Blog post

How I budget as a student: Ioana Batcu

Ioana Batcu shares the art of student budgeting based on what she's learned from both good and bad experiences.

9 July 2021

My name is Ioana and I’m currently studying for my Masters in Marketing Management. I don’t know about you but throughout the three years of my undergraduate degree keeping a track of and controlling my spending has been one of the greatest challenges. When thinking about budgeting, we all know it might seem quite the opposite of exciting. Activities such as a night out, a shopping session, or a day trip, promise to be lots of fun but often we pay for it the next day when we notice the big hole in our bank accounts.

So, my story begins here. About three years ago, when I moved abroad to university, I had a few weeks of independence and many responsibilities to pick up. My friends and I decided to list all the biggest challenges, we as students, had faced to date. We planned to eventually share with each other tips and tricks on how we had managed to deal with any transitional issues and how we were mastering university life, overall. 

What began as a contest on who had been going through the craziest and funniest experiences as a fresher turned into a two-hour “study” on what are the most difficult parts of being a student. Among balancing our workloads and developing good study habits, as well as missing our families and friends back home, we found ourselves greatly struggling with budgeting.

In my case, I have learned the art of budgeting through both good and bad experiences. Einstein once said: 'In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not.' I’m sure many of you can relate when I say that although I was aware of the importance of balancing my spending and savings as a student, after a while, I came to the conclusion that Einstein was right; theory is different to practice. This leads me to my first point - I found it very helpful to ask for guidance from people more experienced than me.

Ask Others for Help

If you’re struggling with budgeting, or you’re afraid you might in the future, my advice is to ask either your parents or close friends for help. Seek out those that are already mastering it. Ask them about how they do it and how they overcame financial difficulties in the past. No question is a silly question, so take it easy and make sure you make a list of the tips and tricks you’re given.

YouTube has been one of my favourite platforms to consult when started to budget. There are plenty of videos about the basics of money management and how to manage your expenses at university, including your student loan.

Ask Yourself

Besides asking your family and friends, or looking online for information, remember to talk to yourself too. Learn to see the difference between your essential and non-essential expenses. As much as we like to consider our Netflix subscriptions or the weekly takeaway as a priority, I’m afraid we might have to push them down the list and firstly think about our rent, groceries, and bills. Try to establish the budget you will work with across every week and/or month and estimate your outgoings.

Let’s give it a try, shall we?

Fun fact: Derby is one of the most affordable student cities in the UK. The average student accommodation currently starts from £100 up to £145 per week (including bills). With the addition of food, you can expect to see your costs go up another £30-£40 per week. Finally, we could consider things such as gym membership, eating out and clothing costs to be around £40-£50, however, this varies from week to week, or month by month. 

You might be asking "What about transport?” Is this not a priority? It is and all Derby Uni students have access to the UniBus, which travels across the city centre, halls of residence, and our campuses. 

Ask Excel and the internet

After we’ve grasped the “what do we do” part, what about “how we do it?" As much as I initially avoided it, an Excel spreadsheet has become the most convenient budgeting tool for me – I hate to admit it. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be big on math! The simple way to do it is to just open Excel and start a spreadsheet by inserting your month.

Show me the money

And now that we’ve got “the three asks” to keep in mind, we’ve already established that there are many expenses to consider as students. The big question is, how can we actually increase our income and learn how to save?

Back in my first year, I used to give myself a maximum spending limit per week. Another good exercise is to constantly ask yourself if you really need certain things you might be tempted to buy – do you need it, or do you want it?

Getting a part-time job may also be a good practical step to take if you’d like to secure a higher income as a student. During my bachelor's degree, I have worked as a Marketing Representative and Student Ambassador at the University, as well as completing two internships. All of these roles massively helped me to build my financial security. So, if you are thinking of applying for a job during your studies, there are plenty of vacancies to look at on campus. Both the Union of Students and the Marketing department provide many paid opportunities for students. And if you’d like something even more casual, you might be able to find work as a barista, receptionist, or librarian.

Sign up for the existing services that the University offer – contact the Student Employment Agency on to support you in your job hunt.

Still worried about managing your finances? Don’t be. Just start by grabbing a piece of paper or use the notes app on your phone and see how you can get to know yourself and understand your spending to be able to eventually create your own “budgeting strategy”. Remember not to be too hard on yourself - take small, safe steps to become more confident to plan and then budget accordingly. Good luck, you got this.