Having an effective and realistic budget is crucial to enjoying your time at University. Making sure you manage your money effectively so that it covers each aspect of your life is important.
Utility and Household Bills
One way of ensuring that you get the most out of your money, particularly with regards to utility bills, is to 'shop around'. Be mindful of the fact that there are a number of utilities providers offering competitive rates and wide-ranging incentives, such as cash back and free gifts for signing up. Switching to monthly direct debits can offer savings of up to 10%. Where possible, try to ensure that you are not on pre-payment meters, as these will often result in you paying inflated charges for your utilities. To ensure you are not being over- or under-charged for your utilities usage, take monthly meter readings and compare them to your bills. Make sure that your rent is not inclusive of bills - you do not want to be paying double what you should be. Something else to note is that if you are with a provider and which to change to another, you will need to get prior approval and consent from your Landlord. Failure to do this may be in breach of your tenancy agreement.
You may also be able to save by paying by direct debit instead of periodically online or over the phone. You should check with your provider and find the best plan for you.
Shopping for Food and Household Products
Planning a budget is part of a wider strategy to gain control of your spending, and food and household shopping form an integral part of this. As a shopper you are encouraged to purchase premium brand products with ever-increasing prices. As an exercise to see how much you could save, without compromising on quality, swap a premium-branded product for a standard or even value product. Not all brand swaps will be to everyone's taste, but you may be surprised at how much you can save and what little difference there is between premium and standard brands.
Another useful tip is to try planning your meals for the week in advance. This will give you a better idea of what you need to buy when you go shopping, rather than buying things that you might not get round to using, or making expensive, spur of the moment, purchases. Avoid ready-meals and fast food where you can. Home cooking is better for you, more nutritious and ultimately cheaper. You may even find that you have enough left over to take into lectures with you, and save yourself some money on meal deals. Pasta is an easy food to work with. Buying plain pasta and introducing other ingredients can be a quick and easy meal.
An important part of your student experience at Cardiff will probably be socialising. However, this does not mean that you have to make it to every single social event. Remember: you're here for at least three years, so there's plenty of time to try everything. Don't cram everything into one semester and end up with no money for the next one, or worse, in debt.
Instead, make the most of mid-week student nights, where you'll find drinks offers and cheaper door prices. You might like to consider arranging to cook a meal with your friends, having a film night, or throwing a house party on the weekends, which will save you money on inflated weekend drink prices.
There will likely be other things that will eat into your finances during your time at university. For example:
- Books and others study tools – utilising the libraries for books instead of buying your own is a sure way to save you money. You can also buy books second hand rather than brand new which could also you a few pounds. When you are done with the materials you have purchased, you could sell them on to try and make your money back.
- Travel – going to and from home can cost a lot of money and with travel costs rising frequently finding ways to save on this will be a good idea. When it comes to train travel, sometimes direct tickets cost more. For example if you have to get off the train at one location and then get on another train, buying two tickets can work out cheaper. Also booking in advance can also help save money. Another way of travelling for less can be taking the bus or a coach instead of the train.
- Deposits and Agency Fees – You will usually have to find a few hundred pounds to pay agency fees and deposits when looking for housing for the next academic year. Looking at different letting agents and how much they charge for agency fees may help you save money. Deposit amounts will also differ depending on the rental amount of your chosen house.
First year students may also wish to budget for the cost of doing their laundry as this is often not included in the rent you pay.
Taking your weekly budget out at the beginning of the week and only paying in cash is a good way of managing your money. For more tips on how to save, budget and spend wisely, click here.