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Advice and Counselling Service

Planning your budget

On this page we help you to plan a budget for university, consider options for increasing income, and ways of reducing spending.  

Person opening a wallet with bank notes insideYou are welcome to contact a Welfare Adviser for confidential financial advice as a prospective or current Queen Mary student.  We can check you are getting all of the income you are eligible for and help you with budget planning.  
 
Read our money blog for up-to-date news. 

Why budget plan?

Why budget plan?

Planning a budget is an essential skill for life, including while you are a student. You need to be aware of your income and spending and try to make these balance. Otherwise, you may not have enough money to meet your costs, and you could end up with unmanageable debts, or unable to make payments when they are due, such as rent.  

Planning a budget means you can be in control of your money, knowing when it is coming in, and when your expenses need to be paid. Working this out can reduce money worries.  

Planning a budget can mean that you are less likely to experience financial problems such as running out of money, which could seriously affect your studies as well as your wellbeing. It is not difficult, and a Welfare Adviser can help you if necessary. It doesn’t need to take up much time and doing it will save you a lot of time dealing with financial problems that can occur otherwise. It is ideal to budget plan before starting university, but it is never too late to start budget planning! 

Money and mental health

Money and Mental Health

Personal finances and mental health often have a strong impact on each other. If you are struggling to keep control of your money, you may find that your mental health is affected. Find out about what wellbeing support we can offer you.  

Poor mental health can make managing money harder. The mental health charity MIND has some useful web pages which can help you to understand more about how mental health issues can affect your finances, as well providing helpful tips for taking control of your money. Please contact us if you need support with this. We have confidential financial and mental health support available in the Advice and Counselling Service.

How to plan your budget

How to plan your budget

Planning a budget means calculating what your income and spending is. You then deduct your total spending from your income. If your spending is more than your income, this is known as a shortfall in funding.   

It is important to calculate your shortfall amount, as you can then consider whether there are ways to increase your income and reduce your spending, to make your budget balance. By calculating your budget, you will know how much money you can afford to spend each week to stay within budget and avoid overspending. 

There are different options for budget planners: 

Spreadsheets  

We have created spreadsheets with some worked examples of average student spending. You can adjust the amounts in these examples according to your own income and spending, to create a personal budget. If you are a new student, remember to add any costs you will incur before enrolling at university. For example, moving costs, and for students from overseas flight and visa costs, depending on your circumstances.  

Example undergraduate budget: UG-Monthly-Budget-21-22.xlsx [XLS 24KB] 

Example postgraduate budget: PG-Monthly-Budget-21-22.xlsx [XLS 22KB] 

Example Monthly Budget International [XLS 21KB] 

If you prefer to work from a blank budget spreadsheet, please use this one Example Blank Monthly Budget [XLS 21KB] 

Instructions for using the spreadsheets: 

  • Open the relevant pre-populated version of the budget spreadsheet above and save it to your computer. 
  • Unless you are confident using spreadsheets, to avoid potential formatting issues, do not delete any rows or columns – just keep the amounts in these as £0.00. 
  • If you accidentally delete the formatting or cells, try copying from an adjacent cell or from the top of the page to the right of the box marked 'fx' or click the ? icon in the top right hand side of your page to bring up Excel help. 
  • Hover over the red tabs to read the notes which will help you think about your income and your spending. 
  • Decide whether you are going to do a nine month or twelve month budget. 
  • The Money Saving Expert website has some useful tips for planning a student budget, which you can incorporate when using our spreadsheets.  
  1. Other spreadsheets  
    Save the Student has a budgeting spreadsheet you can use, as well as lots of budget planning tips.  
     
    There is also a UCAS budget calculator.  

Budgeting apps  
While some apps have a fee, you don’t need to pay because free ones are available. Save the Student and Money Saving Expert both mention free apps you can use. This includes apps that help to calculate group shared expenses like split bills in a house share.    

Keeping track of your budget

Keeping track of your budget

Once you have planned your budget, you will need to review it regularly and adjust it according to your actual spending patterns. Using a budget tracker can be useful to help you notice your spending patterns. Some tracking apps let you set spending goals for different items. Save the student has some suggestions for budget trackers. Banking apps can also be a way of keeping track of your spending, as well as budgeting apps (see previous section).  

Possible options if you don't have enough money

Possible options if you don’t have enough money

If you identify a shortfall in your budget, take action to try and remedy the situation: 
 
1. Check you are getting all the income you are eligible for, using our guidance, including hardship funding information:

2. Money saving ideas, including student discounts, so that you don’t spend more than you need to - refer to the "Money Saving Tips" section on this page.

