Watching your budget while studying

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Living on a student budget can be stressful so it’s wise to do some financial planning prior to starting a college or university course, whether or not this will be undertaken close to home or abroad.  A financial plan does not have to be sophisticated but it does need to be honest about everyday expenditure, and it’s a good idea to build in a few ways in which income can be stretched a little more.  Here are some basic tips for watching your budget while studying.

Creating a budget

Begin with an honest analysis of typical monthly expenditure.  Track every single item on a spreadsheet, or in a notebook or smartphone app.  From the total available to spend, first set aside funds for the major bills – tuition fees, books, accommodation costs, meal tickets, etc.  If there are large amounts to be spent once or twice per year – for example, on travel if studying abroad – make sure to include these.  What money is left after these entries represents the true budget figure for the rest of the semester or the year, depending on the time scale chosen. 

Make a plan

A spending plan is like any other type of plan, except it is based on numbers.  Start with income and use a notebook or spreadsheet to list all the potential sources of funds that could go into the income.  There may be support from family members or anticipated wages from a part-time job.  Move on to expenditure and use another worksheet or page in a notebook to revise the known expenses that were recorded in the spending analysis.  The simple act of comparing the expenditure with the income will prompt what needs to be done next.

Take action

If there is more income than expenditure then there will be surplus funds to put aside as a contingency for unplanned expenses, or to allocate as savings for a vacation, or maybe a purchase such as a new laptop or tablet.  If, on the other hand, expenditure exceeds income then adjustments will have to be made – either to reduce expenses, or to boost income, or both.  It may be worth investigating the possibility of a scholarship or grant, or finding out about graduate student loans; there are websites that provide this information, such as here.

Trimming expenditure

When a budget really needs to be cut back, take an objective approach.  Identify how much has to be trimmed from the expenditure total, and then make a list of non-essential expense categories such as entertainment, buying new clothes and snacks.  If monthly expenditure has to be cut by, say $120, and there are three items in the non-essential list, then aiming to save $40 on each non-essential item will balance the budget.

Freebies and special offers

One of the advantages of being a student is that there are plenty of discount vouchers, good deals and special offers that can help stretch that limited budget a little further.  These might include two-for-the-price-of-one meal deals – so share with a friend and save half the cost.  Stay vigilant, check out online information, and opportunities will present themselves for saving a good deal of money on day-to-day living.


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