Creating a Student Budget – Bills and Costs to Consider

21/07/2016

As a student, creating a smart budget can be highly beneficial for when you graduate. It’s a great way to avoid getting into financial difficulty, whilst it can also help you to worry less about your spending. To create a budget, you should consider:

  • Researching all the best student deals
  • Totalling up your incomings
  • Totalling up your prospective outgoings
  • Planning what you want to do with any leftover money

To help with regards to outgoings, we’ve put together a guide surrounding all the key costs you’ll need to consider outside of rent during your time as a student.

Not all of these will apply to those living in halls of residence, but they will all be included if you’re looking to move into rented student accommodation.

Look out for out thrifty tips throughout the guide:

Deposits

When moving into rented student accommodation, almost all providers will look to secure a security deposit against the property in question. This will very much depend on the provider, the size of the house and how many people you’re looking to rent with.

Whatever the case, it pays to research this in plenty of time, as you’ll need to raise the funds in order to get the property you want.

The good news is that you should expect to get this back at the end of the lease once all tenancy obligations have been met (paying all the rent, completing the contract, returning keys etc.).

Non-Refundable Application Fee

Usually, at the time you place any deposit, many agents and landlords will charge a non-refundable application fee. This will cover costs such as the administration for the lease.

Bills

Utility bills will account for a large proportion of your spend at university, particularly from second year onwards. These do stack up each month, so it’s of paramount importance to factor in each cost ahead of each year of study to prevent yourself getting into any difficulty.  

Whilst some agencies may offer properties on a ‘bills inclusive’ basis, this will generally mean you paying more in rent. In general, it will work out cheaper to organise any bills yourself for private rented accommodation.

Internet and Satellite TV Provider

This is one that will depend on your situation in any given year. For many students occupying a room within halls of residence, internet will be included within the overall price. It goes without saying that it’s worth clarifying this beforehand.

If you’re renting in a private flat or house however, the costs of internet, sky and line rental can soon stack up. It’s worth shopping around to get the best deal, with some providers offering great deals like a free TV upon signup. This is ideal if you’re moving into shared accommodation.

Thrifty tip: Opt for on-demand services like Netflix rather than expensive TV packages. 

Gas & Electricity

Gas and electricity, in almost all cases, are always going to be the utility bills from which you take the greatest hit as a student. Again, for those in halls of residence, these charges may already be included; but for those renting privately that’s highly unlikely.

If you want to reduce any potential spending, it’s important to be thrifty where possible. Simple things like turning lights and appliances off when you’re not using them can make a big difference in terms of electricity.

For gas, be particularly wary during the winter months. You want to be comfortable, but you need to find the right balance between knowing when an extra layer might be more appropriate than simply ramping up the thermostat. Consider programming the heating to come on at times of the day when you and your housemates are in the flat.

A great way to choose a provider is by using a comparison site like MoneySuperMarket. This can help you to find the best possible deal for you and your housemates.

Thrifty tip: Create a programming schedule for your heating.

TV license

There is no exemption from a TV license when you’re a student. The TV Licensing body states that if you ‘watch or record programmes as they’re being shown on TV or live on an online TV service – on any device –they need to be covered by a TV license’.

In addition, from 1st September 2016, new laws will mean that you’ll be required to have a TV license to watch or download BBC programmes on demand as well (including catch up TV, iPlayer).

As of 19/7/16, a TV license costs £145.50 a year. It can be paid in various instalments. You can find out more here, including information on separate tenancy agreements and why a hall’s licence won’t cover a student in their own room.

Water

If you’re living in rented property from second year onwards, you’ll absolutely need to factor in water bills. Split between you and your housemates, these are generally easy to predict and tend to be fairly manageable.

If you’re living in halls, you’ll want to clarify whether water rates are included within your contract.  

Thrifty tip: Take less baths and opt for shorter showers instead.

Council Tax

This is one that you don’t have to worry about. In almost all cases, students are exempt from paying council tax, which is used by local authorities to help fund the services they provide.

According to the National Union of Students, ‘a property is exempt from council tax if everyone who lives there (are) full-time university students’. By definition, to count as a full-time student for council tax purposes, your course must:

  • Last at least one calendar or academic year. Within this time period you’re required to undertake the course for at least 24 weeks of the year.
  • Involve at least 21 hours of study, tuition or work experience per week during term time.

You can find further information on the gov.uk website.

General Living Costs

There are some things that you simply cannot do without. Essentials that you’ve no choice but to factor in include:

  • Food shopping
  • Clothes
  • Toiletries
  • Mobile phone contract

Thrifty tip: Make the most of student discount offers.

Fitness

You can’t put a price on your health. Keeping fit should be right at the top of your list of things to do during your time at university – and there are so many great ways to do it.

Joining a gym is often one of the first ports of call for a student. Make sure to take advantage of any deals offered through your university or local clubs where possible if you want to become a member.

Other potential fitness costs include subs and travel costs related to joining a sports team and any equipment purchases that you may subsequently be required to make.

If you want to save on the costs of a gym, then there are limitless ways to enjoy yourself in the outdoors.

Thrifty tip: Run outdoors and buy some weights rather than joining a gym.

