Female student holding a jar of money

Managing your student budget

The principles of budgeting are simple, but may be hard to put into practice. There is plenty of advice available, but it is all based on the same simple statement: do not spend more than you can afford

If you analyse your expenses and needs, you can plan your spending to make your money last until the end of your course.

Establishing your weekly budget

As a new student, having total control over your expenditure may be a new experience. You may be tempted to buy a lot of things at the start of your course, which may leave you short of money later.

If you do not have a clear idea of how much you spend each week the best way of establishing your spending pattern is to keep a diary recording everything you buy. This will show you exactly how much you spend on essentials and non-essential items.

Financial problems can be a major cause of worry to students. If you are aware of the need to plan and control your expenditure, taking a little time to devise a sensible budget can save you many problems later on.

What to consider


  • Charges for hall of residence accommodation vary considerably.
  • Many institutions have several types of accommodation, and the cost of shared rooms in older properties can be much lower than newer rooms, with better facilities.


  • Always eat sensibly. Do not try to economise by not eating. If you eat inadequate food, your health and your studies may suffer.
  • The price of food in different shops varies greatly in the UK, though many supermarkets in the UK have special offers.
  • If you share your shopping with friends, you may be able to buy in bulk quantities and save money.

Heating and lighting

The amount you spend on fuel will depend on your living arrangements and the weather.

  • If you are in university or college accommodation, you will probably not have to pay extra for electricity or gas.
  • Some UK institutions charge extra for electricity, so check when arranging accommodation if fuel costs are included. If you live in private accommodation you may have to pay extra for electricity or gas for heating, lighting and cooking.


The following items will be essential for the British winter; shoes/boots, warm coat, gloves/scarf, jeans, sweaters, shirts, socks.

The UK has many charity shops where good quality second-hand clothing is available cheaply.

It is also usual for British clothes shops to have ‘sales’, when items are greatly reduced in price. In winter, these events normally start just before Christmas.


  • It is important for you to have rest from your studies and you should budget on the amount you spend on entertainment.
  • Remember that parties often take place after examinations, so you may spend less in some weeks and more in others.


Some students try to work part-time to help with their expenses:

  • If you have a student visa, you may not need to apply for a work permit. However, you may have some restrictions imposed on your visa.
  • Your institution will have rules governing how much paid work you can do and you may need their permission to undertake part-time work during your studies.

The International Student Calculator will help you to plan and manage your budget.

Find out more about working during study.


There are many ways to get discounts on your living costs as a student in the UK. All students are able to buy a TOTUM card, which allows the owner to get a discount on many goods and services inside the university and out (for instance, in shops and cinemas across the UK). There are also international student cards that offer further discounts, including on travel throughout the country.

Image credit: Olena Kachmar