure is your funds available for socializing, clothes, extras, and emergencies.

The easiest method is to then divide these projected expenses and ‘remaining’ expenses into a monthly amount, which you can then divide into a weekly budget. Members on our website can download our interactive budget calculator created especially for university students.

Budget Breakdown: Needs vs Wants

Remember that bills and essentials come FIRST, not a new pair of Converse because they’ll go with your outfit this week. Ask yourself if you NEED a nice-to-have, and have you paid your essential bills or done your weekly food shop yet.

Living on a Student Budget – Our Top Tips

When out shopping, remember the store brand is probably just as good as a well-known brand label, and go for the cheaper version. Your budget will stretch that much further.

Does the designer label shower gel wash your body any better than a store brand? No. Save those pennies where you can!

Get storecards and collect points. You’ll be entitled to discounts when you show your Student ID card, so use it!

There are a number of apps and websites available to help you budget effectively.

Check out our blogs on Money Saving Tips for Students and more budgeting tips.


Author bio

Philippa Dobree CareyPhilippa Dobree-Carey is an adept project manager for an international organization in Geneva. Author of the award-winning student guide "From High School to Uni", Philippa successfully steers students step-by-step through the process of packing, preparing for and thriving in the university environment.

With a passion for helping others, Philippa's insightful blogs provide a wealth of practical advice, guiding students (and anxious parents!) with firsthand experience, tips, and insights. As a devoted mother of two university aged children, she understands the concerns of those navigating this transition. This firsthand perspective has driven her to create a library of well-defined, pragmatic resources aimed at facilitating the transition to university life. Discover a treasure trove of invaluable resources by visiting her website www.fromhighschooltouni.com

Philippa photo credit: Timeless Portrait Photography - Amber Roberts Images