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Make it to Christmas without using your overdraft

2nd September 2013

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Many students will run out of money sometime in November. If you'd rather be one of the smug ones with money for Christmas presents, try these simple strategies.

Make a budget

This is one of the simplest, most effective ways to manage your money - but surprisingly few people do it. The word might conjure up complicated spreadsheets and specialist calculators, but it boils down to three simple steps:

  • Add up all the money you have coming in
  • Work out how much you need to spend
  • Check that you'll have enough money and plan where to cut back if you don't
When you're finished, you'll know exactly what you can afford to spend.

The Student Calculator can take you through your budget step by step and estimate what you'll get from your student finance package. You could also use Excel, or just a pen and paper.

Track your spending

Ever woken up from a night out with an empty wallet and no idea where your money went? You're not alone. Even sober, most people have no idea how their spending adds up. There's a simple solution: make a note of everything you spend. It doesn't take much effort, and it lets you understand your finances very quickly.

Once you know where your money is going, you'll know where you can make savings. But you'll also think more about what you spend, making impulse buys and overpriced products easier to avoid.

There are plenty of phone apps available to make recording your spending easier, but you could just use a small notebook. Alternatively, keep your receipts and add them up at the end of the week.

Take the choice away

When it comes to money, you're your own worst enemy. Spending plans can quickly go out of the window on a night out, and cutting back on coffee shops seems like a good idea until you're falling asleep on your way to a lecture. Try these techniques to put the sensible version of you in control:

  • Take cash: not your card - on a night out, so you're not tempted to overspend once you're having a good time. Keep the fare for your journey home separate so you don't get stranded.
  • Make a waiting rule for big purchases: for example, wait a week before buying anything over £30. This will help you to work out whether you really want or need it, rather than it just being an impulse buy.
  • Use the Envelope Method: take your money for the week out in cash and split it into labelled envelopes for the different things you'll need to spend on. Then put your card away: you can only spend what's in the envelopes.
  • Set up a separate bank account for day-to-day spending, with a standing order to transfer in just the money you need every couple of weeks. That way, you can't spend your entire loan in the first month.

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