Budgeting isn’t exactly a sexy word. Most people when they first come to uni end up being overwhelmed by the sheer amount of shops and options that they blow all of their money in the first month, shoving them deep into their overdraft.
Honestly, the best thing that I did to force myself to be wise about money was to not get an overdraft in the first place. When you go into your online banking and see you only have £50 but it says ‘£2050 available’, you’re far more likely to think “ahh, who cares?” and hit up Domino’s for the sixth time that month.
I can’t write an article about budgeting without mentioning our Lord and Saviour, Aldi. Where else could you buy some fresh grapes and a power drill at the same time? I like to think of Aldi a bit like Primark: you have to pick and choose what works. If you get the majority of your shopping at Aldi, then you can afford to get the other items from places like Tesco’s and Sainsbury’s, or even M&S.
Which brings me onto my next point: always go to the reduced section first. I can’t tell you the amount of bargains I’ve found from becoming friends with that yellow label. Most of us live in a five minute walking distance from food shops, so if you work out the time where they start properly dropping the prices on food, then you can get some high-quality items for much cheaper prices simply because they go out of date on that day. Plus, items like meats and fish can be frozen and defrosted later - a lot of the things will also be reduced simply because of their ‘sell by’ date but not their ‘use by’ anyway, meaning they’ll keep for a lot longer.
One of the best things that I got into the rhythm of doing was simply planning my expenditures when my loan came through. It takes about half an hour (if that) and is absolutely invaluable in the long run. Firstly, work out how much you have left from your loan after your rent is taken out. After that, work out how many more weeks it is until your next loan comes through. Divide the money you have left over by the weeks you have left and adjust for any extra spending from things like gym contracts as well as any extra income from work. By the end of it, you have an exact number of how much money you can spend each week and even each day.
Lastly, something that has really helped me is setting up a savings account with a direct debit coming from my main account each week. This means that I always have a little extra to fall back on if times get hard or even some extra spending money for when the holidays roll around. This just means that when you look at your bank account you have more than you think you do, forcing you to be wiser about your spending habits. It doesn’t have to be a particularly large amount, just whatever you can spare.