3. Take control of your spending - refer to the section below.

4. Contact a Welfare Adviser for confidential advice about your situation  

Take control of your spending

Take control of your spending

Spending money is easy. Companies use clever marketing to encourage us to buy things we really don’t need and can’t afford. Often, we then spend more money to make ourselves feel better. Once we have started doing this, we can get trapped in a vicious cycle where it seems easier to continue spending than to take control and stop.  

It is important to know that you can take control by using these suggestions: 

Remember that if you find that you have difficulties with your relationship with money, you are welcome to confidentially contact a counsellor in the Advice and Counselling Service. Often there are tips and techniques that can help you to manage your thoughts and behaviour relating to issues you find difficult.  

Money saving tips

Use all available discounts. For example:

Below we list some typical things you may be able to save money on if you research and plan. Also look at:

Money Saving Expert 50+ tips on how to stretch your student loan 

Money Saving Expert’s top 9 budgeting tips for students  

Save the Student’s money saving tips 

Banking

Apply for a Student bank account with interest free overdraft facility – usually available to Home fee paying undergraduates paying Student Finance into the account. Moneysavingexpert and Save The Student have useful guides to student banking including the best student bank accounts, the best student savings accounts and a guide to your credit rating.  

Household bills

Use the Money Saving Expert cheap energy club information to help you choose an energy tariff. Unfortunately, energy prices are currently high. Consider energy saving tips. Send regular meter readings to your energy provider to avoid bills accruing, or paying too much.

Council tax

Read our Council Tax guidance about student exemption criteria and how to apply for this if you are eligible.

Food

Read the Save the Student tips for saving money on food. 

Health costs

There is an NHS Low Income Scheme to help with costs of prescriptions and other health care costs. Students don’t automatically qualify – it depends on the level of income. There is information on the NHS website 
 
If you don’t qualify for the Low Income Scheme, but you need to regularly pay for prescriptions, you may be able to save money by buying a pre-payment certificate. 

Housing

If you are renting, you need to factor in the cost of a deposit, as well as rent payments. Queen Mary Housing Services has extensive information about Queen Mary accommodation, as well as renting in the private sector, including how to find housing.  

Possible ways to reduce rent costs could be: 

  • Doing a ‘live in’ job such as a nanny or au pair where you are provided with accommodation in return for work you carry out, usually in the accommodation. You can find many online agencies which specialise in au pair and nanny jobs.  You would need to carefully research any employment offered and always check the terms and conditions eg. hours, pay, holiday entitlement before signing a contract of employment 
  • Share accommodation with an older homeowner such as the Homeshare Scheme. In return for your own room and a much reduced rent, you would be expected to perform 10 hours per week light cleaning and shopping duties 
  • The Griffin Community Trust offers reasonably priced accommodation to medical students who volunteer a certain number of hours per week to work with older people 
  • Being a property guardian where you pay a reduced rent or management fee in return for living in an empty property. You might also need to carry out basic maintenance of the property or other duties as a condition of living there. If you search online, there are many organisations running such schemes but with any accommodation, you would need to check the terms and conditions carefully before signing up. 

Insurance

It is advisable to be covered by an insurance policy against damage, loss or theft of your personal possessions, otherwise you may not be able to afford to replace them if they are lost, stolen or damaged. If you apply to the Financial Assistance Fund at Queen Mary for help replacing lost, stolen or damaged items, you would usually be expected to have an insurance policy to help with those costs.  

If you are moving to university from living with your parents many insurers will cover your possessions under the ‘contents away from home’ section of your parents’ household policy for a small amount of money, or sometimes at no extra cost. Your parents can contact their insurers to check. Make sure that the individual item limits in your parents’ policy are high enough to replace expensive equipment, and if not, they will need to increase the cover. If you are an international student, it is unlikely you will be covered by your parents’ insurance so you would need to take out your own policy. 

If you rent a room in Queen Mary halls, the residential fee includes basic insurance through Endsleigh insurance. Check the details of the policy and limits on amounts of cover – see the Residents Handbook. You may decide to take out extra cover if the basic package will not cover the replacement costs of all your belongings.  

If you are not living in Queen Mary halls, you are advised to take out your own insurance policy. Endsleigh Insurance Company has policies specifically designed for students but it is advisable to compare different companies for the right policy for you.

Mobile phone

Compare deals and offers so you can decide which is the best contract for you: 

Save the Student  

Money Saving Expert   

Travel in London

There are many options for travelling in London depending on where you live, how often you need to travel and how much you want to spend. Use the single fare finder to find out the cost of any two journeys on the Underground, Overground and Docklands Light Railway. 

