Student life is all about balance, be it balancing your finances, balancing your work-play ratio or balancing drinks on a table in the bar.
When I began university, I discovered that the work-play ratio was fairly self explanatory (attend lectures, frantically scribble notes, then a change of clothes and it’s party time). But managing your finances was harder.
Upon realising just how much money the student loan company was willing to throw at a London student, I realised that student + loan + big bad world = problems.
So this is how I tackled it. First, I worked out how much I had coming in (student loan, grants and a little to help me on my way from parents and family). Many students also have a job if there’s time between lectures, so add that in too. It’s advisable to underestimate this figure rather than overestimate it that way you may actually have some left over to tide you through the holidays.
Step two is to calculate your outgoings. At first I hadn’t realised quite how many things there were to spend on. The bare necessities aren’t only rent, food and drinks. It soon becomes apparent that when you were at home, not only do your parents cover most of your rent, they also cover electricity, gas, phone, broadband, the occasional tank of petrol… and so the list goes on. Add to this such niceties as student union subscription, deposit for halls/accommodation and Freshers tickets and things can seem a little daunting. Don’t panic.
Once you have totalled your outgoings your money management can become more “creative”. If you have the option to pay your rent monthly take it. Open a savings account with easy access and plonk the whole term’s rent in it. It will seem less spendable here than in a current account (plus you might earn a few quid in interest, rather than the pence you’d earn if this was in your current account). If you are extra-organised you could also cover your other bills at the start of term, too.
Once the total for rent and commodities is removed from your incomings, you are left with what I affectionately call “play money”. Divide this total by the number of weeks in your term and you should get a rough idea of how much you can play with each week.
If you are fortunate enough to be in catered halls, then this will be what you have left to spend. If you’re uncatered, some play money must be allocated for food.
Another point to bear in mind is your interest-free overdraft. I am not condoning constant use of this, but making use of it for the occasional pricey necessity such as expensive text books (and maybe the occasional friend’s birthday night out!) are acceptable.