Control your cash

One of the main aspects of student life is independence. With this comes the challenge of managing your own finance, and this is often scary! Here are some helpful tips to aid you in managing your finance. Once it is under control, you’ll be amazed at how relaxed you feel knowing you’re not going to run out of money!

Budgeting

This is probably the most obvious tip, but I felt it best to start from the very beginning. Setting a limit to how much you allow yourself to spend each week is a brilliant idea, not only to make sure you don’t run out, but also to plan for the future. As soon as you know how much Maintenance Loan you are receiving (or how much money you have at your disposal for the year if you are financially independent), sit down with a calculator and a cup of tea (other beverages are available)!

Without diverting to a maths lesson, divide the amount of money in the first maintenance packet by the number of weeks you need the money for. The number you get is the maximum amount of money you can spend every week. It probably goes without saying that this should not be your ‘budget’ for each week, but it’s good to know how much wiggle room you have in case of emergencies or unexpected circumstances. Your weekly spend-limit will depend on your financial circumstances, but as a point of reference, I’m setting my limit at £50.

It is important that you don’t see the budget as a target; don’t waste money just because it’s there!

The Food Shop

Shopping for food is the main outlet for spending money as a student (aside from rent). As such, it’s a good idea to have a plan for this, rather than randomly grabbing whatever seems nice off the shelves. Most people – whether they are aware of it or not – settle into a semi meal-routine, that is to say they eat the same things over a certain period. It’s up to you how often you shop, but a good tip is to set a day where you plan to buy all your food for the next week or two. Not doing this can result in getting caught short, and having to ‘nip’ to the shop for a ‘few bits’. This is usually where accidental over-spending happens!

Another tip is to find out which are the cheapest products in the shop. This sounds easy, but often there are obscured ways of cutting costs! One of these is to look for the ‘price per unit’. This is usually found underneath the main price, on the shelf or packet of the product (shown below).

This product costs 13.8p per 100g, and buying the product costs £1.10
This product costs 14.7p per 100g, and the whole product also costs £1.10

Both of the above loaves of bread cost the same, yet the bottom one costs 0.9p more per 100g. Now, that difference may seem negligible in the above example, but this isn’t always the case. A lot of products can be found to cost slightly more per 100g than almost identical products, and those small differences can add up!

In short, always double check the price, keeping a close eye to the small print! It’s also worth pointing out that the first picture is 800g, and the bottom is 750g, despite the bottom picture having the most expensive price per 100g! In short, keep an eye on the details.

Saving

Most people have something they want to save for. It could be a future house, car, next years rent, or even a Disney+ subscription!

A good tip, if you’re wanting to save money easily, is to set aside a small amount of money each week. Even if it’s simply £2 every week. This perhaps sounds a little silly, but to put it in context: you’ll have £12 at the end of 6 weeks, which is enough for a takeaway! Obviously, the more money you put aside, the quicker your savings will increase. But it’s important not to sacrifice the here and now for a future investment. If, for some reason, you are exceeding your budget for the week, but you need to pay for laundry, don’t feel ashamed for dipping into your savings just the once. The crucial point is to not make a habit of it.

Discipline

It’s somewhat of a cliché, but it’s so true. Being strict with yourself and not slipping from your budget is so crucial in keeping finance under control. Having a strong sense of discipline and keeping to a plan is key to having enough money there when you need it. If you struggle with this, it may be worth asking someone you know who finds discipline easy for their advice. Everyone has their own strategies, and there will be a way to develop good habits. My personal strategy is to keep my eye on that ‘thing’ that I’m saving for. Sometimes this can even be a takeaway at the end of the week!

Hopefully these tips will help put your mind at ease with regards to financial fears at university. If you need more information or support, contact the student services support team at https://studentservices.lincoln.ac.uk/. If finance is affecting your mental health, contact the student wellbeing team at https://studentservices.lincoln.ac.uk/health-and-wellbeing/.