Entertainment

Entertainment spending is arguably the thing that you need to keep the closest eye on when studying. Boredom is something you’ll constantly be looking to fight with your spare time, but the costs of socialising can soon add up. Some of the many things you’ll need to factor in are:

  • Cinema
  • Eating out and takeaways
  • Nights out
  • Trips to the pub
  • Gigs
  • DVDs and video games
  • Fancy dress
  • Watching sport
  • Theatre

This is just a starter list. There are bound to be plenty of other entertainment costs you’ll need to factor in as well.

Thrifty tip: Embrace low-cost activities such as relaxing in parks and walking in the countryside.

Savings & A Job

You may baulk at the very idea of this as a student, but saving now can pay dividends for you further down the line. Clearly you want to enjoy yourself alongside your studies, but with frugal spending you can keep your costs down and put a bit of cash away.

Outside of your student loan, any grants and contributions from family, you can always consider getting a part-time job to help with this.

Above anything else, employment gives you the best chance to save money. Whilst you don’t want to hinder your chances of obtaining the best possible degree, there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself with plenty of free time.

Unless you’re doing a particularly intensive course, many students find that they’re only in for between 10-20 hours a week. This leaves plenty of time for you to get a job – and it doesn’t have to be as generic as you might think.

There’s every chance that you could get a role within an organisation that provides you with work experience relevant to the career you ultimately see yourself getting into.

At the end of your time at university, you’ll be grateful of any money that you’ve been able to squirrel away as a result. It can be the difference between you moving back home and standing on your own two feet as a graduate.

Thrifty tip: Put a small amount away each week and over three or four years it will really add up.

Travel

How far away you live from your university will have big influence on how much your travel costs. If you need to commute a fair distance every day, bear in mind that things like tram, bus or train costs all need to be budgeted for.

Equally, if you’re a car owner, remember to consider the total amount of money you’ll spend on petrol, insurance and repairs. Depending on where you’re living, you may also need to factor in the cost of a parking permit. For renters in Sheffield, more info can be found on the Sheffield City Council website.

If you live nearby to your university, it may be worth leaving your car behind during times of study.

To save money, walk where possible (it’s great for your fitness). Alternatively, if you have no choice but to pay for public transport, make sure you take advantage of things like a Student Railcard.

One more thing to consider here is the cost of travelling home. Book any tickets as far in advance as you can, as train fees can get seriously expensive in the UK nearer to time of travel.

Thrifty tip: Take advantage of Student Railcards and other travel-related discounts.

Insurance

Whilst you might be tempted to skip paying for insurance, this is something that we’d seriously advise all students getting.

When you consider the total cost of items like a mobile phone, tablet, computer, laptop, clothes and other expensive equipment, you’re easily talking a few thousand pounds.

Based on the fact that student contents insurance starts from around £10 per month, it’s an absolute no-brainer to get these covered.

Thrifty tip: Use a price comparison site to find the best provider and leave expensive gadgets you’re not likely to use at home. This will help you to keep your quote down. Also, check to see if your parent’s policy might cover your belongings whilst they’re with you at university.

Study Materials & Course Costs

Study materials, photocopying and printing are just some of the many academic-related costs you’ll need to cover as a student.

Printing – particularly if you’re doing a design-based course like architecture – can seriously stack up. For anything A4-related, it’s worth investing in a printer of your own, as it’s likely to be far cheaper than relying on the facilities your university provides.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that many courses look to take students abroad in the first couple of years of a course, so consider what impact this could have on your outgoings. Whilst some courses may cover certain aspects of a trip, you’ll certainly need to contribute to it in some way or other.

Thrifty tip: Invest in a reliable, budget printer.

Repairs

Whether you’re renting in halls or private accommodation, it’s important to take care of your home for the year in question. Try to avoid causing any damage to the property, as you’ll be held accountable for any notable repairs required.

Thrifty tip: Choose your housemates wisely!

Holidays

Particularly during your earlier student years, time away from university provides the best chance to catch up with old friends. A common way to do this is through booking a holiday, which means more costs to factor in to your budget.

Thrifty tip: Consider a cheaper holiday such as camping within this country.

Housemates

Obviously this is one that’s applicable for later university years.

Your housemates can become friends for life, but it’s important to pick them carefully. If you can get in with people that are reliable, you’ll be putting yourself in a great position moving forward.

It will make paying bills easier and you’ll feel more comfortable putting your trust in people in terms of avoiding expensive damage to the property you live in.

With relation to bills, it’s essential that you’re aware of the impact missed payments can have on your credit score. If you have accounts linked with housemates, your future financial scores will be linked to them.

Bearing this in mind, any problems you or your housemates run into as a result of unpaid bills become everyone’s problem – making reliability all the more important. 

Thrifty tip: Discuss the points raised with potential housemates to see how seriously they will take them.

Semester Breaks

One final thing to consider is what you’ll spend when you go home during your time away from university (or what you’ll do in the city during times without study).

You might have this earmarked as a time to save; but socially, it can be harder than ever to avoid spending.

Thrifty tip: Either get a part-time job or ask for more hours at your existing place of work.

Student Accommodation in Sheffield

Here at Dove, we provide a superb selection of student accommodation in Sheffield. Our properties include flats and houses in a wide variety of top locations throughout the city. Contact us today to find out more!