Picture on a table with a laptop, camera and other accessories, by Rawpixel
Picture on a table with a laptop, camera and other accessories, by Rawpixel

Managing your budget

Your financial situation can make a big difference to your university experience. It’s important to take some time to think about your expected living costs before your first academic year, and to review these regularly throughout your degree.

Our Financial Assistance and Support pages also provide further information on the range of existing funding opportunities for current students as well details of the additional provision in place for the 2023/24 academic year.

You may also find our living costs webpage helpful for planning purposes when estimating your expected study and living costs at Oxford.

We are aware that the increased cost of living is currently impacting our student community, and is making it more difficult to accurately plan your finances during this uncertain period. However, if you are spending more than you have coming in, you will need to make some changes. Spend some time planning a realistic budget and consider ways to manage your money to help to improve your financial position as far as possible.

Ways to manage your money

There are lots of free online resources available to help students plan their budget, such as the Which? University student budget webpages and the MoneySavingExpert Student Budget Planner. You can also find student-focused accounts on social media sites that offer tips and advice.

However, you don’t necessarily need to create a complicated spreadsheet to track your finances if that doesn’t work for you. Below are some simple ideas to plan your budget effectively.

  1. Make a list of your termly or monthly income. This should include any government or Oxford funding you receive, plus any other income you may be expecting from family support, savings, or paid vacation work.

  2. Deduct all the large one-off payments for the term or month such as course fees or rent, plus any other regular outgoings such as direct debits for monthly mobile phone bills.

  3. If you are budgeting on a termly basis, set aside some funding for the vacations, where possible. If you are going home you may need to budget for transport costs, and if you are staying in Oxford you'll need to plan for any additional living costs or rent.

  4. Work out how much funding will be left over after the above deductions, and ideally put aside a bit extra in case of emergencies or unexpected expenditure. You’ll then be left with your spending money, and can work out a weekly amount by dividing this figure by the number of weeks until your next funding payment is expected.

  5. Consider moving any unspent funds into a separate account every so often, to avoid spending this money unnecessarily. A lot of banking apps now offer the option to put your money into different ‘pots’, which can be a helpful way to define how much you have available to spend on different costs, or to keep some money back for future use.

  6. Keep an eye on your finances and spending habits to avoid overspending. Here are some tips to consider:
  • Downloading a banking app or checking your bank balance online before making an online purchase are good ways to regularly keep check of your available money;
  • Or, if you withdraw money from a cashpoint, get into the habit of checking your balance first, so you know how much you have available before deciding on how much to request;
  • Saving your debit or credit card information on your web browser can make it very easy to spend money online, so you could consider not auto-saving these details when the option is given. Having to pause to input your card information each time you spend will give you extra time to consider whether a purchase is really necessary;
  • Try not to make impulsive purchases based on targeted adverts online or on social media. Wait until the next day and see if the item still seems essential before buying;
  • Be wary of buy-now-pay-later options. If you can't afford an item now, consider whether you will be able to afford it by the repayment date, or whether you would be buying it at all if paying later wasn't an option. If you do decide to use buy-now-pay-later, update your budget to include the repayments to avoid any late repayment fees.
  • Oxford has some great charity shops and markets, where you can often find second-hand clothes and other items for much lower prices than if they were brand new. As a bonus, buying used items is also more sustainable;
  • Cashback apps can earn you small amounts of cashback when you spend money at a variety of shops online, which you can save up for future use;
  • Consider reducing your spending on non-essential items, such as buying gifts, as well as reviewing your essential expenses. Some changes to your weekly outgoings, such as buying supermarket own-brand items or switching to a cheaper supermarket can make your money go further.

If you find yourself struggling with your finances, or your circumstances change and you are no longer able to afford all of your outgoings once enrolled at Oxford, please see our Oxford Financial Assistance pages for further advice. Oxford SU also offer an independent student advice service that can help.

Be alert to scams and potential fraud - do not make any payments 

You should always be extra vigilant when being asked to disclose any personal or financial information and should only ever share information with trusted sources, in a secure manner. You should never make an additional payment on the phone or disclose personal details. A legitimate organisation (UK or overseas) will always allow you time to seek advice before you respond. Fraudsters are known to take advantage of new students at the start of term and particularly if English is not your first language. Their techniques may be quite sophisticated and they may already have personal information about you, or the contact details they provide may appear genuine.

Common examples of fraudulent activity can be emails, text messages or phone calls suggesting you are due a tax refund, or have not made a payment for a visa matter or your loan or scholarship payment is delayed. Check the details of the sender carefully and be wary of any approach made unexpectedly. Large organisations such as HMRC will often have fraud alerts listed on their webpages as an additional check. 

Do not feel pressurised by an immediate deadline, for what may be a scam which could include a request for payment, a request to disclose personal details, or a false accusation that you have committed a crime or broken a regulation. You must end the conversation immediately and seek advice either from your college, department or the relevant central team at the University. You can contact them with the email subject title ‘potential fraud’ to gain their immediate attention. For visa or immigration matters contact student.immigration@admin.ox.ac.uk, for fees or loans contact student.funding@admin.ox.ac.uk and for any other matters, approach your college. 

Fraudsters may be looking to obtain your personal details to steal information and potentially take money from you, this is known as phishing. For further guidance on avoiding phishing scams, you can also visit the University’s Information security webpages. Students in receipt of UK Government support who are concerned about being targeted by phishing scams can also access specific advice from the Student Loans Company webpages

Alternatively, fraudsters may ask you to receive money into your bank account and transfer it into another account, keeping some of the cash for yourself. If you let this happen, this is classed as money laundering which is a crime. The Financial Fraud Action UK website offers further guidance on how to avoid unwittingly becoming involved in 'money mule' scams.

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