As I’ve now officially finished my first year at university (eek!!), I decided to look back at how I’ve managed my money since moving out in September. One of the biggest responsibilities you have as a student is managing your income as for many people, university is the first time where you are expected to pay for your rent and bills by yourself, whilst also somehow having enough money to feed yourself and socialise.
I’m quite a visual person, so things graphs and charts mean a lot more to me than just lists of numbers, so I thought I would create a pie chart to breakdown my spending this past year. Throughout the year, I have been recording everything I spend in a little notebook, as it helps me keep track of how much I’m spending each week so I don’t end up in my overdraft. I’d highly recommend doing this as it’s a straightforward way to keep track of your spending and budget better. Also, if you’re bored and miss doing maths like me (who am I kidding??!), you can then spend hours creating fancy pie charts at the end of the year!
For context, my living costs at university have been funded by a maintenance loan from the Student Loans Company, along with a bursary from my university itself. Luckily my loan covered my accommodation costs but I know for some people this can be a struggle and they find they need to work alongside to support themselves.
The first chart I made is an overview of all my spending throughout the year.
As I expected, the rent I’ve paid for my university halls of residence has been the biggest outgoing, followed by the deposit I had to pay for my second year house (which was ridiculously expensive arghhh!!). Most student’s will probably end up spending the biggest chunk of money on their accommodation, unless you’re commuting then transport might be the biggest cost. Aside from the rent and deposit, all the other things I’ve spent money make up a relatively small percentage in comparison, so I’ve broken this down further into another pie chart, excluded the rent and deposit.
So, excluding the amount of money I’ve had to spend on actually having somewhere to live at university, my next biggest cost by far is ‘other shopping’. I didn’t really know what to label this but basically I mean things I’ve bought that isn’t included in my weekly grocery shop, so non-essential items. The majority of this spending has gone on clothes, birthday/Christmas presents for friends and family and the new phone which I had to buy myself in first term as my old one decided to give up on me. I honestly expected transport to be by biggest non-accommodation cost, so this was quite surprising. I definitely think next year I can aim to spend a lot less on unnecessary items so I can save more money for after university.
After shopping, I’ve spent the most money on groceries which is to be expected as food can be expensive!
I’ve also spent a lot of money this year on holidays, which isn’t that surprising as flights and accommodation can be expensive! I also had to renew my passport this year which cost A LOT, but at least it’s valid for the next 10 years now. To some people, holidays/travel may seem unnecessary but travelling and exploring new countries is something I do for fun and to relax, and whilst some people might spend £100 on a night out, I’d rather put that money towards travel. I’ve spent the same amount of money on socialising, which includes things like paying for society memberships and events, going out for meals/for a coffee with friends and going to the Student Union club nights. The amount of money I spent on socialising definitely increased a lot in second term as I made more friends and although I have spent a lot of money socialising this year, I think it’s important to find a balance between studying and social life. It also proves to me that I haven’t been as anti-social as I thought I’d been this year!
Then transport is my next biggest cost and I was totally expect this. I think I’ve spent almost £400 on train and bus tickets this year, just travelling around the UK which goes to show how extortionate train tickets are here. It costs me £50 for a return ticket every time I go home, which is why I’ve only been home 4 times throughout the year as it’s too expensive to go back more frequently. I’ve also travelled a lot around my university area, going in and out of London multiple times and visiting my sister at her university in Portsmouth, so that accounts for the rest of the transport costs. I think next year I can aim to cut this down as well. One thing I’ve noticed this year is that when things get tough, I have a tendency to want to run away and escape, which usually results in me jumping on a train to London or another nearby town/city to go and explore for the day. I have enjoyed exploring the South East, but I think next year I’ll have to try and travel less frequently to save money.
The next three biggest costs which each make up around 6% of my spendings are books, cash withdrawals from ATMs and ‘other’ (which includes random costs such as posting parcels and buying new glasses, which are ridiculously overpriced!!). Honestly, university books are so expensive and I can’t wait to sell them at the end of my degree, even if I only get a fraction of the money back. I put ATM withdrawals as a separate category as I can never remember what I spend cash on specifically, but I guess it’ll usually be groceries or bus/train tickets.
Then finally I’ve spent the smallest amount of money on laundry (3%) and mobile phone top-ups (2%). I thought laundry would be a lot me, considering it costs me around £7 each week to wash and dry my clothes. However the good thing is next year I won’t have to spend any money on laundry as my house has it’s own washing machine and tumble dryer, so that’ll be some more money I can save. As I’m not on a contract, I only top-up my phone when I need credit and I’ve only spent £50 on credit this year, which just goes to show how good value pay-as-you-go phones are (well for me anyway)!
I know finance isn’t the most interesting of topics, but I did find it quite fun making these graphs and seeing what I’ve spent money on this year. I think the fact that I’ve spent more money on shopping for clothes etc. than groceries reflects the fact that when you’re student loan comes into your bank account, you kind of get a bit carried away and start buying unnecessary things. But next year I can definitely work on cutting down this unnecessary spending and reducing the amount I spend on transport which will help me to budget better!
I hope you found this useful in some way to see a breakdown of what I’ve spent in my first year at uni. I know every student has different priorities and will spend their loan differently, but I thought this might give people who are thinking of going to university in the next few years an insight into the types of costs you might want to factor into your student budget.
Good luck to anyone sitting exams right now! I’ll be back soon (*fingers crossed*) with a post about my experience of first year. 🙂