Create a budget
A well-planned budget empowers you to manage your bills and make informed financial decisions. Learn how to track your income and expenses, set some financial goals and get expert guidance when you need it.
Track your income
The first step in creating a budget is to understand your sources of income. This may include funds from part-time jobs, scholarships, grants, or contributions from family. List all your income sources and calculate the total amount you expect to receive each month or semester. A clear understanding of your income will help you manage your money more effectively.
List your regular bills
These bills are recurring costs that stay relatively constant each month. List essential expenses such as rent, utilities, transportation, and university fees. If you need clarification on specific amounts, estimate based on average costs or earlier bills. Be careful tracking these bills, as they are crucial for setting up your budget.
Understand your variable expenses
Variable expenses are costs that fluctuate from month to month and may include groceries, eating out, entertainment, clothing, and personal care items. Analyse your spending habits over a few months to figure out the average amounts for each category. Be honest and include all expenses to create a realistic picture of your financial situation.
Set financial goals
Budgeting becomes more meaningful when you align it with your financial goals. Decide what you want to achieve financially. You may want to pay off debts, build an emergency fund, or save enough for the summer break. Set realistic and specific goals and a timeline to help guide your budgeting decisions.
Prioritise essential expenses
With limited funds, it's crucial to prioritise essential expenses. Start by allocating enough money for fixed expenses to ensure you have food, a roof over your head, utilities are paid, and transport is covered. Once the essentials are accounted for, distribute funds for variable expenses based on their importance and necessity.
Learn how to prioritise your bills (Money Helper)
Plan for unexpected expenses
Unplanned expenses like repairs or replacing lost or broken items can disrupt your budget if not accounted for in advance. Put some emergency money aside as a buffer for when these expenses arise.
Don't forget to account for gifts and special occasions. These may not be monthly expenses, but if you can calculate your average yearly spending, you can put some money away each month to make it easier to manage celebrations.
Budgeting with an irregular income
An irregular income can make budgeting more difficult because most budgets rely on ensuring your spending doesn’t overtake your income each month.
- Determine your average monthly income over the last 12 months and use that as your baseline in your budget.
- If your expenses vary from month to month, work out the average for these over the last 12 months.
- On months when you have more than your average income, put the excess into your savings account.
- Use your savings to live off your average monthly income.
Open a UK bank account
All students studying at the University for one year or longer are eligible to open a UK bank account. Opening a UK account will help you manage daily expenses without extra charges.
Use budgeting tools and apps
Leverage technology to simplify the budgeting process. Budgeting apps can help you track your income, categorise expenses, and set financial goals. Some banks also have budget management features in their mobile apps. These tools visually represent your spending habits and offer insights to help you make informed financial decisions.
Black Bullion - Financial planning and education for students – free when you register with your University of Edinburgh email address
Budget Planner - Free budget planner from the government's Money Helper website.
Moneydashboard - Free budget planning and spend tracking app that syncs with your bank accounts.
Goodbudget - A budgeting app based on the envelope budget system. Free and paid accounts are available.
Review and adjust regularly
A budget is not a fixed document; it should evolve with your changing circumstances. Regularly review your budget to ensure it aligns with your current needs and financial goals. As your income or expenses change, make adjustments to keep an effective budget.
The Student Money Manual from The Money Charity
The Student Money Manual is a guide to student finance and managing money at university. It is aimed mainly at post-16/college students considering going to university and first-year students but is relevant for all undergraduates.
Seek financial guidance
Online resources such as personal finance blogs, forums, and educational videos can offer valuable insights and tips on student budgeting. However, if you find your financial situation overwhelming or need more guidance, don't hesitate to seek help.
You can contact the Advice Place by calling 0131 374 4581, or emailing email@example.com.