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Student Living Costs: How to Create a Student Budget

It’s important to create a student budget when at university to ensure that your money goes further as student living costs can add up. In this guide, we’ll share our best student budgeting tips and how you can still save some money, even whilst at university.

Average student living costs


The average student living costs in the UK is around £800 per month according to a survey carried out by Save the Student. The survey gathered living costs from 3,161 students and the spread of student expenses was very interesting. Here’s a table summarising the findings:

ExpenseCost per month
Household Bills£37
Mobile Phone£16
Course Materials£16
Going Out£46
Clothes & Personal Shopping£29
Health & Wellbeing£13
Gifts & Charity£12

Rent is by far the biggest expense for students which isn’t surprising. However, the amount of money spent on both going out and takeaways is a large proportion of the monthly spend totalling £79!

If you study in London, your expenses may be considerably more.

This is why having a budget in place is so important to make sure that you can afford to live comfortably whilst enjoying your time at university.

How much money does a student need to live on?

The average student living costs around £800 a month or roughly £200 a week. So, you’ll need at least £800 a month to live comfortably as a university student. 

Where does this money come from? Well, the average maintenance student loan is around £570 a month which falls short of the average monthly student living cost. Having said this, there are ways you can budget and save money to cut down your living expenses at university.

Many students need to borrow money from their parents to help cover their monthly expenses. Hopefully, this guide will help you and your parents save some money! 

Why do I need a budget as a university student?


Budgeting is important for university students as it ensures that you aren’t spending more than you’re making. Sticking to a budget will give you peace of mind and financial stability, meaning you can pay for your rent, food, bills and more without struggling.

Learning how to keep a budget is also a really important skill for later in life and it’ll stop you from getting into debt as an adult.  

Calculating your student budget - How to work out your weekly budget

The key to sticking to a budget is calculating how much money you need for different expenses each month. So, here’s how to create a budget you can stick to:

1. Calculate your income


Before you can create your budget, you need to figure out how much money you have each month. This will dictate your budget, so make sure you include every form of income you earn monthly. 

Work out how much money you have coming in. Here are the typical types of income students receive:

  • Maintenance Loan - this comes in three big instalments so you must budget it across the year.
  • Extra money - from scholarships or grants.
  • Money from your parents - some parents can send money to help with university expenses.
  • Salary from a part-time job - if you can, it’s a good idea to get a part-time job as a student to earn more money and have a bigger budget.
  • Savings - we teach you how to save money as a student within this guide.

2. Calculate your outgoings


Your next step is to work out what you need to spend your money on each month. You can look at past bank statements and bills to help add up the total costs.

Essential expenses:

  • Rent
  • Bills
  • Food
  • Transport
  • Course materials

Non-essential expenses:

  • Takeaways/eating out
  • Nights out
  • Clothes
  • Holidays
  • Gifts
  • Subscriptions 

3. Calculate your weekly budget


Now you know how much you spend and earn each month, you can figure out your budget. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Work out your total income for the university term.
  2. Minus your essential expenses over the same term. 
  3. Divide the remaining number by the number of weeks in the term.

You’ve now got the remaining budget that you can spend on non-essential things each week and you could even try to save some of it! 

For example, your total income for the university term might be £4,000 and your essential expenses for the term are £2,500. This leaves you with £1,500 to spend on non-essential items/activities during the term. 

Remember, you want to budget weekly otherwise you might blow your entire budget at the start of the month and have nothing left at the end of the month.

How to budget as a student: Student budgeting tips

Now you know how to set a budget, how do you stick to it? And what are some student budgeting tools you can use to make your life easier? Follow our steps below for the answers! 

1. Student budgeting spreadsheet 


Creating a budget spreadsheet can simplify your finances at university. If you aren’t good at maths, there’s no need to worry as the spreadsheet will do all of the calculations for you! It’ll also track whether you’re sticking to your budget each week and month.

You can use a budget spreadsheet to organise your monthly expenses but also calculate whether you can afford a holiday that year, for example.

Here’s an example of a student budgeting spreadsheet.

2. Student budgeting apps


Student budgeting apps can keep track of your spending and warn you when you're reaching your limit. 

Monzo is a great example of an app that allows you to keep track of your money, manage your spending and sends you push notifications when you’re close to your budget.

3. Student budget calculators


You can find countless free student budget calculators online. They might not be as detailed as spreadsheets but they can be easier to use. 

Here are two of the best student budget calculators:

4. Use Direct Debit


This Direct Debit trick is a great way to budget and saves a lot of money each month. We tend to only spend money we can easily access. So, this trick makes it harder for you to access all of your money at once. 

Here’s how to do it:

  • When you receive your monthly income in your student bank account, transfer it to a different current or savings account.
  • Set up a Direct Debit each week that transfers across your weekly budget to your normal bank account. This encourages you to limit your spending and stick to your weekly budget.
  • If you ever need more money, you can easily transfer more across. However, it’ll make you think about it beforehand!

5 Student money-saving tips

Now that you understand how to create and stick to a student budget, let’s take a look at how you can limit your spending and even save some money while at university:

Tip #1 - Be clever with your food shop 

Food is one of the biggest expenses for everyone, not just students. It’s important to plan ahead to make the most of your visit to the supermarket. Towards the end of the day, supermarkets often dramatically cut the cost of any items they can’t sell the next day as it’s reaching its sell-by date. You can bulk buy these discounts and freeze them to use throughout the week. 

Take a look at our supermarket guides to find out how to save money at the UK’s most popular stores.

Tip #2 - Make the most of student discounts

Everywhere you go, always ask about potential student discounts, you’ll be surprised at how much money you could save! 

Read our guide on the best student discounts for more information.

Tip #3 - Buy course materials secondhand 

You’ll usually be given a long list of books that you need to buy for your course at the start of the term. These books aren’t cheap and can end up costing you a lot of money. Thankfully, websites like eBay exist where you can buy these books secondhand, saving money.

Tip #4 - Reduce your non-essential purchases

Do you really need that extra large Starbucks before your lectures every morning? The average Starbucks coffee costs around £2. If you get one every day, that’s £14 a week, £56 a month and £672 a year! These little non-essential purchases can add up. 

Make your coffee at home instead and save hundreds of pounds. 

Tip #5 - Get a student job

If you want to save more money but are already sticking to your student budget, you could get a part-time job and save the income you earn from it. 

Please note however, that some Universities may have policies against students taking jobs. If in doubt, check with your Student Union first.

Read our guide on student jobs for advice on how to get one.


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