“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.”
Rent (incl. utilities): £250/week
Going out and eating out: £15/week
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?
Food: £0 – lunch was free and dinner was made with ingredients I already had
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
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
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
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
Saturday: I 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
Rent (incl. utilities): £250
Going out and eating out: £14
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.