Money plays a big part in our lives, but no-one really talks about it. Until now. Meet Blake, a university student on a budget, as we find out exactly how he spends his money and how he feels about his finances.
Have you ever wondered how much your friends, family or colleagues spend on a weekly basis? We got in touch with a group of ClearScore users and asked them to anonymously track their spending for one week and share their diaries with us. We then caught up with them after the week to find out more about how their daily habits are affected by their attitude to money and what they learnt from paying such close attention to their spending.
This week, we spoke to Blake, as he returns to university for his final year.
Lives in: Portsmouth
Occupation: Full-time student
Yearly salary: £7,800 from a student loan
Can you tell us a little bit about your financial situation and what influences your day-to-day spending?
As a student, money is something I think about a lot. I'm going to be in a lot of debt when I leave uni and even though I may never pay it all back, it's obviously still a bit of a concern. The main financial concern though is about living costs and having the money to still enjoy being a student. Maintenance loans aren't exactly known for providing you with a lavish lifestyle.
I get my student loan in three lump sums over the year and I try to carefully budget while I’m at uni. If I didn't, I think it would be very easy to just spend until I ran out of money and then I'd have to rely on my overdraft, which I'm keen not to do.
How much do you think you spend each week?
Weekly estimate: £130
Whenever my loan gets paid into my account I take out the money for bills and rent first. Then, I’ll divide up what’s left to make a weekly budget. I don’t really have to save for things, as I effectively have all the money I'm going to get at the start of every term. But this does mean that, despite my weekly budget, my spending can be a bit erratic. Especially when the loan first drops.
The spending diary
- Rent: £273 I live with my girlfriend and we split the rent in two. This saves me around £200 a month which makes a big difference.
- Utilities: £30. Again this is how much I pay after splitting the bill.
- Monthly food shop: £77. That's £45 to The Meat Man (4KG Pork Steaks, 3KG Chicken Breast, 2KG Frying Steak, to be exact) and £32 to Iceland. Bulk buying a month's worth of food works out cheaper and it's easier to eat well this way. Although all that meat does take up a lot of room in the freezer.
- Bus Pass: £60
- UFC Fight Pass: £5.99 This is a bit like Netflix, but it lets you stream any UFC fights live.
Total monthly outgoings = £445.99
I was heading back to uni for the new year this week so got a taxi from my parents' house to the coach station to get the coach down to uni. I also got a taxi to my uni flat when I arrived. £18
Dropped into B&M to pick up a sandwich, drinks and a snack for the journey. £4
My monthly food delivery doesn't arrive until tomorrow so I went to the Co-op to get tea. Decided on a ready-made chicken tikka masala, naan bread and cordial pop. Dinner of kings. £4
Monday’s total = £26
Went to the Co-op again to pick up some coffee and milk. I also picked up a BLT, some grapes and a bottle of water while I was in there. £6.25
I tend to spend quite a bit of money on betting, and today I put a bet down on the football. I definitely bet more for a hobby than to win big. Most of my friends bet quite a bit, so it's a social activity for us too. £5
Picked up some sweet potatoes from Tesco that I forgot in my monthly order. £2
Because I've just started back at university for the year, I've got a few things I need to get to set me up. I bought a pair of jeans as mine were looking a bit worse for wear. £40
Tuesday’s total = £53.25
I bought a TV series on Amazon to watch in the evening with my girlfriend. We nearly watched the whole season in a night which is quite an achievement. £14.99
Wednesday’s total = £14.99
Not to be a stereotypical student but I do spend quite a lot on takeaways, even though I try to cook as much as I can. Today I couldn't resist the call of Domino’s. We ordered two pizza’s, wedges, garlic pizza bread and a coke. Halved the cost with my girlfriend and it was great. £12.50
Thursday’s total = £12.50
I bought three textbooks from Amazon that I needed for my course. I tend to buy all my textbooks myself, but whether I actually use them enough to justify the purchase is another question. £23.79
While I was at it, I ordered some aftershave from Amazon as well. It was a bit pricey but I'd run out so it was a neccessary purchase. £31.55
Friday’s total = £55.34
Put a bet on the football and on the UFC. I don't usually spend quite so much on betting, but I had some spare cash this week. £20
My friends and I had a Fifa tournament which involved playing against each other for money. When I'm down at uni I'm really far away from my school mates so this is one way we keep in touch, as we'll do it together over the Xbox. Didn't win anything this time. £15
Saturday’s total = £35
Found myself in the Co-op again to pick up some lunch (it had to be a classic BLT), and some milk and bread, which I split with my girlfriend. £4.50
Freshers week starts next week so I picked up some tickets for events. £5
Sunday’s total = £9.50
Any reflections on the week?
I already had a decent idea about my spending but tracking my spending in such a detailed way has helped me to see exactly where my money goes. It was also quite re-assuring as I think my spending was reasonably well-controlled. Before I started university I had a job for a year, and I did not manage my money well. I definitely had more money than sense. After an entire year of working and living at home without many expenses, I still only saved around £1,000. Uni has actually taught me how to budget and hopefully I'll be able to keep that up when I graduate.
Blake's money tip
When it comes to money, being a student can be really hard. I'm lucky as my rent is so cheap so it leaves me in a better position, but I'm surrounded by friends that do struggle a bit. Although, they do often find some money lying around for drinks even if their cupboards are bare.
My advice to other students is to work out your budget beforehand, even though it's boring. Everyone has Excel when you're at uni, so why not use it. You don't have to plan your spending in detail. It's just helpful to have an idea of how much of your loan you'll have left after rent to last you through the term. It'll help make sure you don't blow it all straight away and aren't left eating 20p noodles for three weeks.