Budget Planning

Most students will have a limited income during their time at University.  It's a really useful tool to prepare a budget so you know howm uch money you have top spend each month after you've paid for essentials.


The most common costs you will incur as a student are;


Tuition Fees - Most UK Undergraduate students will have their tuition fees paid for from a grant or loan. For International students and Postgraduate students, make sure you have worked out how you will pay these before you start your course. Most Scholarship opportunities need to be applied for well in advance of your course start date. Tuition Fees can’t be paid in equal monthly instalments, check with the Advice Place if you are unsure of when and how much you will have to pay.


Additional Course Costs - Some courses have additional costs running into hundreds of pounds for things like materials or compulsory field trips. Ask your school for a rough idea of what these costs might be.


Rent - You should know how much you need to pay from your rental contract or tenancy agreement. Most private rental contracts should allow you to move out with 28 days’ notice if you intend to live at home over the summer, but only if everyone in the flat moves out at the same time. If you are moving into a flat from student accommodation, remember you will need to budget for a deposit in most cases and some initial start-up costs, such as bedding, cleaning products etc.)


Travel - Work out your travel costs (including the cost of maintaining a bike or car if you use one). Remember to account for travel home or to visit friends. Most students can apply for a discounted railcard, or ridacard.  See our travel pages for more information.


Bills - Most student accommodation will have bills included and you may just need to pay for your mobile phone. If you rent privately, try to either pay your bills monthly or put aside money each month towards a quarterly bill. Expect to pay more in the winter months.  


Planning a budget

There are many budgeting planners you can choose to plan your budget and track your spending. We can’t recommend a particular planner, but we list some suggestions below. Be honest about your spending and allow 10% wiggle room. Don’t forget to include one-off expenses like birthdays and allow yourself money to socialise or entertain.Try to pay with your phone or card if you can so you can track what you are spending and keep a record of what you spent your cash on.


Budget planners

The Advice Place Budget Planner (a simple no frills planner, easy to work out your first budget)

Moneysavingexpert.com (another simple excel planner, links to further advice on money saving tips)

Money Advice Service


Black Bullion  as an Edinburgh University student you have access to Blackbullion, which provides advice tailored to students on all financial aspects of being a student.


Apps to track spending

Moneydashboard  helps you track you spending across a number of accounts

Plum Track your spending and set savings goals

Spend today - Save Tomorrow (on Appstore) – allows you to track daily spending.

Your bank may also provide you with a budgeting app, it’s what works best for you that counts. If you have used an app that helped you take control of your money, let us know your experience.

If your budget doesn’t balance then you need to work out how to increase your income or cut your spending.


Maximising Your Income


Student Funding - Have you applied for all the student funding you are entitled to? Are there any grants or trusts you could apply to? Check out our funding pages or speak to the Advice Place. 


Part-time work - Most students will need to work to subsidise their income. Have a look at our jobs and employment pages for tips of finding a job that fits around your studies.


Sell things you don’t need - If you haven’t used an item in 3 months it’s unlikely you’ll use it again. Sell clothes you no longer wear, or textbooks you no longer need. You can sell directly to sites such as webuybooks or musicmagpie, or directly on websites like Facebook and Gumtree. Be careful not to give away too much personal information to a buyer, and suggest posting the goods to them or meeting in a public place.


Moneysavingexpert has tons of tips on how to increase your income, including getting paid to watch TV!



Paying Less


Most students will need to watch their money carefully. Make sure you are not paying more than you have to. It’s important to prioritise your rent, utility bills and food first and then you can see what is left.


International Students - If you receive your funding or living costs support in another currency, it is important to think very carefully about the most cost-efficient way of converting this into GBP. It is worth thinking about things like transaction charges, exchange rates offered by different agencies and whether these are likely to change over time. Check whether your money is protected if anything goes wrong. Depending upon exchange rates, early payment of tuition fees could help you save money. If you have any questions about how to set up an advance payment contact feepayment@ed.ac.uk.


Accommodation - This will be your biggest expense. It can take time to find accommodation in Edinburgh but don’t be pressured into paying more rent than you can afford. The Advice Place can help you with your search and you can find useful information here.


Bills - Compare, Compare, Compare - Most companies rely on you not switching and loyal customers can often end up paying more as a result. There is a comparison website for almost anything you buy, see if you can get a better deal elsewhere. 


Get things for less or zero - Edinburgh is full of charity shops, where you can buy quality items for a fraction of their cost. There are also many swap-shops or re-cycling events in Edinburgh where you can get things that would otherwise go to landfill. The Swap and Re-use Hub (Shrub) in Edinburgh hold a Fresher Freeshop where students can get start items for moving into accommodation, such as pots and pans, etc.  They rely on donations so remember to donate items when you leave Edinburgh!


Student discounts - Always ask if there is a student discount available when shopping, it’s not always advertised. You can often use your student card to get these, for shopping online sometimes you can get a discount using a student e-mail address, or you can apply for a National Union of Students (NUS) card, which  will give you a number to input to get discounts on almost anything. 


Food and groceries - Discount supermarkets such as Lidl or Aldi will generally be cheaper. Take a list with you and try to plan your meals to avoid waste (shopping on empty stomach will make you buy more). There are a loads of recipe apps available such as Cookbrite that help you plans meals with what you have in your cupboard already.


If you have a freezer, often making a big portion and freezing it into smaller portions can be cheaper.  If you live in a shared house, you could suggest one person makes a meal each night for everyone.  Saves on cooking time and washing up!


There are lots of cheapr recipe ideas, we especially like Cooking on a bootstrap by Jack Monroe.


Travel and Trips away - Plan your travel well in advance to get the best deal. Use websites like Kayak or Trivago to compare prices and look at staying in a hostel or Airbnb rather than hotels. You can get 1/3 off train fares with a studentrail card.


Free Things to do in Edinburgh - There are load of free attractions in Edinburgh, such as museums and galleries. The List and Skinny magazine are available free from the Student Association outlets, they will often publicise free events. If you are going out, try to set yourself a budget, and include the cost of getting home.


Getting into financial difficulty?

Our funding pages list sources of possible financial help, but please do get in touch if you have concerns over managing your money.

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