“Like most students living away from home, it took me a while to adjust to university life and to get to grips with managing my own finances. But then last year I was voted President of the UCL Personal Finance Society. As an organisation, we aim to make budgeting and managing money as a student more accessible. So far, my relationship with money has been fairly stable – London is expensive, so I tend to cook at home most of the time and that saves me a lot of money. I also accept that it’s alright to spend money on things I need or like, and my general expenditure tends to fluctuate depending on how I feel and what my situation is.”
Morning: Ate breakfast at home then walked to my 10am lecture (Uncertainty in Contemporary Societies – just the thing for a Monday morning!). I live close to campus – about a 15-minute walk – so I tend to save money on transport by walking most of the time. Afterwards, I needed to speak to my course leader, so I grabbed some free food for lunch from the Hare Krishna ‘Food for all’ scheme, which is run close to our campus, on the way to meet him.
Afternoon: I did a big grocery shop at a Korean store on Tottenham Court Road. I try to bulk buy staples to save money – plus it means there’s always something in my cupboard when I’m hungry. I also keep track of what I buy on a spreadsheet – it helps me understand where my money goes. I love cooking, especially experimenting with different cuisines, so I stocked up on some key ingredients like sushi ginger, pad Thai noodles and seaweed wrappers.
Evening: I took the evening off from studying and made courgette and pepper spaghetti with a tomato sauce. I made enough for a couple of meals so I had lunch ready for the next day. Who said students can’t eat healthily?
Rent: £250 – this comes out once a week.
Phone: £5 - this comes out once a week.
Food: £0 – lunch was free and dinner was made with ingredients I already had.
Remaining weekly budget: £21.68
Morning: Had breakfast and did some reading before my 11am lecture.
Afternoon: Ate last night’s leftover pasta for lunch, and then went to the library for an hour before a Tai Chi class in my department. It’s free and it really helps me clear my mind.
Evening: Cooked dinner with my flatmate – spinach and potato curry. I like cooking together – it saves time and money, but it’s also a lot of fun. We watched a movie and then I stayed up to complete an assessment. Somehow, I decided that 1am would be a great time to do laundry. It wasn’t…
Food: £0 - I pooled resources with my flatmate and used ingredients from yesterday’s grocery shop.
Remaining weekly budget: £17.48
Morning: Grabbed some cereal I already had in my cupboard for breakfast before my 9-11am lecture.
Afternoon: I had a quick lunch at home (last night’s leftovers) before heading back to uni for my psychology seminar. After that, I did some coursework then I walked to my free Web Development course in Soho. When I started uni one of the most pleasant surprises was how many courses like this one are available for free to students.
Evening: My friend and I walked home through Soho and I nipped into the supermarket. I like to go to the shops in the evening because that’s when items get reduced. Tonight, I got a loaf of bread for 10p, some tinned tomatoes – an essential cupboard staple – and some fresh fruit and vegetables. Dinner was a sandwich made from the bread and other ingredients I already had in.
Web development course: £0
Food: £0 - leftovers and a sandwich made from my grocery shop.
Remaining weekly budget: £11.27
Morning: Almost late for my lecture again – 9am starts are the worst! Grabbed a piece of toast before I flew out the door.
Afternoon: I went back to my halls and made a quick lunch before going back for a 1pm seminar on software for data science. Hit the library with a friend afterwards, and then made some kimbap – a Korean sushi roll.
Evening: I went to a free tango class at my department – as universities subsidies a lot of sports and societies, it’s an amazing (and cheap!) way to learn something new. I’m no dancing pro, but I love the class and I’ve gotten to know the teacher and other students quite well, so it’s always good fun.
Food: £0 - made with what I had in my cupboards and from my shop earlier in the week.
Dance class: £0
Remaining weekly budget: £11.27
Morning: Today was quiet – only had one economics seminar at 10am.
Afternoon: After that, I went home, made some brunch – I was ready for it having missed breakfast – and did some admin for the Personal Finance Society.
Evening: I headed to a salsa class that I found quite recently and it’s great fun – they have a free 30-minute intro class every week, after that it’s £5 per session or £4 with student discount (ALWAYS ask if places offer student discount – you'll be amazed how many do).
Food: £0 – made at home.
Salsa class: £4
Remaining weekly budget: £7.27
Saturday: had a really lazy day at home, sleeping in and then catching up on a TV show and doing some chores. My meals were all made from my previous grocery shops.
Sunday: I went to a careers event at my department. I took a sandwich I’d made at home for lunch and there were some free snacks there, too.
On my way home I bought two packs of vegan jam doughnuts that were reduced from 80p to 34p (rude not to) and went to a friend’s place for dinner. We went out for some drinks and then went back to hers and played Cards Against Humanity. Unfortunately, I’m not as good at that as I am managing my budgets..!
Food: £0.68 – everything but the donuts I made myself or my friend made for us.
Remaining weekly budget: -£3.41
THIS WEEK'S ACTUAL SPEND
Rent (incl. utilities): £250
Going out and eating out: £14
ACTUAL SPEND: £308.41
PREDICTED SPEND: £305
OVERSPEND OF WEEKLY BUDGET: £3.41
“You’re right – city life can be really expensive, so you’re doing really well finding creative ways to eat cheaply while also developing what sound like some impressive cookery skills! As you say, visiting the supermarket an hour or so before it closes is the prime time because that’s when they discount products that are close to their sell-by date, so maybe next week you could try and buy more then and slightly less of the more expensive, specialist ingredients to bring you back on budget? Just remember to freeze what you can once you get your groceries home!”
Set yourself a monthly budget for each category of your spending. I slightly overspent on food this week because I topped up some of my bulk grocery shopping – but that means I won’t have to buy those things next week, so it all evens out.
Don’t worry if your spending does fluctuate. Mine does, as does my relationship with money. I try to remember that managing money isn’t just about numbers, but also how I feel about it – whether it’s helping me achieve my goals or impeding them.
Remember, it’s ok if there are hiccups along the way. But if you’re struggling to manage your money, reach out – whether to your uni’s Student Funding Advisory or friends and family. Don’t be afraid to talk about money: it’s the best way to learn.