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What I’d Wish I’d Known About...Living on a Student Budget

An essential factor to consider if you’re taking a postgraduate course after spending time in employment is the impact this will have on your day-to-day finances. Managing a student budget after earning a regular salary was one of the hardest things to maintain for me. I could cope with the workload but not so much the pay cut I was enforcing upon myself. In the hope you don’t fall into the same trap as I did, I’ve made a list of student budgeting tips to help you keep control of your finances while studying. 

Go to: Read about How to Deal With a Postgrad Workload After a Long Break

Learn to Stick to a Budget 

Living on a budget doesn’t have to mean eating beans on toast or soup for dinner seven days a week like you did during your undergraduate degree. However, it could well mean sacrificing pricey lunch trips and coffees that can steadily sneak into your routine. 

Prioritise Your Spending 

On a larger scale, it’s highly likely that you’ll no longer be spending your cash on clothes, music and dining. Instead, you’ll have to reserve your loan, savings or past earnings for things like course materials and memberships to academic and employment bodies, and those can be expensive.   

Assess Your Outgoings 

One of the best pieces of advice I was offered before signing my loan papers and delving into my master’s course was to perform a financial assessment across my current accounts. 

I spoke to a 29-year-old postgraduate student who moved to the UK from New Zealand after working for two years overseas. She enjoyed a comfortable monthly take-home that allowed her to go out regularly with her friends and buy new clothes whenever the whim took hold. She said that assessing her outgoings and performing financial surgery was the only way she could function again on a student loan without falling into horrendous debt. 

Budget Cuts Aren’t Forever 

It’s a ruthless way to deal with things, but by compartmentalising everything and constantly reminding yourself this is a temporary budget tightening, you’ll ultimately end up better off. This also comes with the added benefit of not losing sleep over mounting debt.   

Avoid Comparisons

Potentially the most difficult thing to learn to come to terms with when returning to study will be that most of your friends will not be in this position and will still have disposable incomes. 

One of the ways I learned to deal with this was to speak to my friends about it before I started the course. I would also ask friends over for dinner instead of meeting at a restaurant, find free activities and go for group walks at the weekend, which helped me to feel like I wasn’t missing out. 

Preparation is Important 

It’s imperative to focus on the long-term with these strategies, and to remember that you’ll only need to cut back your budget for the length of your course. Get ahead by doing a financial assessment before starting your course.  

Remember that your year of saving and saying ‘no’ to things will be worth it in the long run and you’ll have something amazing to show for that small sacrifice. 

Go to: Read about Five Postgraduate Money Problems and How to Solve Them

Next: Read more postgraduate funding advice


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