Advice for living in Cardiff and the UK, Budgeting, Managing your money, More, Student Finance

Budgeting Basics

The looooooooooong second term and the dreaded ‘B’ word (Budgeting of course!)

Our experts in the Advice and Money Team share some help and budgeting advice.

You’ve managed through the first term of the academic year, survived the money pit of Christmas and finally reached the second instalment of funding pay day; hurray!! Finally, your bank balance looks a bit healthier. So why do u need to budget, there’s money in your account?

We say budgeting, you most likely think ‘Boring!’ and ‘I’m still buying a costa on the way to lectures in this weather’. But cutting back (or depriving yourself) is not what’s at the heart of budgeting. Budgeting is about being in control of your money, and not letting it control you. One way you need to be in control is making the money you have last until your next source of income, while meeting all your regular outgoings. This academic year, the gap between your second and third instalment of funding is longer than usual, around 17 weeks in fact, depending on your course. That’s why it’s important that you think about budgeting now.

When will you get your 3rd instalment of funding?

The payment of your third instalment is affected by the date of Easter. This year Easter is later than normal (19th-22nd April) which means that your third instalment of funding won’t be paid until early May (around 6th May). This means you have a longer than normal term to budget for.

If you are a new student this academic year, you probably won’t know anything different. Nonetheless getting to the next instalment of your funding may feel like a long slog. If you are living in University Halls of Residence then the payment date of your rent direct debit will have been timed by Residences to take into account the expected payment dates of your funding. So while your rent payments may be nicely tied in to when your funding is paid, you will have a longer period than normal to budget for your living costs.

If you are a continuing student then this longer than normal term could mean you have to pay an extra month’s rent from your second instalment of funding, as well as manage living costs for the extended period.

How can I manage my budget over the coming weeks?

Budgeting in theory is simple: you work out what you’ve got coming in (income) and what you’ve got going out (expenditure) and whatever is left is what you need to manage until you get more money coming in. Watch our video that explains the basics of budgeting. We know that budgeting can be hard and it’s not always as easy as it sounds, but it is an important skill to learn and will be a skill for life.

So where do you start? First off you need to check when your next instalment of funding is actually going to be paid to you. You can do this by logging into your online student finance account and looking for the payment details. Then work out how many weeks you have between now and then (probably around 12 weeks).

You might find that our budget sheet will help you think of everything your money has to cover.


Check your bank balance! This can be a scary thought, and often brings on the sweats in most of us, but if you don’t know what you’ve got available to you it will be impossible to manage this over the coming weeks. Consider if you have any other sources of income between now and your next instalment of funding. For example:

  • Do you have earnings from a part time job?
  • Are you expecting a second instalment of Cardiff University Bursary?
  • Do you have an overdraft facility you can use to help with cash flow?
  • Do you have any savings you can rely on?

The point of this is to work out how much money you think you will have available to you before your next instalment of student funding.


Make a list of all the regular outgoings you have between now and then. Include the amounts and the payment dates so you know your cashflow. This would include any rent costs, bills, mobile phone contracts, subscriptions, any scheduled travel plans or events…make sure you include everything you know you will have to have money for.

By working out your regular outgoings you can then begin to work out what you have left for the rest of your living costs.

Income – Expenditure = Budget

Once you know what your income is, subtract all of your known expenditure. Depending on your balance you could divide this by the number of weeks left until your next instalment of funding and this would give you a weekly amount which you can use to budget for living costs including food, socialising and anything else you would like to spend your money on. So with good planning in advance you won’t need to be living off beans and toast for the last month of term!

Everyone’s budget is different

We are all different, and your budget is no exception; your budget will not be the same as your friends and vice-versa. It is important to recognise that. If you would like more ideas on how to manage your money then the Advice and Money Team can help.

Our manage your money intranet pages provide lots of information on how to plan your budget.

Looking at ways you can increase your income is often the first way to adjust your budget.

  • Getting a part time job can be an easy win to bulk up your income. Working just a couple of hours a week may help cover your weekly food bill. The Jobshop in the Students’ Union is a good place to start looking for work.
  • Use your overdraft facility (if you have one). Generally student bank accounts have an interest free overdraft facility. This can be really helpful to manage your cashflow so don’t discount this. If you have a small overdraft facility and you think you need a higher limit, you can ask your bank about this. Remember though, an overdraft is a limit, not a target. Make sure to understand how to use this facility and don’t go over your limit.
  • Sometimes a spending diary is what you need, however shocking it may be to see it written down in black and white. More often than not we think we only spend a minimal amount on something, like food or clothes, but when you add up what you actually spend it’s a lot more. As well as a spending diary you could look back over your bank statements. Take a random week and have a look to see what you spent that week: you might be surprised!

You may also need to look at ways that you can cut your costs. Top tips would include:

  • Managing your food shop budget
  • Making your own lunches and not buying lunch out regularly
  • Setting yourself a budget for a night out
  • Making the most of available discounts; don’t forget your NUS card!

After you’ve looked at your budget you’ll know areas that you think you could cut back on.

Where to go for help

Even with all the best planning, unexpected costs crop up and your budget has to adapt to take these into account. If you are struggling to get control of your money, or can foresee that you will struggle financially, then please contact the Advice and Money Team. We can help you review and create a budget based on your individual circumstances and suggest ways to help improve your financial situation. We can also discuss with you applying to the Financial Assistance Programme. We are here to help.

For more tips on how to manage your money follow StudentlifeCU on Facebook and Twitter.

Your Student Life, Supported.

The Student Support Centre has a range of services dedicated to helping students make the most of their time at University, including: Advice and Money, Careers and Employability, Counselling, Health and Wellbeing, Disability and Dyslexia and International Student Support. The Student Support Centres are located at 50 Park Place, Cathays Campus and Cardigan House, Heath Park Campus.

For further details of services, events, opening times and more find us on the University Intranet.


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