Being a student is expensive and with pressure from your parents, sponsors, or yourself to do well and pass each year, it isn’t always feasible taking on part-time or weekend work in order to supplement your income.

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Whether you’re a trust-fund baby or personally paying off a student loan creating and sticking to a budget is not only the responsible thing to do but the smart way of coming to grips with the costs of being an adult.

What is a Budget?:

A budget is a form of financial planning which involves tracking the movement of your money into and out of your banking account / wallet. The purpose of having a budget is to help you identify your expenses, plan for shortfalls and detect poor or wasteful spending habits that you may not be aware of.

Budgeting isn’t particularly fun but once you get started and with a little practice it does become easier.

How to Set Up a Budget:

Step 1: Find a budget planner/spreadsheet/app

You can download free budget planners, spreadsheets and apps. Basically a budget planner or spreadsheet provides you with a visual breakdown of all your incomes vs. your expenses and what you are (or aren’t) left with at the end.


Step 2: Track your expenses

Tracking each and every expense may sound a little OTT, but it’s easy to do if you save all your receipts or carry a notebook with you and note down each purchase you make. The purpose of doing this is so that you can track every cash, EFT, credit or debit card purchase you make and thus identify what you are spending your money on.

  • Get a notebook or use your cell phone – have it with you whenever you go out or do Internet banking
  • Note it down – every time you spend money, make a note of it: what (exam pad) / when (22.05.15) / amount (R19.99), also remember to start asking for receipts with every purchase you make.
  • Add it all up – add up your expenses for the month and capture them on your budget planner under the correct category (see Step 3 for categories)

Step 3: Start budgeting

Collect all your receipts and statements (student loan, credit card, store cards, bank) and start filling in your budget spreadsheet – only include items which you are personally paying for out of your bank account. Categories you should consider include:

  • Income – this refers to money you have either saved or earned e.g. income for vacation or weekend work, part-time jobs, parental contributions, scholarships / bursaries – any money that you do not have to pay back.
  • Student Loans – if you have a student loan that you are personally paying back, then enter it here.
  • School Expenses – this includes tuition fees, textbooks, study supplies
  • Living Expenses – rent, groceries, toiletries, Internet connectivity, laundry, cell phone etc.
  • Transportation – car loan, car insurance, petrol, taxi fare.
  • Health – prescriptions, vitamins, hospital plan, medical aid, gym membership.
  • Personal – gifts, special occasions, eating out, entertainment, clothing.

Once you have filled all your income and expenses in you will be able to see a) whether or not you are making ends meet based on what you have available to spend and b) where you may need to start cutting back.

Budgeting Tips & Things to Remember:

  • Consider setting up two bank accounts:

– one for essentials such as rent, taxi fare and groceries and the other for non-essentials such as entertainment and clothing.


– you could transfer a set weekly or monthly amount into your second account, this will help keep you from overspending or running out of money.

  • Remember that your spending patterns will differ significantly between term-time and holidays – you will need to budget accordingly for both.
  • Join loyalty programmes and find out about student discounts.
  • Shop around for bargains – compare prices to save save money on groceries and toiletries.
  • Don’t waste money on pre-packed lunches and take away coffees – making your own lunch at home will save you loads of money during the year.
  • Get cooking – cooking your own meals in big batches and freezing them is a great way of saving money and ensuring that you have a meal waiting for you when you get home after a long day of lectures.
  • Earn extra money in your spare time – instead of lazing your June and December holidays away in front of the tv or computer, apply for holiday work.  Most major retailers need casual, student staff especially during the December period.
  • Credit cards are not the solution – they attract major interest charges and can result your credit rating being tarnished even before you start your first job.


Budgeting: Your Annual Budget. (n.d.). Retrieved from:  http://www.thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk/university-tuition-fees/managing-your-money/budgeting/ [Accessed on: 22 January 2016].

10 Ways for Students to Save, Make and Manage Money at University. (n.d.). Retrieved from:  http://www.barclays.co.uk/P1242678545223  [Accessed on: 22 January 2016].

Taylor, K.K. (2010). Back to School Tips: Student Budget Planner. Retrieved from:  http://www.squawkfox.com/2010/08/18/student-budget-planner/  [Accessed on: 22 January 2016].

Taylor, K.K. (2010). Financial Planning Series: How to Make a Budget. Retrieved from:  http://www.squawkfox.com/2010/03/03/how-to-make-a-budget/  [Accessed on: 22 January 2016].