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How to budget as a Postgraduate Student
Hi, I’m Eleanor and I am in my first year studying MSc Dietetics. Within this blog, I am going to explain how I budget, and I’ll share tips on how to make your money stretch further during your studies.
Budgeting can be quite difficult. Particularly for individuals studying at postgraduate level, as some students receive one small lump sum of loan to cover both the tuition fees and maintenance costs. Budgeting is a very useful life skill to have – particularly at university when money can be tight.
There are many methods to monitor your finances, such as using excel spreadsheets, whiteboards, budgeting software, or even on a piece of paper. I tend to record everything on a whiteboard as it is easily amendable.
At the beginning of the academic year, I wrote down all of my monthly income and outgoings so that I could derive a budget for living costs (i.e. food, clothing, toiletries etc.), leisure activities (going out for dinner etc.) and savings. Writing down my finances meant I did not overspend, get in debt, or suffer financial woes. Plus it allowed me to save money towards a holiday!
Other than monitoring my money, I have found some useful tips on how to make your money go further.
Tips on how to stretch your money further:
Make the switch. Switching products for a cheaper alternative; buy supermarket-own products as they tend to be made from similar, if not the same, ingredients/properties but packaged differently. That’s unless there are some items that you simply cannot give up and make the switch. Additionally, choose basic toiletries such as a bar of soap. These do the same job as any other hand wash and shower gel. They often last longer too.
Reduced section. Find out what time and/or day your favourite supermarkets dish out the ‘reduced’ foods so that you can nip in and shop at those times. Whenever you go into a supermarket, it is always useful to check the reduced section first as there may still be some items left.
Learn to cook (if you haven’t already)! One benefit of living in the digital age is the unlimited access to videos and tutorials on how to learn new skills; such as cooking. Being able to cook from scratch is a perfect way to save money. Stock your cupboard with some basics; such as seasoning, stock cubes, passata, cornflour, sauces, and tinned goods. These are some of the basic ingredients I store in my cupboard, however, if you find foods that you enjoy, you can stock your cupboards accordingly.
Bulk cook. Cooking in bulk saves time and money. Check you have plenty of room for storing the cooked food in either the fridge or freezer beforehand. Purchase reusable food storage containers that can be used to transfer your cooking into. I bought these (see below) prior to university as they take up less room than the clip & close containers and stack really easily in the fridge and freezer.
Leeds Market. Shopping at the market can be a cheaper alternative than buying from supermarkets. But always remember to withdraw cash before you go as some of the stalls don’t take card. Withdrawing cash is a useful method to avoid overspending!
Plan ahead. Plan your meals, snacks and toiletries for the week and create a shopping list from your plan. Try not to stray away from what is written on your shopping list or you may end up over-spending and/or purchasing foods which get wasted.
Online shop. An online supermarket shop can make it easier to stick to a food budget as it doesn’t involve totting the price up of foods as you go along. Some supermarkets have a minimum spend for delivery, so if your budget does not stretch that far then join force with a fellow house mate if you live with anyone else.
Shop wisely. Don’t go shopping when hungry! This is a rookie error which often results in over-spending on unnecessary food items.
Go meat-free. Choosing to have meat-free days will save money. Meat can be quite expensive, so opting to have meat-free or alternative meals (i.e. lentil cottage pie or Quorn to replace mince) will save quite a lot of money in the long run. I went vegetarian for a couple of years during university and found my food bill had halved! I now follow a flexitarian diet which involves meat but in less quantities.
Bulk buy. When purchasing products such as laundry detergent, washing-up liquid and/or dishwasher tablets, try to buy the largest size as it tends to be better value for money – however, always check the price tag!
Student & NHS Discount. Get into a habit of asking whether shops offer student discount (and NHS discount if you are studying a healthcare course) and regularly check UNIDAYS for offers. It is a great way to get discounts on a whole range of products.
Withdraw your money. If you are going out with friends, withdraw the money you wish to spend prior to the event to avoid over-spending (it is especially easy to get carried away after a few scoops!).