If you are a new student, ask your academic school which site your teaching will take place at, so you can estimate what your travel costs will be. Full time students can apply for an 18+ Student Oyster photocard to save 30% on adult-rate Travelcards and Bus & Tram Pass season ticketsIf you are a part-time postgraduate who has received an award from Queen Mary's Financial Assistance Fund, you should also be eligible for an 18+ Student Oystercard. 

If you need to travel regularly, you can buy student-rate travelcards and bus passes valid for 7 days, one month or one year, which cost 30% less than adult-rate season tickets. Travelcard prices depend on the number of zones you need to travel in.  

If you live and study at the Mile End campus and you do not need to travel regularly you might decide that you don’t need to buy a weekly or monthly travelcard.  For single journeys, you can use a contactless debit card or if you don’t have one of these, you can still top up your Oyster card on a pay-as-you-go basis. The ticket price is cheaper when you pay by Oyster/contactless card and daily price capping automatically calculates the cheapest fare for the journeys you make in a single day. You can check student Oyster fares and daily fare caps on the TFL website.  

If you have a 16-25 Railcard discount (see below) take it to a Transport for London ticket office so it can be loaded on to your Oyster card and you will save 34% on Off-Peak journey fare caps. 

If you are doing an apprenticeship, you can apply for an Apprentice extra card which gives you 30% discount and, like the 18+ Oystercard, can be loaded onto your Apprentice card to provide a 34% discount on off-peak and pay as you go fares.  

Using a contactless debit card to pay for single journeys is easy. You just swipe your card against the reader at the entrance to underground ticket gates or on buses. If you don’t have a contactless card and need to buy a standard Oyster card, you can put money on this via the machines or ticket offices in tube stations, or via an online account. When you first get your Oyster card, you will need to pay a £5 deposit if you are only adding cash to pay-as-you-go. Oyster pay-as-you-go works in the same way for standard Oyster cards and 18+ Student Oyster photocards. 

It’s a good idea to register your Oystercard so that if it is lost or stolen, you can cancel the card and/or get a refund or the balance transferred to a new card.  

As it can be complicated to understand your options for getting the best value for money on London transport, you can call 0343 222 1234 to speak to an adviser on TFL's helpline or refer to TFL's Help and Contacts page.   

Consider walking or cycling to save money on travel. Use the TFL website for information about cycle hire schemes, cycle routes and cycle schemes.  

Travel outside London

A 16-25 Railcard gives you a 1/3 discount off rail fares on the national rail network throughout Great Britain, although there are some restrictions about when you can travel. You can apply if you are aged 16-25 or aged over 25 and in full-time education. Prices and details about how to apply are online. You can also get your 16-25 Railcard discount loaded on to your Oyster card to save 34% on Off-Peak journey fare caps.  

16-25 Railcards are normally only available for full-time students. However, if you are a part-time postgraduate student who has been awarded financial assistance from the Queen Mary University Financial Assistance Fund (FAF), you can apply for a railcard. Your financial award letter explains what you need to do. 

Bus (coach) travel is often the cheapest option for travel outside London. The Young Person’s Coachcard is for everyone aged 16-26 and all full time students. Find out the cost and how to apply.  

You can buy low cost coach tickets at www.megabus.com/uk.  

TV licence

Savethestudent has uncovered a loophole which allows some students not to need one – check carefully if you meet the requirements 

If you don't meet the requirements  then you are likely to need a TV licence, if you watch or record TV as it is being broadcast. This includes the use of devices such as a computer, laptop, mobile phone or DVD/video recorder. Check the TV Licensing website for information about who needs one, how much it costs, and how to buy one. If you need a licence and don’t have one, you could be liable to pay a large financial penalty.  

If you live in student halls, your room needs to be covered by its own licence if you're plugged in to watch or record programmes as they're being shown on TV or live on an online TV service, or if you download or watch BBC programmes on iPlayer.  

If you live in a shared house, you'll probably only need one licence between you if you have ajoint tenancy agreement for the whole house – this is the most common type of shared house arrangement. You might need your own licence if your accommodation is self-contained or if you have a separate tenancy agreementfor your own room.  
 
If you're leaving your halls or rented accommodation and moving back home for the summer, there's a good chance you won't need your TV Licence if there's one at home. Check online if you are eligible for a refund online. 

Plan your budget and take control of your spending

Get confidential advice from the Advice and Counselling team.

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