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The importance of budgeting – what student life taught me about managing your money

Liam_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 1,105 Pioneering

Keeping on top of your finances can sometimes be a tricky task. Scope’s Liam O’Dell talks about how his life at university so far has helped him to budget. 

With student loans and grants lumped together with the costs of food, clothes and textbooks, it’s no surprise that as a student, I have been encouraged to budget. No matter how old you are, with money coming in and out of your bank account on a regular basis, it can be hard to keep track of everything. It can all start to feel very confusing indeed!

Coins and notes 

Although I may not have a physical document to hand which shows how much I have to spend each month, it’s all about having one go-to place where I can find out just what exactly is coming in, and what’s going out of my finances – in my case, it’s my banking app on my phone. 

It’s when I saw what exactly I spent £6.67 on each week, for example, that the figure finally meant something. I knew what I needed to look at and so I asked myself: do I really need to spend money on this? 

It’s a question you have to ask when you have a set amount of money coming in to your account each month – be it wages, benefits and so forth. It’s always important to have a go-to place to find out this information. 

In my case, I’ve always been a particularly structured person. Whether it’s having a to-do list booklet for me to write down all my tasks, or making the most out of my email folders, I’m a big fan of keeping things organised. So, when it comes to something such as spending (which sometimes can be quite impulsive), it’s important that that’s planned too. 

It’s also worth mentioning that some of the biggest savings come from supermarket shopping. Tracking down online coupons and going for the cheapest branded product are all little things which can help you to save money, and essentially, it’s small changes when it comes to budgeting which helps us save money. 

Although I’m no expert when it comes to finances, here are a few tips I would recommend: 

Use an online budget planner, or make your own. The Money Advice Service has a great tool which can help with budgeting – why not give it a try? 

Have a drawer dedicated to forms, cheques and receipts. Even now, I still have the odd, crumpled and torn shopping receipt hanging out of my wallet whenever I need to pay for something. It just gets in the way and unless it’s an important receipt, most of them end up in the bin. However, that doesn’t mean that I disregard supermarket receipts completely – how much you spend on food should always be a key part of your budget. 

Take note of what you owe others, and what they owe you. This is a habit which I have shamefully fallen out of whilst at university, which is worrying. A group decision to buy a Chinese takeaway can prove problematic when it’s unknown who hasn’t paid their share of the cost for prawn crackers. As much as it’s about returning favours, it also has an important role to play in what’s coming in and out of my finances. 

As well as my tips, don’t forget that Scope has lots of help and support available on its website, including information about Discretionary Housing Payment and Fuel Bills

Do you have any money-saving tips or advice on budgeting? Leave us a comment and let us know below.



  • youngwill
    youngwill Member Posts: 7 Listener
    Hi Liam, I don't have, and never had, problems with money. Being only a few years from retirement I've often thought back to school times and wondered why kids were taught Logarithms, Cosines and Trigonometry etc. instead of basic, home economics ?  
    They would have left school and entered the commercial world knowing more what to do with their wages, like rent, mortgage, tax, investments and financial commitments before they bought luxuries, if they had any wages left,
    Today, I've witnessed many leaving school and their wages have been spent on drink and recreational activities without thinking of paying 'keep' to Mum & Dad.
    But to be fair many have to survive on the minimum wage, which is just survival and not a living.
    Only hindsight allows us to see years and years of wages falling behind inflation that has caused, not only no disposable income, people not affording basic foods.  I really feel for some of the younger generation but there are many realising home ownership is out of reach and living with Mum & Dad seems the best option. But they then buy new cars on lease and foreign holidays?
    There will be another financial crash brought about by credit and lease hire and repossessions of 'Mum & Dad' bank who thought it was good to 'tap' into their equity to finance a home deposit for their children. With no job security there's been so many risks taken that as soon as any redundancy occurs, the *hit will hit the fan like 2008 did. Sorry for the doom and gloom.
  • Liam_Alumni
    Liam_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 1,105 Pioneering
    edited June 2017
    Hi @youngwill,

    Thanks for your comment!

    In terms of being taught home economics at school, I think we did get taught a little amount about it. One lesson about being taught how to use ATMs (and check they were safe to use) springs to mind, haha!

    Do you have any money saving tips to share?
  • basiclee08
    basiclee08 Member Posts: 66 Courageous
    A lot easier nowadays with direct debits and what's left over you can manage. That and plenty online budget forms to help via most CAB websites 
  • Geoark
    Geoark Member, Scope Volunteer Posts: 1,384 Disability Gamechanger
    One reason we only had to use the local food bank once after being unemployed for more than a decade was we had bought a chest freezer prior to this period.

    Knowing what times our local stores reduce their prices has allowed us to pick up some great bargains and then freeze. Similarly reduced priced milk because it has reached its use by date means we could make rice pudding without worrying about using too much milk.

    Two foods we always have are chicken and mince. Mince I particularly love as it is so versatile. But also it can be made to go a lot further with a little imagination. Adding various beans, peas, carrots, mushrooms and other items can create a meal, but what is left can also be frozen and reheated another day. Chicken is also very versatile and with a little experimentation there are a lot of things that can be done with it.

    Both are rather bland if just cooked on their own, but with a wide range of inexpensive ingredients can taste very different when cooked.

    We did stop using some brand names and often find after a while when we have got them again that we don't enjoy them. For example my wife used to only eat a particular brand of beans, but now find them too sweet when we do have them.

    As an individual I stood alone.
    As a member of a group I did things.
    As part of a community I helped to create change!

  • Liam_Alumni
    Liam_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 1,105 Pioneering
    Thanks for sharing, @Geoark!

    Oh yes, moving away from branded food really does save money, and in terms of taste, there really isn't much difference. In the local supermarket at university, the store's own brand of spaghetti is cheaper (and larger) than the branded ones!

    I also agree with your tips about mince and chicken - the former is a strong favourite for me when at uni!


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