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How we budget as college students

Budgeting a student can be a big challenge. Often its the first time budgeting. Having a budget and sticking to it is the key to being successful with your finances at all stages in life and being a student is no exception. However, due to the intermittent nature of income and expenditure it can feel overwhelmingly challenging. When this post goes live I will be in my last ever exam in Law school and though Im done with my studies Chris still has a few more years on his Engineering degree. As students there a few things we have learnt along the way that can be done to make the whole process easier and more manageable.

As well as sharing some tips we have learnt that have helped us budget we are also including in this post an editable excel budget spreadsheet that is tailored towards student budgets. Click on the image below to be direct to Google Drive where you can download the spreadsheet

1. Knowing when all payments are going in and out.  
They key to managing a budget where this are intermittent is being in the know and consequently in control. In our budget spread sheet we note when our income streams are paid in by adding the comment boxes to annotate. Knowing how long a payment needs to last you helps you avoid big fluctuations in finances.
Things that count as income in a student budget include:
- Student Finance
- Grants/Scholarships
- Part-time work (term time)
- Holiday work
- Parental financial assistance
We also have on our calendar the dates of all our bills that come out through the month via standing order and direct debt and we have the amounts of each bill next to the date. I do this because before we were married I could just about remember the dates for all my expenses, but once we added Chris' stuff into the situation it just became too much for me to remember and left me feeling stress. Now I wonder why I didn't use a calendar before as it just makes life so much easier. For bigger, infrequent bills such as annual insurance we put a reminder on the calendar the week before its due (so if money needs to be transferred we have time) and then a note on the day its due.

2.  Budget for an academic year
When we make our budget spreadsheets we budget from September for 12 months rather than following the normal calendar year which most budgets apply. This allows us to see our expected income and expenditure over an academic year and avoid having to deal with two academic years at a time. We do this because it is easiest for us to project that time frame as most of our income is grants and scholarships and these are paid on an academic year basis. Taking this longer term perspective (rather than just looking at term time) allows you be aware if you need to make any changes for your budget to keep your balance in the green.

3. Pay your self a monthly income
We get student finance in three instalments and scholarships in two and they all come in at awkward times. We have easy access savings accounts linked to our current account and we divide up our total anticipated income over the year and pay ourselves a 1/12 each month. This works for us right now because we have 12 equal rent payments but when I was in halls my rent was paid in three instalments (the same as student finance) so what I would do is wait for the rent to go out (as it was only a day or so later) and with the remaining money divide it into the number of months it needed to last and put the other months money in an easy saver. To make things even easier (so you don't even have to remember to 'pay' yourself set up an automatic payment for each month.

How do you help keep your budget organised with the fluctuations of student life?
Disease Called Debt


  1. So true about the awkward timing! My husband's school holds excess funds for about a month after receiving them from grants and scholarships. We have the luxury of working income, so when the refund check does come through we put it straight to savings.

  2. I love the budget spreadsheet and how it's organized by school year and category. College is a time that a budget is especially helpful, because of the irregular income streams like you said and the need to pay additional expenses. Love it!