Before I dive into the tips and tricks that have helped me manage my finances, I would like to give you a brief idea of what my expectations vs reality were.
Coming to Newcastle, I had expectations that to support myself with extra funds, I would get a job working consistently for 20 hours during term time and 40 hours during university breaks. In hindsight, I had hopeful expectations, as this was not the case. The reality of the intensity of the MBA programme quickly cut my expectations short, as the programme is designed in a way that you have little to no time to work as aggressively as you hope or your visa permits. This meant that I had to quickly find strategies to ensure I managed my finances and received additional income (no matter how small) to sustain myself easily. In achieving this, it meant I needed to work with a budget to ensure I was on the right track. Here are a few tips on what has helped me so far.
Creating the budget
Developing a budget as a student is easy, sticking to it is the hard part. A top tip is that you must be disciplined and willing to be realistic with yourself in developing your budget. So how do I create my budget:
I identify all my income
I know where my income comes from – some are savings I had prior to coming to the UK and I also receive financial support from my family. This allows me to know how much I can spend in a month.
I Identify all my expenses
It is important that I keep track of all my expenses, so I list them according to my needs and wants and put a figure I think is realistic to spend towards it. For example, rent, transportation, food, and phone bills are my needs, and entertainment and shopping are my wants. It is important that I have an entertainment budget occasionally to balance my study life. Also, please note that rent is usually depending on your choice of accommodation.
Listing out my expenses shows me if my income for that month can cover my expenses. If everything on the list cannot be accommodated, I will cut back on my ‘wants’.
Managing the budget
One of my top tips for managing the budget I have created, is to track it weekly to ensure I am not going overboard.
As a student, it is almost impossible to avoid shopping or having lunch with friends, so I take advantage of all the student discounts available. Sites like UNiDAYS and Student Beans give amazing offers for students across various retailers. This helps me keep my spending for my wants at the lowest expenditure.
Sometimes I have excess funds from my budget, so I try to save at least 20-30% of those funds. I do this by creating a savings pot on Monzo (rainy day savings and/or saving towards a goal) and I add excess funds to that pot and end up earning a little interest on it. Excess funds could also be gifts you receive randomly from friends or family.
I know you will be wondering what to do when you have less income than your expenses, how do you solve this? Personally, that has not happened to me however because I know the reality of life, I ensure that I am prepared for it, and I have detailed below what I do.
As I mentioned earlier, the MBA programme is quite intense and strips you of the opportunity to work in a consistent work environment unless it is remote. So, what I did was take advantage of the part-time work opportunities in the School. Newcastle University offers students roles across various sectors, and this gives you the opportunity to combine your study and work.
I became a Business Ambassador and joined the jobs on-campus (a platform that gives students the opportunity to apply for vacant roles within the university). I also got a job with the Events and Alumni Relations team, which allows me to choose when I want to work as it fits into my schedule. Having this additional source coupled with my excess fund savings allows me to hedge against the risk of falling short of funds.
One last thing, if you are going to be a new student, I would advise you to reach out to current students to give you an idea of what to budget for, so you have an idea of what to expect. You can do this through chatting with MBA students on Unibuddy or attending events such as the MBA Consultations Week.
In all, do not worry too much! Just stay focused and disciplined and it is okay to fall sometimes, just ensure you get back up.