Budgeting, Managing your money

How to: Stick to a budget

Rosie, Advice and Money Intern shares her budgeting tips and advice …

If you have not yet seen that video check it out first as it provides useful advice on how to work out your weekly budget. (Having a weekly budget is important as it helps you to not overspend or run out of money.)


Have you watched?  Good, then I can begin.  Now that you’ve figured out your weekly budget, here’s a few tips on how you can reduce the risk of overspending!

Keep your funding in a separate savings account. Then, set up a standing order to transfer your weekly budget into your current account every Monday morning.
This way you can’t withdraw too much of your loan at once, even if it is by accident. It also means that you will never overspend on your weekly budget, as you will only have access to the maximum that you can spend each week.

This is such a simple trick that I used myself in first year. It’s super helpful and means that (even if you spend most of your weekly budget by Wednesday) you’ll be more aware of your spending for the rest of the week.

I found this to be a great way to learn how to manage my money. It also meant that if I didn’t spend all of my weekly budget in one week 1, then I would have more money to spend in week 2! (Or, if I was feeling really clever I would put the leftover money from week 1 into my savings, but I’ll let you decide which one you want to do).

Great! Now you’re a budgeting expert! A free bird, able to stretch your wings and fly out into the world, independent, with no parents to tell you what to do! What could possibly go wrong? Cut to 12pm on a Wednesday morning. You wake up with a headache and a few groggy memories of the night before, you check your bank account and there it is, the dreaded number: 0.

Hi again. Let me be that much-needed parent for a moment.

So, you need some tips on how to reduce your expenditure? Here’s a few that will help you, not just on a night out, but in some general #studentlife situations:

  1. Use student discounts. (UniDays, NUS card, Student Beans etc.)
    I can’t tell you how many times these guys have saved me money on clothes, food, clothes and more food… (It’s cool, I get it, I’m a student too.) Just make sure you don’t fall into the trap of buying something just because it’s got 30% off! (‘It’s a bargain!’ I pleaded to my friend, in the middle of Topshop. ‘£45?! Rosie, you don’t need another pair of black leather boots!’)
  2. Student Railcards.
    Another massive student saviour. You may be having loads of fun being independent, meeting new people and figuring out who you are, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t need your parents at least once a term, right? Having a railcard means that I can pop to London for the weekend for just £22 (if I remember to book my ticket in advance). That’s pretty good for a homecooked Sunday lunch at grandma’s house, right?
    And if you’re not travelling by train, make sure to book your flights as far in advance as you can. Need a cheap flight from Cardiff to Edinburgh? Tuesdays and Thursdays tend to be the cheapest days to fly and if you use comparison websites such as Skyscanner, lastminute.com and BookingBuddy, you’ll be sure to find some great deals!
  3. Buy second hand books/equipment from older students.
    Ah, books. Simultaneously the biggest joy and bane of an English Literature student’s life. Some courses, like mine, boast up to 40 required books per year, so it really helps if you can get them for a couple of quid from a second-year student. You can find people that may be advertising these things on your University or specific course Facebook pages.
    The student bookshop Blackwell’s also sells second hand books at cheaper prices. And you can find them on the ground floor of the Students Union.
    Don’t underestimate amazon or eBay either. I had a friend that bought the entire works of Shakespeare from amazon for something mad like 50p!
  4. Leave your bank card at home on a night out so you can’t overspend.
    I do this every time I go out and it never fails! Just make sure to take a sensible amount of cash with you. I usually opt for £15, but everyone is different and it’s important to figure out a sensible amount that works for you.
    If you run out of money at the end of the night, make sure to use the Safe Taxi Scheme to get home. This is a scheme that the University runs in partnership with Dragon Taxis and it means that you can get a free lift home and pay for it later. Just make sure to show the taxi driver your student ID and they’ll give you a receipt at the end of your ride. I have their number saved into my phone, which again, makes things so much easier at the end of a long night out: 02920 333 333.

One of the main things that I struggled to budget my money on in first year was food. I found it all so complicated! Supermarkets, cooking, going to the pub, how on earth are you supposed to make sense of it all without overspending? Well, don’t worry, I went through it all so you don’t have to!


  1. Do a weekly shop.
    But before you do this make sure you write a list, so that you don’t end up impulse buying things that you don’t need.
  2. Plan your evening meals for the week so you know exactly what ingredients you’ll need to buy.
    However, you don’t need to buy enough food for seven meals. You never know when you might spontaneously go to the pub or a friend’s house for dinner. I made the mistake of buying too much food in my first week of University. I only actually ended up cooking four meals that week and found myself panicking on the Sunday evening as I stared at some aging chicken that had gone an unappetizing shade of grey. I’d paid £4 for it and I ended up having to throw it away in risk of contracting salmonella. It was a traumatising experience.
  3. Always eat before you go shopping!
    Again, this will help prevent you from buying extra goodies that you can’t afford. In fact, just avoid the bakery section or the snacks aisle in general…
  4. Look for supermarket brands.
    They’re usually a lot cheaper. Shopping later at night can also increase the likelihood of finding good deals and reductions on prices. I once got an entire loaf of tiger bread for 20p! There was nothing wrong with it at all. In fact, it had been freshly baked that morning, but the supermarket wanted to get rid of it before the next day so that they could tell their customers that all their baked goods were ‘freshly baked that morning’. The madness of consumerism! The bread lasted for another five days!
  5. Try not to buy your lunch at University, no matter how tempting the meal deals and burger bars are.
    Buying a loaf of bread and some fillings for five packed lunches can be up to ten times cheaper in the long run!
  6. Find a friend!
    It can be difficult to buy meals for one person, as the quantities are usually enough for two! However, shopping and cooking together with a friend cuts your expenditure in half! If, though, you’re like me and are pretty terrible at the whole socialising and making friends thing, why not just cook for two and put half in the freezer for another day. It saves you from having to cook as often!

Is your weekly budget still too low? Reducing expenditure isn’t the only way to manage your money. Here are some ways that you can increase your income:

  1. Part time work.
    The best place to look is the Jobshop, located on the fourth floor of the Student’s Union. They offer easy, flexible part-time shifts in their many cafes and shops. It’s really easy to fit as many shifts as you like around your timetable, especially as they need workers in both the daytime and at night. However, make sure to balance your work with your study. Cardiff University does not recommend working more than 15 hours per week during term time.
  2. Get a student bank account.
    Student bank accounts usually offer freebies and other benefits such as interest free overdrafts. These can be useful as a last resort, but make sure you understand what you are signing up to. You will have to pay the money back at some point!

If you have tried all of these things and you are still having money problems do not hesitate to come and speak to the Advice and Money Team at the Student Support Centre. If you are in financial difficulty it may be worth applying to the Financial Assistance Programme to see if you are eligible for a loan or an award.

Congratulations, you are now a fully-fledged, competent adult who will never run out of money or spend irresponsibly ever again! Ok, so maybe that’s a bit of wishful thinking, but you will always have to manage your money, so why not start now? Good luck!


Your feedback and help please

Have you found this blog post useful?  Please help us by commenting in the comments bar below, and  if there is anything further you’d like to know ask your questions there too.

We’d also be grateful if you can share this information by re-tweeting or sharing with your fellow students who may find this useful – you can do this by using the share buttons or via twitter and facebook.


Best wishes
Rosie, Advice and Money Intern


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 & Money, Careers & Employability, Counselling, Health & Wellbeing, Disability & Dyslexia and International Student Support.

The Student Support Centres are located at 50 Park Place, Cathays Campus and Cardigan House, Heath Park Campus.

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