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10 things to remember to budget for at university

Juggling your money at uni can take some time getting used to (but it's a vital life lesson). To help, make sure you've factored these into your budget already...

Students have revealed the reality of student finance from their perspective, including the difficulties juggling the cost of university. For instance, half of respondents said they relied on parents or family for extra money to cover these. Overdrafts and credit cards were also used to manage these living costs (20% and 10% respectively).

But rather worryingly, nearly a third said that money issues had impacted their mental health or stress:

It's important to seek out all sources of extra funding you may be entitled to beyond your basic student finance package, so you're not leaving money on the table and struggling unnecessarily.

Picking the right student bank account can also lend a helping hand. Find out the best student bank accounts as voted for by undergrads.

10 things to budget for at university

Knowing what costs will crop up and budgeting effectively for these priority costs is also a step in the right direction.

You're probably already aware of the sizeable bite that accommodation will take out of your budget, but 44% of students said they spend more on this than they thought they would before they came to uni.

And accommodation isn't the only expense raising eyebrows; going out and eating out, takeaways and snacks, and course costs were some of the other top things students pay more for than expected.

Here are 10 of the most important university costs to factor into your budget...

1. Common course costs

While your tuition fees will cover some costs that come with your course, they won't cover absolutely everything. We asked students about the common costs that they had to fork out for out of their own pocket, including books, printing and field trips, and what they spent on average: 

What students forked out for: common course costs

There are ways to save on these. For example, when it comes to books, find out what reading is absolutely essential to buy and what you can find online or rent from the library. Similarly, when it comes to printing, it might be cheaper to have your own printer (and sharing ink costs with housemates) than use university facilities - it may save you queuing for ages to do so on deadline days.
  • Best laptops for students - find the right fit for you and your course. Plus, how to find discounts on both laptops and software.


2. Transport

Whether it's a bus to lectures or travelling back home for the holidays, you'll need to factor in travel costs. To help, there are student travel cards out there to help you reduce the costs of getting around:
  • 16-25 Railcard: just £30 a year to get a third off your rail fares - very useful if you'll be travelling home on the train for holidays and weekends.
  • 18+ Student Oyster Photocard: pay a £20 admin fee for 30% off London travelcard costs. You must live at a London address in term-time to be able to apply. 
  • National Express Young Persons Coachcard: £10 a year (plus £2.50 p&p) for a third off coach fares.
For added savings, plan ahead and book in advance if possible. Also, when sorting out off-campus housing, keep in mind travel costs to get to campus when picking your location.
  • Get cheap train tickets - everything you need to know from choosing the right railcard, to splitting tickets for cheaper fares.

Calculate your living costs
See how much you'll need to live on at your chosen university, with our student budget calculator.
See your living costs

3. Food

It’s a myth that students live off baked beans – it is possible to eat normally and healthily whatever your budget. Here are a few pointers to get you started:
  • Prevent impulse buys in the supermarket by making a shopping list – and sticking to it.
  • Cook in bulk and freeze. This way nothing gets wasted, it works out a lot cheaper and you always have a back-up plan when the cupboards are bare!
  • Make packed lunches for cheaper meals on the go.
Which? has revealed the tricks that supermarkets use to encourage us to spend more than we need to - and how to beat them. Find out more: Supermarket special offers.  

4. Entertainment

From freshers' week to club subscriptions, student nights, gigs, fancy dress, sport or a quick coffee (and a slice of cake) with friends – the cost of socialising can soon mount up.

Allocate yourself a certain amount for entertainment and try not to go over it. Being sociable doesn't have to be expensive – think nights in with housemates, free events at your union or two-for-one cinema nights.

Student-specific discount websites such as NUS Extra and Student Beans offer deals on cheap days and nights out including theme park visits, eating out, and cinema and theatre trips. 


5. Utilities

If you’re in halls of residence, utilities such as gas, electricity and water are usually included as part of your rent – but that might not be the case if you're heading into private housing.

Along with your rent, you'll need to put aside a certain amount each month to cover utility bills. Setting up regular payments is a good way of managing what's going out of your account. There are also apps like Monzo to help you monitor your comings and goings when it comes to money.

If you're able to, see if you could save by moving to a different energy supplier or tariff. You can compare energy suppliers online (using a free service such as Which? Switch). Online deals are usually among the cheapest, plus you'll often get an extra discount if paying by direct debit.

And, of course, there are lots of steps you can take to use less energy in the first place...

Watch now: five tips to cut your energy bills

Get more tips in our guide to cutting your energy bill


6. Internet

This is another cost you'll often have covered in halls of residence, but will need to factor in if you're in private housing.

Don’t forget that there are often a few costs involved beyond the quoted broadband price – the cost of installing a phone line and monthly line rental, for instance. Shop around for deals online to check you're on a good value package.


7. Insurance

You might be surprised by how much your belongings are actually worth – try totting up the cost of your laptop, smartphone, TV, clothes, specialist course equipment and so on. According to Endsleigh Insurance, the average student owns £1,981 worth of hi-tech gadgets.

You might be covered as part of your parents' home insurance policy. If not, student contents insurance packages start at around £10 a month.


8. Toiletries

You might not realise until you become a student how much things like toothpaste and shower gel cost. Set enough aside for these essentials, making the most of special offers and value brands.

Are you ready to manage your money at uni? Test yourself...


9. Clothes

It’s tempting once you get your loan to head straight to the shops but you'll regret blowing your clothes budget in the first week. Save money by:
  • making the most of student discounts in shops (and online by checking out deals on sites such as MyUniDays).
  • find extra discounts and money back by shopping online through cashback websites.
  • consider clothes swapping – try online on websites such as Vinted, or host your own clothes swapping party for a fun, cheap alternative to shopping!

Student discounts: what you can get and where to find them

10. Subject-specific costs

As well as the common course costs above, there might be some specific costs for your subject that aren't on your radar and which your tuition fees won't cover.

This may include special equipment such as stethoscopes or cameras:

What students forked out for: equipment for your course | Which? University

Clothing to protect you or look smart: 

What students forked out for: clothing for your course | Which? University

Don't forget these extras either, including your graduation cap and gown at the end of your course:

What students forked out for: odds and ends for your course | Which? University

These extra costs can really vary from subject to subject, and tot up at the end of a term or year.

Ask about these at an open day or when you're researching courses, and find out what extra funding might be available to help with these.

Check out our full student finance section for more help around budgeting, extra funding and what finance you're entitled to.



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