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How Do You Budget For University

Attending university is one of the major stepping stones in a student’s life. However, there’s no denying that depending upon where you live, university can be very expensive. Here’s how you can budget for university, and make the next step of your higher education affordable.

Sep 6, 2023
  • Student Tips
How Do You Budget For University

Establish your income

First things first, figure out how much money you’re going to need for university. This includes travel, university fees including tuition, housing, and meal plans, as well as books, and extra, unforeseen expenses. Once you understand this, you’ll need to know how much money you’ll need each month, and where that money is going to come from. Will you provide it exclusively? Will you need a part-time job during school, or will you just work on breaks and holidays? Will you be taking out student loans, applying for grants or scholarships, and will your parents be helping? These are all important questions to ask when establishing your income, and once you have the answers, you’ll be in a better place to make decisions.

Calculate your budget

After you’ve figured out how much money you’ll need to work with for university, it’s time to determinr your monthly budget. This will tell you how much money you’ll need to live comfortably. Don’t forget to add in things such as food, going out, travel, and your day-to-day expenses such as toiletries. For those who are new to budgeting, it can sometimes feel overwhelming to get started. However, don’t let yourself get daunted before you even get going.

There are actually a lot of great resources available for students to help learn more about budgeting. Many students have found a spreadsheet to be helpful for keeping track of their income and monthly expenses, so they can have a visual cue about what they have available financially. If spreadsheets aren’t for you, that’s ok. There are loads of great budgeting apps out there, and some even designed specifically for students. They can help you build out budgets for all areas of your life, monitor your spending, and even send notifications when your spending starts leaning too hard in one direction or another.

As you’re learning how to manage your budget, write down all your expenses. Keep a small notebook, a note in your phone, or your app on hand to help monitor your expenses, and mark down everything you spend your money on. You might find yourself surprised as to where you’re losing money, and be able to make better informed decisions going forward.

Look for ways to save

Even though going out and having fun is a big part of the university student experience, this can also lead to problems when it comes time to pay your school bill. Therefore, it’s also important to look for ways to save money while at school. Ask for student discounts when you make purchases. Even a small percentage off your daily coffee can add up over time, so don’t hesitate to look for opportunities to save a bit here and there. If you’re someone who frequently likes to dine out, consider learning how to cook and making more of your meals at home. You can also plan your travel out in advance, and decide how many days a month you’ll be going out. When you can’t, look for free or low cost opportunities on your campus or in the nearby community. Many shops and services offer student discounts, either as standard or if you are a member of certain student groups, such as the National Union of Students in the UK. You might be pleasantly surprised by what you discover while trying to be thrifty.

Make adjustments

Despite best-laid plans, sometimes you might find yourself spending more than you’re earning. If that’s the case, it’s time to take another look at your income to see if it's enough. If not, you might need to make some adjustments. For example, picking up a part-time job can help smooth the transition if your spending is a tad high, and give you a more flexible budget. You can also seek out financial advising services on your campus to help you figure out how to better manage your finances. You can also revisit your budget again, and see if there are any ways to help cut expenses and minimize expenditures. If none of those options work, you can explore taking out loans, or applying for more scholarships to help bridge the financial gap.

Like all things, learning how to budget for university is something that’s going to be new to many students. If you find yourself in that category, don’t despair, and most importantly, don’t give up. Sometimes you might stumble while trying to figure things out, but that’s ok. It’s all part of the learning process, and as long as you continue to stick with it, you’re sure to find success.

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Chelsea Castonguay


Chelsea is a Student Affairs expatriate, who now works as a freelance writer and editor. She homesteads in a small town in rural Maine, USA. She enjoys hiking, fishing, cooking, reading, all things Laura Ingalls Wilder, spending time with her family, and chasing her black lab puppy, Cash.

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