Monday, 8 September 2014

Top 10 tips for budgeting

There are a lot of new experiences involved in going to University; new friends, new surroundings, new lessons, new clubs and societies, new accommodation, new pencil case… there’s loads! However, one thing that’s useful to keep the same, or if you’re new to it – start, is budgeting. Wait, wait, wait don’t leave the page yet. I know it’s probably not the most exciting thing you’re looking forward to, but it’s definitely one of the most important.

If you start planning and budgeting early, it’s something that’s only going to become more and more useful throughout life.  That’s why we’ve put together our top ten tips for budgeting at university.

1. How do I budget? 

The best place to start is to know exactly how much you have. With that figure in mind, it’s then far easier to plan your budget.

2. What’s going out? And what’s coming in?

There are some things you can expect to pay either weekly or monthly: bills; rent; food; transport; and, of course, academic or social events.  So it’s best to prioritise these outgoings so you know your essentials are covered.

3. Working on a budget

The key to this is to shop savvy!  For instance, you might find that you need certain text books or materials when you start university. However, there are various ways you can save money here:
  • Check the library – you might find that the books you need are already there! However, you might also find that you need certain text books for the entire duration of your course.  If this is the case you might want to consider buying some of your books.
  • Consider buying second-hand books – either at university or online. At the University of Chester, John Smith’s Bookshop gives you the option of buying and selling pre-owned books.
  • Look out for discounts – you might find it cheaper to buy course materials directly from your department, or use any student discounts you may be eligible for. Quite a few high street retailers and online stores have discounts available for students. And, at the University of Chester, John Smith’s Bookshop offers all eligble first year students a £50 voucher that can be spent either online or in store. 

4. Transport

Luckily the majority of our campuses are so close to the city centre, you’ll be able to walk to most places. However, if you did need to use public transport, it’s worth looking for any student discounts that may be available. In particular, rail cards are worth buying if you are considering frequently using either Chester or Warrington’s excellent rail networks.

5. Food

Yes, baked beans are an option, but realistically it’s still possible to have a normal and healthy diet whatever your budget.  Here’s how:

  • If you’re in a full board residence then all your food is catered for! However, if you are in self, semi-catered or private sector accommodation, it’s helpful to plan your meals as this reduces impulse buys.
  • Reduce waste by freezing food or cooking meals in bulk and then freezing. That way, you’ve always got something to eat. 
  • If you live in shared self-catered accommodation, start a house kitty so you can all group together to buy household items that you need.  This might include bills as well as your weekly food shop. 
  • It’s a nice treat eating out, but it soon adds up if it becomes a regular occurrence. Think about making your own lunch each day and make staying in a social event, asking your friends to all bring an item of food or drink to the party!

6. Entertainment

It’s fair to say that there is probably a social event happening every night of the week. Whether it’s an event in the Students’ Union bar, a student night out in town, a local gig, or just a catch up with friends – it can all mount up. If you can, it’s best to try and allocate a set amount each week for socialising. Not only will this help with ensuring you can still go out to all your favourite places each week, but it will mean you’ll still have enough money for the rest of the week.

Plus, who says you have to spend money to have fun!  There are often loads of free events, either at the Students’ Union or in the city/town centre itself. Or, what about having some nights in with your housemates?  You could also try looking on student specific websites for discounts and 2 for 1 entry for bigger days or nights out.

7. Part-time job

Getting a part-time job is a great way of gaining some additional money as well as some transferable skills for future employment.  However, just be careful it doesn’t start to affect your studies, as ultimately that’s why you’re at university.

At Chester, you might be interested to know we have our own our recruitment bank for students looking for paid work at the University. If this sounds like something you’d like to be involved with, make sure you apply early as recruitment to the scheme, UniJob, happens only at the start of each academic year.

8. Student Bank Accounts

Most banks will offer a student bank account, with various incentives and benefits included.  In fact, some banks even offer additional gifts just for opening an account with them. Although this might sound appealing, it shouldn’t necessarily be the reason you choose them. Make sure you research the various student bank accounts available in order to decide which bank account is best for you.

9. Student discount cards

If you’re 16 or over and in Further or Higher Education, then you could be eligible for student discounts! Once at university, the Students’ Union are usually very keen to let students know about the various student discount cards available, and how they can offer you a huge selection of discounts on everything from clothing, food, insurance, fitness, technology and even holidays! In addition to this, there’s even more discounts available for University of Chester students! During Induction Week, the Students’ Union gives out voucher booklets that offer all sorts of discounts. And, if you’re part of our clubs and societies, you can even apply for a membership card to receive 10% discount at our Students’ Union shop and our Starbucks on Saturdays!

10. Insurance and Bills

If you added up just some of the things you might be taking to university - phone, laptop, tablet, camera - you might be surprised by just how valuable your items are. Therefore, it’s worth seeing if your items are included in any insurance you or parents/guardians might already have, but if not, then it’s worth researching the insurance options available whilst at university.

At Chester, if you’re in university owned accommodation then your bills are included in your rent. However, if you are going to be living in private sector accommodation, make sure you find out what is included in the rent.  Find out how much the deposit is, whether bills and water rates are included, and how the utility bills are paid. It might initially seem daunting, but there’s lots of advice and guidance available for students to help with this process, both online and at university. A couple of ideas to help could be setting phone reminders for when meter readings are due or organising a house kitty for the bills.

Money Matters

It might seem like a lot, but budgeting is something that once established, will allow you to get more from what you’ve got! However, if you do find yourself struggling with finance during University, then don’t struggle alone - we have a 5 star rated student support and guidance team ready to help.

That’s it from me for now.  I hope this has helped, but if you’re unsure of anything, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Happy saving!!!


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