Planning your budget!

Photo by Mediamodifier on Unsplash

With the cost-of-living crisis and inflation, I know many of us are concerned about budgeting and ensuring we stay on top of our finances, which can be quite a feat considering it all can be a challenge to maintain.  

I’m going to share some tips on planning your budget, including managing your maintenance loan, purchasing household goods, and working through your expenses. Hopefully, after reading this blog post, you will feel a lot more confident when thinking about your finances and will come to realise that budgeting isn’t as daunting as you might think! 

First of all – the maintenance loan. For those of you who aren’t 100% sure of what it is, it is funding provided by the government for day-to-day expenses and is paid directly into your bank account in 3 instalments (September, January, and April). It is easy to get super excited when your funding first comes in but it is very important to set up a budgeting system so that you can stay on top of everything and that you don’t end up running out of money by the end of the semester! 

Next up – purchasing household goods. From my personal experience, when doing my weekly shop, it is exceptionally easy to spend a lot more than what is initially intended. I therefore made a set of tips and tricks to avoid over-spending and I’ve noticed a significant decrease in my overall expenditure. 

Compare and save – to find the least expensive option, I would recommend using comparison apps to compare prices across online retailers and supermarkets. Quite a lot of the time, you will be able to find a cheaper alternative elsewhere and it really does save a lot of money in the long run! It would be handy to keep an eye out for the price per kg when purchasing goods as that would give you a more accurate idea on what the best deal is.  

Choose bargain basics – you should try your best to go for cheaper, own-brand alternatives when shopping. I found that buying supermarket branded items instead of well-known brands saved up to one third of my weekly spend on groceries! 

Be a savvy shopper – oftentimes, supermarkets and other stores will put goods up for discounted prices. Therefore, it is always handy to keep a special eye out for offers and discounts when shopping to ensure you make the most of them all.  

Plan and prep – buying food last minute tends to be super expensive. Usually, if you know there’s nothing at home, one would either go for a takeaway or buy a ready meal. Both options can be murderous to your budget as the prices really add up. I therefore found that planning my weekly meals ahead of time allowed me to know in advance what I needed to buy from the supermarket and to only buy those items – nothing extra.  

When I first started thinking about setting a budget and working through my income and expenditure, it seemed like a very intimidating task. However, when I actually started doing it, I realised that it was a lot easier than it seemed and it really helped to have everything clearly written out. There are numerous different budgeting tools and apps you can use but I think the most common option would be to use Excel.  

To get started, just input all your income, whether it is from maintenance loans or from a job, and then start adding all your expenses. There are a few essential expenses that everyone needs to have, such as rent, groceries, bills (student insurance, gas/electricity, water, phone) and transport. Most of these are set prices but you could look into finding cheaper alternatives for things such as groceries and transport. Non-essential expenditure covers things such as nights out, eating out, hobbies, new clothes, and memberships/subscriptions. These are all things that you could technically live without but are things you may want from time to time. I would recommend thinking through each of these and seeing if you could reduce some of them or look for less expensive options.  

To figure out what you can allow yourself to spend weekly, you could subtract your expenditure from your income and divide the amount by the number of weeks until the next maintenance loan instalment. I would suggest setting a weekly budget instead of a monthly budget as it can sometimes be easy to just spend all the monthly budget at the beginning of the month and not have anything left over at the end.  

I hope this post has been useful to some of you and that you have a slightly better understanding of budgeting and how to save money through the little things! 

Amani Parvaiz
King’s Student Money Mentor
Part of Money & Housing Advice

The King’s Student Money Mentors blog shares our students’ personal experiences and thoughts on money-related topics. Any reference, opinions or recommendations on a particular company/brand are only the views of the student(s) who wrote the blog post. King’s College London, the Money & Housing Advice service and the Money Mentor project do not share the views in the blogs nor endorse any of the companies mentioned. Readers should conduct their own research before using any companies mentioned in our blog posts. 

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