Blog post

How I budget as a student: Sam Chikowore

Sam may have cracked the code and racked up a decent set of life hacks that have proved to breathe new life into his bank balance and helped him to budget more. Sit back, take notes and learn how to budget better.

By Sam Chikowore - 7 July 2021

Let’s face it. There’s a recurring theme that's synonymous with student life, you check your bank balance and it’s a measly shadow of its former self. Perhaps you reminisce about the glory days when your student loan just hit your account. Or perhaps you're waiting for the 25 of the month- payday (for the majority of us).

Dear distressed student, I come to be the bearer of good news. Having been a student myself, I may have cracked the code and racked up a decent set of life hacks that have proved to breathe new life into my bank balance and helped me to budget more. Sit back and take notes, my name is Sam, and this is my TEDx talk (the blog version) on how to budget and save as a student (well sort of!).

Create a document that details your current financial situation

By creating a spreadsheet, you will be able to determine your sources of revenue and most importantly, how they match up to your expenses, be it over a weekly or monthly basis. By doing this, you will be able to visualise what your financials look like. You can then lay down a solid plan of action and foundation for creating a robust budget to take you out of your financial woes.

Make a note of how much is coming into your account

Be it the recurring maintenance loan, a direct debit transfer from the folks, or a part-time gig. Understanding your income streams will enable you to make an informed judgment as to what your finances look like. You will be able to use this to inform how to allocate funds towards expenses, savings, and other cash outgoings.

Make a note of how much is going out

Personally, when I make a monthly budget, I start off by planning out my non-negotiable expenses. That's my rent money, food, bills that need to be paid monthly, transport costs, and finally savings. Using this method, I have found that on a limited student budget, it is more efficient (and less worrisome) to pay all my dues the moment any money hits my account.
This has helped me to avoid falling into unnecessary debt. With essential expenses covered, I am able to filter down to further expenses that I consider unnecessary – (although we sometimes think they are!) This includes money for nights out, my entertainment subscriptions such as Netflix and Spotify, haircut money, and, of course, the odd takeaway here and there.
I will admit that due to lockdown restrictions, this list has constantly been a give-or-take, so be wary to use your own discretion based on your lifestyle and circumstances.

Make a weekly budget - that’s realistic

Ok, so you’ve established your cash income and various expenses. For me, I find it easier and more manageable to make a weekly budget rather than a monthly one as I was much more conscious of my spending on a weekly basis. Once you've broken down your spending habits to a weekly basis, you will be able to track your cash inflows and outflows much better, and hopefully, be able to plug any unnecessary spending.

Stick to it

You’ve established a budget! Congratulations! Now comes the difficult part of sticking to it. It’s very easy to go over a budget when little expenses like a cheeky takeaway, a spontaneous night on the town or a sudden impulse buy - derail you from either your budgeting or savings goals. 

To prevent these kinds of situations from occurring, find hacks such as paying yourself an allocated amount from your budget in cash so you can leave your card at home. This will spare you the temptation of spending more when you're out. Or cook more. Think about it, you can harness your culinary skills, save more and keep leftovers for the next meal.

Find ways to increase your income but decrease expenses.

There are little hacks to help you decrease your expenses. It may seem like a minor difference but trust me it does add up. For example, if my friends and I want to order a takeaway such as Dominos, instead of ordering individually, we'll just get a group order to save up on delivery fees or try to bag a promotion.
Always be on the lookout for any promotions or discounts. This can include student discounts or love2shop vouchers (you get a voucher if you apply to return to halls). I have found that living in halls has been of great benefit as all bills were all-inclusive, without any worries of covert costs that can sometimes crop up when renting private accommodation.
One surefire way of increasing income is by getting a job, paid activity, or any opportunity you can find to boost your income and help you break even, or have savings left over after expenses are deducted. Once you have some decent savings, you can look for ways to make some passive income and move towards higher financial horizons.

Stay in your financial lane

Lastly, always remember to be you and do your own thing when it comes to money and finances. Your friends may be in a better financial situation than you and have more money to spend, but don’t concern yourself with that. Do you and keep your eyes on your own financial goals.

About the author

Sam standing next to a mountain wearing a red anorak.

Sam Chikowore
Business Management and Geology student at the University of Derby

Business Management and Geology student at the University of Derby. I also work part-time as a Marketing Representative for the University.