How to cope on a low budget


This could be while you’re at university as well as when you start your first job, so read carefully and make notes!

Planning – make a list of all your expenses and then do the same for your income – be prepared.

The best thing to do is to be organised and plan – work out what your ‘income’ will be – either a grant/loan or help from your parents, as well as any savings that you have or an income from a part time job if you’re able to work while you study. 

Next have a look at your outgoings and anticipated expenses – remember things like your mobile phone bill, car expenses if you’re driving, books and study requirements, socialising – cinema, drinks, tickets for concerts etc as well as essentials like food and your accommodation and bills if you’re in shared housing. Fees for halls are usually payable in advance, but check out your anticipated fees ahead of time so you know what kind of amount you’ll be paying. 

Then it’s a case of balancing what’s coming in with what’s going out – sounds simple, and it is if you get it right! A spreadsheet will help visualise the numbers involved on an annual as well as monthly basis. You can even break it down to a weekly or daily amount which might help you initially while you’re getting used to managing your own money and bills.

Budget buying – loved by students everywhere! 

  • Food and Groceries - Look out for the supermarket own brand stock, it’s cheaper with simple packaging and slightly cheaper ingredients most of the time. When you’re shopping and on a budget, this is ideal. Also shop later in the day – that’s when the fresh food is marked down and you can pick up a delicious bargain from time to time if you’re a savvy shopper!
  • Clothes – there are a great range of clothes around, shop wisely while you’re on a budget, be creative with your outfits and use local markets as well as the lower priced high street chains and supermarkets. 
  • Use the internet – shop around for as much as you can to get the best price or deal on the things that you ‘must have’ and hold back on all those impulse purchases!
  • Bars and restaurants often have happy hours or ‘two for one’ offers during the week – looks out for these nights.
  • Look out for offers – money off vouchers or ‘two for one’ offers, go shopping with a friend so you can save money by making the most of the offers.
  • Use loyalty cards to build up points and convert them to cash to spend in the store.

Negotiate – if you’re lucky enough to have a good market nearby, barter, get the best price for the things they’re selling. If you have any big purchases, see if you can get something extra ‘thrown in’ – like extra batteries or a gift that you could sell on ebay!

Be realistic – while you’re studying and on a low budget, you won’t be able to shop in the designer shops and eat at expensive restaurants. For a while, you’ll need to spend wisely and save these things for treats – or if you’re lucky, when you go home to see your family! Be creative and inventive about your entertainment – you probably won’t be able to afford to go out as much as you might have been used to. University ‘student union’ bars are a good cheaper place to socialise and the bars are subsidised  so you can take advantage of that. Look for the bars or restaurants that have a happy hour or ‘two for one’ night and plan around it. Have nights in with friends instead of going out. Cut back for a little while – it probably won’t be as hard as you imagine!

Don’t panic! There are people around and places you can go to for advice if you’re struggling to make ends meet. Don’t panic or worry alone – ask for some help sooner rather than later and with some helpful advice and guidance, you can get things under control. 

  • Parents – speak to them and let them know your worries. 
  • University – there will be an advice centre with someone who can help you to talk about your concerns and put a plan in place to help you manage.
  • Speak to your bank directly - try not to take out any quick fix loans – they cost much more in the long run.

Bring in extra cash

  • If you have a part time job that you can manage to combine with your studies then great! 
  • Become an ambassador for a brand – mybrink are looking for student ambassadors – contact us to find out more!
  • Enter competitions – there are hundreds of competitions run all over the country and online – writing short stories and poems for cash prizes for example. Or there are lots on packets of food to win tickets or products. See how many you can enter for free online!

Don’t let money worries affect your studies – while you’re at university, you want to study hard and have a great time – if you’re worrying about money you can’t do that. If you plan ahead and spend wisely, you’ll find it much easier and less stressful, but remember, there is help at hand if you need it.