How to Plan a Budget When You Are a Student

Living from stipend to stipend (or parental aid) is a problem for many students. We tell you how to properly allocate your finances so you don’t starve at the end of the month.

Why You Have to Plan a Budget

Ever wonder what your money goes to? Let’s say you spontaneously decided to buy argumentative essay today or new sneakers. You still have money left over for groceries, commuting, and other things. A week later you find that the numbers on your account have turned into a traitorous zero. It’s good if you can call your parents and ask for humanitarian aid. But this option is not always there, and pride does not allow it. Budget planning is essential to avoid these situations. It helps you better understand your expenditures and income. And, as a result, it helps keep them under control.

Keep in mind. If your budget is small, to begin with, it won’t make it bigger. But it will help you get your money in the right place.

How to budget for the month

  • Write out your income. List everything from a variety of sources, but consider only the stable ones. As a rule, these are scholarships, donations from parents and relatives, wages from part-time work, and other savings. Birthday and New Year’s gifts do not count.
  • Then write out your expenses. Divide them into two broad categories: mandatory and optional. The first are the things you really can’t live without utility bills, rent, groceries, transportation, study materials, cell phone. Optional expenses are entertainment, going to cafes, movies, hobbies, paying for subscriptions, etc. Be very honest when you make a list of expenses.
  • Combine expenses and income. It’s best to create a budget in a table. That way you will immediately see the difference between how much you earn and how much you spend. You can use Excel to train your skills in this program, or you can make a chart yourself. The third option is special applications. 
  • Calculate the weekly budget. To do this, add up the mandatory expenses separately, and then subtract them from the total amount of income. Divide the result by four (by the number of weeks in the month).

Also, there are options for saving money when you are a student in your own or another country:

  • Scholarships. This is your chance to at least partially cover your tuition and living expenses. It is possible to get a scholarship or grant. True, not all of them allow you to live comfortably. Much depends on the particular institution. But in any case, you should try and apply for a scholarship. Read more in our article about financing options for tuition.
  • Student benefits and discounts. There are almost no countries where students would not belong to a “special” category of citizens. Many states give them special benefits for transportation, visiting museums, buying movie tickets, or certain clothing brands. 
  • Part-time jobs. You can find any part-time job that suits you, as long as you can balance your studies and work.

Budgeting mistakes

1. Underestimating expenses. This is a really bad practice. Always be honest about your spending.

2. “Just in case you get lucky”. Don’t rely on gifts from above. Plan your budget based on real, regular income. If you only anticipate getting extra finances this month, it’s best not to put them in the plan. 

3. Forget to prioritize. Remember the division into mandatory and optional. New clothes are good, of course, but rent is clearly more important. Therefore, it will be a higher priority. First the main thing – then everything else.

4. Forcefully limit yourself. Do not completely cut spending on entertainment. If you can afford them objectively, leave room for small pleasures.

How to save money when you’re a student

Students don’t have many opportunities to supplement their finances. We’ve already talked about some of them above scholarships, part-time jobs, and various discounts. Here, however, let’s talk about other, less obvious ways to save money.

  • E-books. Many textbooks are given to you in the library, but if they are not there, you do not have to spend money on a printed version. Today, every student carries a laptop or tablet in a pair. Download a textbook in electronic format. There you can both highlight important information and add comments. It’s convenient.
  • Used textbooks. Another tipster’s tipster is to buy them off-hand. Many high school students are happy to sell unwanted study materials cheaper than they are in stores. The problem is that such books are often scribbled and have already been filled by previous owners.
  • Shared housing. Not all countries have dormitory accommodation available to international students. For example, in the Netherlands, there is a catastrophic shortage of it. Therefore, it is common abroad for students (not necessarily close friends) to live in one apartment. Everyone rents a room, and the bills for utilities are divided equally.
  • The sales. Here we come to grandma’s ways. All jokes are jokes, but it really works. If you realize you’re completely short on money, why not go to a sale at the grocery store or a clothing store.
  • University canteens. Lunch there is usually cheaper than in cafes and restaurants. In some countries, there are entire networks of student canteens.

Final words

Your money is all up to you. You have to learn to plan your spending so that you don’t suddenly find yourself without money later. Student life is full of different expenses, but with some tricks, you can save your money.

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