Our top tips on how to budget when you're kind of an adult, but also sometimes eat cake for breakfast and spend rent money on Jaeger Bombs...

I personally think we’re in desperate need of a new word for “budget”. It just sounds so incredibly dull - and unfortunately, for the most part, it is. But it’s also entirely necessary. Whether you’ve moved home to save money, or are working out in the big wide world attempting to adult, chances are you’re gonna need to budget. (Unless you’re lucky enough to be the heir to a throne/ a lottery winner, which if you are, what’re you still doing here?! I’d be on a yacht right now…). To be clear, budgeting is as much about spending as it is about saving, otherwise this article would just be a sentence that says “spend as little as possible”, but that would be rather miserable.

Budgeting doesn’t have to be so gloomy… Even in the adult world of brown bread and taxes, try and see budgeting as saving money for things and experiences you actually want (even if sometimes the things you want are “to eat” and “to live”). For some people this might realistically only be £20 a month, and for some people much more, but either way, no one wants to feel like they’ve accidentally frittered away their hard earned cash on junk. Here are some of our top tips to prevent you falling into a budget-less pit of despair and sadness.

Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

This is kind of a precursor to budgeting - and is also really hard! Obviously, it’d be nice in life to not compare ourselves to others, but this often proves practically impossible. What you do need to bear in mind though, is that because both graduate salaries, and graduate living expenses, vary SO much, you might not know anyone at all in a similar financial situation to your own. This can be a little isolating, and a little scary.

While the average UK graduate salary is just under 23K, this figure is actually really misleading. For one thing, it doesn’t take into account the graduates who don’t have jobs, or are doing things you don’t get paid for - like internships. You also need to remember that averages are tricky and complicated, and that one guy you know who graduated a year ago and already earns 56K at Santander can really throw the results (ok, I guess he probably doesn’t find averages tricky or complicated…). It also depends hugely on sector and location. When finding a graduate job, it pays to do your research, so be sure to work out exactly how much you need to live off, otherwise you could waste time applying to jobs that aren’t actually financially suitable.

Source: Giphy

Get a Monzo Card

Nope, this is not a sneaky sponsored post, they’re honestly just the best thing. For those who have been living under a rock- a Monzo card is a free debit card (they’re luminous coral coloured, you probably know someone who has one!) that works through an app. Gone are the days of having to forage around for proof of identity and sit in a depressing bank waiting room, just set it up on your phone.

Any money spent on your Monzo card is automatically tracked, so you can see exactly where your money is going. Monzo also shows the transactions straight away - so no nasty surprises on a Tuesday morning when you’ve been tapping that contactless all weekend. In truth, we all already know that we spend too much on Uber, McDonalds and Jaeger Bombs, but it can be useful for budgeting to realise just how much you’re spending unnecessarily.

Think About What Makes You Happy

Now, many top economists and maths-type people wouldn’t include this in their list of graduate budgeting tips, but it’s actually super important. Particularly if you’ve started a first job, or are living independently for the first time, and your budget is super tight. At the end of the day, a lot of people end up with less disposable income as a graduate than they had as a student, as well as less free time. Now is the time to think about what’s best to spend your money on in terms of happiness - there’s no scientific method, you just have to do you.

Really think about how much things cost when you budget - if clothes or wine or gig tickets make you happiest - do it! It’s also a good idea to look into cheaper ways of doing the things you’ve always done, so keep an eye out for cheap cinema screenings, and free events. However, this isn’t always the best method. In “My Buy Nothing Year”, Michelle McGagh spends nothing (apart from mortgage payments, basic food, shampoo etc.) for an entire year. About a month into the experiment she describes “That’s when I realised I had been going about the challenge all wrong. I’d been trying to live my old life for free. Instead, I needed to embrace a different sort of social life”, While this is a tad more dramatic than graduate budgeting, it’s good advice if you suddenly find yourself on a really tight budget. Keep an eye out for cheap and free things to do, maybe things you hadn’t thought of before, or invite people round and cook for them, put the value of your free time on the social aspect, rather than the activity.

Source: Giphy

Set Treat Goals

The meaning of “treat” will vary greatly depending on your financial situation, but it’s always good to set a goal. Even if you’re living at home saving for something big, like moving out or going travelling, it’s good to set little goals for treats along the way. It could be £5 out of your paycheck for a new nail varnish as a Friday pick-me-up, or waiting until payday to buy that new jumper, or putting aside £10 a week for new headphones. Saving for something is always satisfying, and a good habit to get into. Just think, you might be saving a little each week for new trainers right now, but if you keep it up as your salary grows, in a few years time you could be saving for a new car, or a deposit on your own home.

Source: Giphy

Side Hustle

This one sounds like a lot of work, but there are loads of easy ways to earn a little extra dollar. Some options are more obvious, like putting your old clothes on Ebay or Depop, or selling old electronics you don’t use. If you’re a creative person, why not set up a little online shop on a platform like Etsy where you can sell things you make in your free time. If you’re feeling really entrepreneurial, and you’re full of good ideas, why not set up a business on the side? You can start really small, and it’s a fun way to spend your time off from work - loads of really successful businesses actually started out in people’s bedrooms and garages as side-businesses.

You can also earn money doing things like proofreading and editing, in the comfort of your own home, the internet is full of people looking to outsource tasks, so have a search! (By this we mean, proof-read someone's essay online, don’t like, go to the house of a stranger off GumTree to water their plants… They might kill you.)

Source: Giphy

Don’t Listen to Old People, You’re Doing Fine

Last up - don’t get down reading news articles about millennials. Some people in older generations just LOVE acting like the reason we struggle to afford houses and find stable jobs is because of millennial laziness, or love of avocado toast, rather than because they destroyed the economy and the housing market.

This can be super disheartening, but keep in mind that a lot of it is just silly journalism trying to get a scoop. For example, one of the most famous surveys claimed that millennials could save over £6000 per year, by simply “cutting down on one night out a week”. However, on closer inspection, for this stat to be accurate, every millennial must be spending £118 on every single night out, and going out a minimum of 52 times a year… I think most of us might see that as a bit of an overestimate! It also helps to remember that one of the top expenditures for millennials is going abroad, and this has been directly linked to a generation more accepting of other cultures and practices, so don’t panic, as a generation, we’re spending just fine - even if we do love avocado toast.


Recommended article


Top Student Offers and Freebies