How to budget Student Finance over summer

Ruth Bushi

Ruth Bushi writes about student money and university life. She's the author of several editions of The Student Money Manual.

A step-by-step guide to managing your money during your third term and summer break.

Making a money plan is a good move at any time of year. It can help you feel better able to cope with your finances, even if it means seeking out extra help along the way. But whether or not you already have a student budget, it’s worth tweaking how you approach your summer term.

The Maintenance Loan or Grant is typically paid in equal amounts, often at the start of each term into your bank account. It’s then up to you to make your money last until the following term.

In the third term, this means your payment has to last over the long vacation as well. For some students, that can mean covering an extra two months or more on the same amount of Student Finance. If you’re struggling to make ends meet over the summer, you’re not alone.

By planning out your finances, you put yourself in a stronger position. A budget can help you either avoid some of the problems, or find ways to tackle them. Here’s how to get started.

What you’ll need

  • Paper, pen and calculator

  • Alternatively, use your phone or the spreadsheet app on a computer

It can also help to keep funding letters, wage slips, bank statements, bills, contracts and receipts close by to help you estimate costs and income.

Get to know your needs

Start by listing everything you’ll have to pay for between now and your next Loan or Grant instalment.

Depending on when you make your money plan, you’ll want to include term-time spending and out-of-term costs (if they’re different).

Fixed costs

Note down fixed costs first. These are payments you can’t do without, or can’t skip without risking fees or other penalties. Your list will be personal to you, but it might include:

  • Rent,

  • Bills,

  • Groceries

  • Childcare.

Flexible costs

Next, think about flexible costs: things you’d like to spend money on, but aren’t committed to. This might include eating out, holidays, or subscriptions. If you don’t have anything specific in mind yet, just leave a space for “personal spending”.

Now go through your list and estimate how much each item will cost between now and next term. Note down the figure beside each item, and the total of all your spending at the bottom.

This might be a hefty amount, but don’t panic. The next steps will help you balance things out.

Estimate your income

Time to list all the money you’ll have coming in between now and your next Loan or Grant payment.

For now, only include income you can count on: agreed Student Loan, Grant or supplementary funding, benefits, a family contribution, or wages from a regular job.

Record how much money each source will bring in, and note the total at the bottom.

[Tip] In your final term at uni?

Use your budget to match any income to your most important or urgent costs, then look at the suggestions for getting extra support if you need it.

Make sense of the numbers

The benefit of adding up your spending and income totals is that you can quickly see if you’ll have enough money to cover your expenses.

If your income matches your outgoings: great! Review tips for budgeting to stay on track. Or, if you have a surplus, consider squirrelling some into a savings account to take the pressure off next term or after graduation.

But what if you don’t have enough income to last until next term? This is where your sums so far can help you work the problem.

Cut your costs

  • Start with flexible costs. Are there any you can do without? Could you spend less by shopping around? Are you making the most of student freebies and discounts? Or can you offset costs by selling things you don’t use any more?

  • Don’t rush to ditch fixed costs, as they’re important to you, your studies or wellbeing. Instead, see if you can pay less by switching providers or downgrading.

Increase your income

If you’re struggling financially, or worry how you’ll make ends meet over summer, don’t bury your fears.

Check if you can apply for summer hardship funds [002 summer money worries] through your university. There may also be benefits, grants or other help you can claim: find extra sources of student funding.

Able to work and don’t already have a job? Even part-time, temporary or freelance work could help. Alternatively, some summer jobs, such as working at festivals or events, can offset the money you’d have spent buying tickets.

Already working? Could you take on more shifts or ask for a pay rise?

If your household income reduces your Student Loan or Grant, it’s worth checking if you can get extra financial support from others in your life to top it up as much as the government expects – or if they can offer a bit extra. Save the Student has a new guide on how to reach out for support from others in your life.

[Tip] Rinse and repeat

You might need to tweak your budget a few times to shave off more costs or rethink what you spend your money on.

Remember, support isn’t just about the cash. Seek out your university or college money advice team for help making a budget, understanding your options, or for a friendly ear.

Or, for targeted help with housing, bills and other tight spots, get advice on common student money worries.