Why budget?

  • You will get an accurate picture of your financial circumstances.
  • You can make sure you have enough money for your priority needs.
  • It can be a brake on impulsive spending.
  • It helps you avoid running up debts.
  • It helps you plan your spending and identify areas where you could cut back.
  • If you owe money to creditors, a budget gives them information about your financial situation and can help negotiate a repayment plan you can afford.
  • Try the tailored BCU budget planner or more general one provided by Money Saving Expert to get you started.  You can always access more support from the friendly advisers in the Advice Centre.

Budget Tips

One of the best bits about being a student is the discounts many retailers offer you. Make sure you always ask in shops if student discounts are available as many do not advertise them. Some shops in Birmingham will accept your University ID card but many prefer an NUS Extra card.

Here are some more tips on planning your budget and preparing a money planner:

Transport

  • If you use the bus regularly a student bus pass may save you money and if you travel by train consider a young person's rail card.
  • As well as buying a weekly or termly pass you can walk, ride a bike, or take the bus rather than drive or get a taxi. Car insurance and parking can be expensive.

Utility Bills

  • Make sure you are with the cheapest supplier for gas and electricity. Switching to the cheapest supplier can save up to £200 per year.
  • Make sure everyone in the household has their name on the bills, that way you are all jointly liable.
  • Make sure that you remember to turn off household appliances when not in the house. 
  • Estimate how much money you need to pay for bills and ask other students how much they think you need to put away.
  • Limit your use of electricity (turn off lights, reduce opening the fridge). Put on an extra jumper to warm up rather than using a heater.
  • Look for the cheapest packages, friends and family for example - Would it be cheaper to have a pay-as-you-go mobile phone, so you don't run up big bills?
  • Make sure you put money aside for mobile phone bills and keep spending to a minimum like everything else. Also, try and get the best deal for your needs. If you have a landline phone in the house, you could consider an incoming-calls only phone.
  • Alternatively, you should get itemised bills to make sure you and your housemates know who have made all the calls.

Food

  • Prepare packed lunches for work and University. When buying your food prepare a list and stick to it! Bigger supermarkets are cheaper than small local shops. Consider using supermarket own brands rather than brand names.
  • Plan a menu for the week.
  • Share food with housemates as this is cheaper and you can also keep an eye on each others spending.
  • Clip coupons and eat at home. Pack a snack in your bag, rather than buying one each day.
  • Try to eat a well-balanced diet and if you do not know how to cook try to learn. It will save you a lot of money.

Books

  • Try to buy second hand books or even if a friend pays half the money with you so that you can share books, or even ask to borrow the book you need and then you give them the book they need.
  • Club together with course mates to buy the main texts and share them.
  • Sell course books in good condition to lower year students.

Clothes

  • Plan what you need in advance so that you don't overspend on impulse. Bear in mind cheaper shops and charity shops.
  • Instead of going to your normal expensive shops and spending lots of money, cut down by going to: second hand shops; car boot sales; or discount shops and warehouses.
  • When you want to buy something expensive, ask yourself: 'Do I really need it?'

Entertainment

  • Try to stick to a limit on spending money and holidays and book accordingly. 
  • Invite friends over for meals or drinks at home before you go out, to save money. When you do eat out, look for early bird specials or 2 for 1 deals. Clubs are often cheaper to get in to or even free before 10pm. Look for flyers to get in free. Cinemas often have student specials or 2 for 1 on certain days.
  • When going out only take enough money to keep you afloat for the night and leave your cash point card at home, thus avoiding clearing out your bank account in order to buy everyone a drink and/or losing your card.

Credit Cards

Use these only for emergencies and if possible get ones with 0% interest. Always try and pay off more than the minimum payment. Remember that even the minimum payment can start to add up to an amount that you may find hard to keep up with.

Savings

Open a separate savings account where you can deposit the required monthly allowance for bills that do not fall due on a regular monthly basis or to deposit monthly amounts to help save for a holiday etc.

General Tips

Think about all the little costs that add up too.

  • Coffees, magazines, make sure you budget for them as well.
  • Check your bank balance so you know exactly what is going on. Online banking is a great way to do this.
  • If you do find at any point you are struggling or if credit card debts are getting on top of you, don't ignore it. Seek help as soon as you can.
  • Get a job that might help you to save more money, but just put some of it away just to make sure you don't go out and spend it.
  • Use email and online chats rather than using the phone for long distance phone calls its so much cheaper!
  • You can save yourself a lot of money by applying for help with health costs.
  • Don’t waste your money withdrawing cash at ATMs that charge you, always use the free ones!

Finally, if things are really difficult look into getting a part time job to help you out. Make the most of the Employment Zone in the University to check for vacancies from reputable employers.