Learning to manage your finances is the most important part of living independently. Read on to find out how careful planning or budgeting can save you money - and prevent debt...

Keeping records
If you find you have no money left at the end of the month, the best first step is to keep a record of everything you spend money on each month and other one-off payments during the year such as insurance, car repairs or holidays.

Estimate your annual income and divide it by 12. If this figure is less than your monthly expenditure then you have a budget deficit and need to work out a budget plan. If it is higher then you have a surplus.
Budget planning
Budget planning
Make a list or budget plan with separate columns detailing your monthly income and expenditure.

Under income you may include pay, student loans and any benefits. Break down expenditure into individual expenses such as rent, council tax, transport, gas or electricity, clothing, food and credit card payments.

Then tally up the total income and expenditure.
Maximise your income
If you are spending more than your income, it is worth ensuring you are maximising your income and not missing out on any potential benefits or tax breaks.

For advice on maximising your income, visit the Consumer Credit Counselling Service.
Money-saving tips: Food
Money-saving tips: Food
  • Shop and cook together in bulk. Freeze what you don't eat. It'll cut bills.
  • Get a part-time job where food is included.
  • Food in big supermarkets is cheaper than from small corner shops.
  • Fresh fruit and vegetables are often cheapest in local markets.
  • When food shopping, look out for supermarket own brands and special offers at the supermarket.
  • Make use of the loyalty schemes most supermarkets offer.
  • Make a list and stick to it. This will help prevent you buying things you really don’t need.
  • Supermarkets sometimes cut the price of any unsold food at the end of the day. Watch out for bargains.
  • Freeze food if you have some left over.
  • Prepare packed lunches for work or college.
  • If you live in halls, why not cook with friends. You learn tips, save money and it's more fun.
Money-saving tips: Utility bills
 Money-saving tips: Utility bills
  • Make sure you are with the cheapest gas, electricity and telephone supplier. Compare prices and shop online to get the best deals.
  • Pay bills by direct debit or on-line. Often this will entitle you to a discount.
  • Following the tips below will not only save you money, but also the environment:
  • Turning the thermostat down by 1°C can cut your heating bill by about 10% ; that's around £100 per year.
  • Close the curtains at night so you don't lose heat through the windows.
  • Stop draughts from badly fitting windows and doors and you could save up to £20 on your bills. Block the gaps with tape or draught excluders - or talk to your landlord about getting them fixed!
  • Don't put furniture in front of a radiator as the heat will be wasted. You can also put silver foil behind the radiator to make it even more efficient.
  • Set your heating to come on around half an hour before you come home rather than leave it on all day whilst no one is in the house.
  • If you're cold, put a jumper on rather than heading straight for the heating!
  • Leaving your appliances on standby wastes energy. Make the effort and turn them off.
  • When a room is empty, make sure that the lights are turned off.
  • Replace your light bulbs with energy efficient ones.
  • When using the kettle don't fill it too full. If you're only making a Pot Noodle only boil enough for your needs.
  • Tumble-dryers can be useful in winter, but it will be cheaper to dry your clothes outside or on a clothes horse.
  • Try to use washing machines only when full and set the temperature for 40°C rather than the usual 60°C. You'll still end up with clean clothes!
  • Use the shower and not the bath. You'll use only 30 per cent of the water and heat.
  • If you use a dishwasher, make sure you fill it completely before setting it off.
  • Check out more advice on paying the bills.
Money-saving tips: Socialising
Money-saving tips: Socialising
  • Look out for student discounts at the cinema or gyms.
  • If you like going clubbing, find out when clubs have student nights with lower/free entry and cheaper drinks.
  • Set yourself a limit, leave the rest at home. You can't spend what you don't have with you.
  • Mobile phone bills can be high when you're away from home. Shop around for the best deal; some phones have a monthly fee, others are pay as you go.
Money-saving tips: Study expenses
  • Think twice before you spend hundreds on books and equipment - Find out from your uni and older students what's essential.
  • You will get some 'Recommended Texts' but you may not need all of them straight away. Contact students in higher years to see what they bought.
  • You could share books with friends or get second hand copies from fairs or online.
  • If you don't need the whole book, get it out of the library instead – find out the library renewal policy as books will go fast.
Other money-saving tips
  • Don’t waste your money taking out money at cash machines that charge you, always use the free ones.
  • Open a separate savings account where you can deposit the required monthly allowance for bills that are not due on a regular monthly basis or save up for luxuries such as a holiday.
  • Do what you can to perform routine maintenance yourself. If your home is in need of some maintenance, turn your hand to DIY.
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