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What will you spend your money on at university?

Find out what it costs to make a new life for yourself at university, including accommodation, food and everyday essentials – as well as having some fun. Plus, a few tips on where you can make some important savings.

Starting a new life away from home at university is very exciting. There’s a lot to think about – making friends, discovering new cities, different study challenges. But how much will it all cost? 

It might sound a bit boring but thinking about budgeting and learning how to fend for yourself are a big part of the university experience. Managing your finances is all about understanding which costs you should expect to encounter, and which you might be able to avoid. 

It’s a good idea to have a rough idea how much the various essentials might cost so that you can start to plan a budget. It will also give you an idea of how much you might have left over to have a little fun. 


Paying for somewhere to live will be the biggest outgoing. It’s a little difficult to give an accurate figure for the cost of accommodation as it varies widely from city to city. But there are two general options when it comes to choosing your new home.

One is university halls. These are specially designed accommodation blocks on or near the campus. 

You’ll generally pay up front at the start of each term, which does take a big chunk out of your budget. But it’s also one less weekly cost to worry about. Halls also usually cover all your utility bills, such as heating, electricity and often internet.

The other option is private accommodation in the form of a student house or flat. This is generally more suited to second- or third-year students who already have friends to share with. The cost of private rentals varies around the UK, with London prices far outstripping those of other cities. 

Find out more

Select a university you’re interested in attending. You should be able to look up the cost of halls of residence on the university website. You can also check the cost of a rented room in a shared house close to the university through various local student estate agents. 


Now you’ve got your accommodation sorted, another big expense is travel. Budget for travel will depend on how far you need to go to campus every day, your geographical location, and other factors such as home visits, day trips and whether you own a car. 

If you do take a car to university, then as well as petrol and parking costs, you also need to factor in insurance and maintenance. 

In smaller cities or campus universities, walking or cycling can help you to save on travel expenses. Buying monthly bus passes can also help to keep costs down. For longer journeys, try and book in advance as you can often get better deals.  

Find out more

For your chosen university destination, look up the local bus or rail network and find out the cost of a monthly student pass. If planning on taking a car, look on the university or local council website to find out the parking situation.


Food is another essential weekly spend. To make savings, try and avoid the smaller ‘express’ supermarkets and do fewer but bigger weekly shops. Frequent visits to pick up a few bits can quickly add up. 

Avoid brand names – choose own brand alternatives – and look for special offers and store cards. Set a weekly budget, try and plan meals ahead and cut down on the takeaways. 

Shopping around also pays off, with budget supermarkets often having great deals on products like toiletries and essential veg. 

Find out more

Go down to your local supermarket and do a trial run of a weekly shop for everything you think you might need, adding it up as you go. This will give you some idea of costs and where savings can be made. 


Living in halls, bills will probably be included in the rent. In private accommodation it’s different. And as tenants you’ll be expected to organise and pay bills for utilities like water, electric and gas. 

You’ll also need to pay for any extras, such as internet, movie and TV subscriptions, as well as your phone bill. 

Keep an eye out for bundle deals where you can get phone, internet and TV packages at great rates.

Find out more

Fixed contract bills such as phone and internet can be found quickly online. To find out more about utility bills, you can use The Student Room forums to get a rough idea of what you’ll be looking at.

Going out

Socialising is a big part of the university experience. So, you’ll need to set aside some money for going out. Whether this is a day trip to a historical monument or a night out clubbing, it all costs money.

Try and set a reasonable budget that lets you have some fun but won’t leave you short in other areas. 

Find out more

You probably already have an idea of what socialising costs, but you can always make use of student discounts and special promotions. 

Hobbies and memberships 

University may be a life changing experience but not everything has to be different. Try and keep up some of your old hobbies and exercise regimes. It’s worth thinking about trying a few new ones too.

Gyms and sports clubs do great student offers, and cinemas, theatres and venues usually offer discounts. 

Find out more

Go online at your chosen university’s student union to get more information about the costs of various clubs and memberships. 

Other costs

There are plenty of other costs that you might not think about but that will all take little chunks out of your bank balance. Haircuts, a new pair of shoes, bank charges – these are just a few of the little extra spends you’ll need to manage. Build these into your budget with a monthly contingency to avoid going short. 

Find out more

Again, you can use The Student Room forums to find out more about what kind of monthly budget you should be looking at. 

Going to university is not just about studying your chosen subject, it’s also about learning life skills. Coping with a limited budget, learning to economise and making your money go further are all a big part of the university experience.  

More information from The Uni Guide on student finance

Student loan repayments

How student finance actually works

Bursaries and scholarships

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