Budgeting advice

One of the most important things that you’ll need to learn as a student is how to manage your money. Knowing that your finances are under control means that you can relax, concentrate on your studies and fully enjoy your time here at Birmingham.

It is crucial to remember that most students receive their funding in fairly large instalments, normally at the start of every term. So once a payment has been received, it usually has to last quite a while (typically until the start of the following term) before another payment comes through. This is why budgeting is so important. 

First you need to establish the total income that is available to you. This might be a combination of your student loan, any scholarships that you receive, contributions from family members or sponsors and wages from part-time work. You can learn more about all of these sources of income through our funding pages

Once you know how much you have coming in, you will need to work out how much money you are likely to have left over after you've covered the essentials like rent, utilities and food. This will give you an idea of how much you can put aside for socialising and life's little luxuries. We have produced a budget planner to help you do this (PDF - 1,413KB). For an accessible, non-PDF version please use the Word document of the front section of the planner (Word - 70KB), in conjunction with our calculations spreadsheet (Excel - 21KB).

Our top tips are:

  1. Establish the total income available to you from loans, scholarships, donations, savings, employment, side hustles, etc.
  2. Work out your living costs, starting with the basics (bills and rent) but also remember to be honest about your spending habits! Do you get a lot of takeaways, is going out important to you, do you spend a lot on nice things? Ate these behaviours ones you can change or do you need to budget for them?
  3. If there’s a deficit, can you meet this through part-time work without having a negative impact on your studies? Do you need to work more over the holidays and save up? Can you look for other means of support, such as scholarships?
  4. Make a realistic budget and track how well you actually stick to it so you can adjust as necessary. 

There are lots of free budgeting apps that may be able to help, including:

  • mint - a comprehensive budget that categorises your spending showing where cutting back might be possible
  • goodbudget - includes a 'share budgets' feature - useful if you're in a house share
  • Money Lover - brilliant for those who like charts, statistics and graphs

When calculating your budget, don't forget about one-off costs such as special occasions, birthday presents, family outings... and trips to the dentist!  The Which Student Guide gives a list of ten things to include. Save the Student provide some handy tips for saving money, together with a broad range of useful online tools and calculators to help you make the most of your finances. 

Don't forget to look out for discounts and savings, especially those aimed at students. Use your TOTUM (NUS student card) wherever possible to get student discounts and freebies.   

Finally, if you are still struggling you may wish to consider applying to our Student Support Fund. You can also get further advice and support from Funding, Graduation and Awards or Guild Advice.