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Whether you’re living away from home for the first time, returning to study, or juggling uni and family life, it’s easy to find yourself spending more than you have coming in. Living as a student in London isn’t cheap, so it’s really important to plan your finances and budget carefully in order to avoid building up unnecessary debt.

Here are some tips to help you manage your money and remain in control of your expenses. Budgeting doesn’t need to be complicated and if you sit down and work it out at as soon as possible, it will be easier to get in to good habits and start making savings.

Work out how much money you have

Start off by working out how much income you will have coming in each term (include things like your student finance, regular contributions from family/friends, expected income from part time work during term time and the vacations, and scholarships or other external bursaries if applicable).

Then work out what period of time this total income will need to cover. Divide the total income for the term by the exact amount of weeks it needs to cover. This will enable you to find out what your weekly budget is, and stick to it! You may also wish to use the online student budgeting tool at Student Calculator.

What are your weekly expenses?

Make a list of all the things that you will need to spend money on each week. Not all of your expenses will be weekly, but you can estimate what you might spend on certain things over the term and divide it by the number of weeks to get a weekly figure. Your list should include:

  • rent (remember to also factor in deposits, fees and other associated moving costs)

  • household bills—water, electricity, gas, TV licence etc—these are generally paid quarterly, but it will help you to establish how much you need to save each week towards the bills, so you don't find yourself short when they are due

  • food

  • transport

  • clothes

  • books

  • mobile phone/broadband

  • laundry

  • toiletries

  • hobbies/entertainment

  • presents.

Some of your expenses will be fixed, while others will vary. Try to estimate an average for variable expenses. Think also about one-off expenses that you may need to cover during the year, for example; moving house, special occasions or graduation.

Keep track of your spending

It’s really important that you stick to your weekly budget. A good way to do this, especially at the beginning, is to keep a record of everything that you’re spending. It’s amazing how quickly the odd cup of coffee or other small purchase here and there can really add up. Keeping a written record of everything you spend in the first few weeks will help you to identify the savings you can make.

Keep a regular eye on your bank balance and make a note of when your standing orders and direct debits go out to make sure you don’t exceed your agreed overdraft limit. Online and mobile banking can be really useful for this and keeping track in this way will help to ensure that you don’t incur any additional bank charges.

Identify ways you can save

Once you have been tracking your spending for a couple of weeks, you should be able to identify where savings can be made. Even small savings, made regularly, can really add up and help to stretch your finances that bit further. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Student discounts

  • Apply for an TOTUM card —it entitles you to discounts in lots of places and can save you a substantial amount of money over the year.

  • Even without an NUS card, it is sometimes possible to get discounts by showing your St George’s student ID card – always remember to ask about student discounts before paying!

Shopping and cooking

  • Buying your food in big supermarkets is usually cheaper than in a mini market. Also, have a look round Tooting Market for some fruit and vegetable bargains.
  • Ready prepared meals are more expensive and less healthy than preparing meals from scratch using fresh ingredients.

  • Meat can be expensive. Try to go vegetarian a few times a week.

  • Freeze any leftovers for another day.

  • Don’t over buy in one go, as you may find you end up throwing things away which have passed their use-by date.

  • Plan ahead—decide what you are planning on cooking for a few days in advance. It is easy to come home from uni hungry and grab a take away or ready prepared meal because it's quick and easy, but this can also become expensive.

  • Find ways to use all your leftovers at Love Food Hate Waste. Cooking together in a group is cheaper than cooking for one. Look for discounts, money off vouchers and special offers. Get a loyalty card for the supermarket(s) and other shops you use regularly.


Household bills

  • Turn off the lights if you're not in the room.

  • Don't leave your electrical items on standby overnight.

  •  Whenever possible, hang your clothes out to dry instead of using the tumble dryer.

  • Do your washing at 30°C unless you're washing towels/bedding or trying to wash out stains.

  • Take showers instead of baths.

  • Make sure your heating isn't left on while you’re all out of the house.

  • Block up draughts from badly fitted windows and doors – this will help to keep your heating bills as low as possible.


  • Look out for cheap entry to cinemas and clubs – remember to ask about student discounts when booking tickets.

  • Discount vouchers are readily available for many high street restaurant chains. Sign up for email alerts with your favourite restaurants and you will receive all their latest offers.

  • Look out for student nights when the entry/food/drinks are cheaper than usual.


  • Many clothes shops offer student discounts. Make sure you check before you buy and use that NUS or St George’s student ID card!

  • Buying clothes from charity shops can become a creative challenge and you can often find next to new items at bargain prices.


  • Make full use of the library!

  • Check with students from other years about the availability of second hand/cheap books for your course. They may have one they don't want any more, or be able to advise you about which ones are most useful and worth investing in.


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