Being an international student means having a lot of expenses and worries on your mind.  Studying abroad, you want to make sure you have your money situation sorted and to know more or less what you’ll spend on.  Here are 10 things to consider when budgeting for studying in the UK.  I hope these tips will make it easier for you to plan ahead.


Plan Your Trip to the Supermarket

money tips for international students

Food…Living alone means shopping for food is your responsibility now.  This can sound a bit daunting (I don’t even know how to cook…) but it’s also exciting (chips and pizza every night, anyone?).

The most well-known supermarkets in the UK offer a delivery service which means you place your order online and they bring it to you – sometimes free of charge if you spend over a certain amount.


  • I would suggest you make a list of the things you need before going to the supermarket or ordering online.  If you want to save even more money, make a meal plan and shop just for the necessary stuff.
  • Try to balance your groceries and by this  I mean, try to include some vegetables and fruits on your list.

My situation:

I don’t do a meal plan but I do write down the products I really need and try my best not to get distracted (hard work – trust me).  I usually buy enough food for almost two weeks and spend around £50 on this. My university has a weekly fruit and vegetables market and I also shop there.


How Often Will You Take Public Transportation?

money tips for international students

Whether you live on or off campus, chances are you’re going to use public transportation at least sometimes. My best tip to you is, once you get here, calculate how often you’re getting on a bus or a train and look for plans that suit you (such as weekly or monthly tickets) as these will for sure save you money.


For the town that I live in there is an app dedicated to the bus service which allows me to buy my tickets cheaper (being a student also helps). So check online if there’s something like this available for where you’ll be studying.

My situation:

I don’t go into town as often as I would like to because I live on campus and am very lazy (shame on me) but when I do go tickets cost £3 and are valid all day. There are also weekly and monthly tickets with special fares for students.


Check if Your Bills Are Included or Extra

money tips for international students

While university-managed accommodation has bills included, private rent doesn’t which means you’ll have to budget for them separately. The cost can range from £8 to £17  per week for electricity, water, gas and heating. You usually have to pay for internet on top as well.  Make sure you choose a plan that works for you and your flatmates.


  • Some internet providers want you to have a ‘telephone line’ to give you internet access.  It’s expensive to install this if your property doesn’t have it, so look for providers that don’t require this.
  • If you want to watch live TV programmes, even on your laptop, you’ll have to pay for a TV License.  This costs £145.50 per TV, per year.

My situation:

I live in a student hall so all my bills are included, as is internet.


You’ll Miss Home?  Add Extra for Travelling


Wherever you come from, you’ll probably want to go home during the vacation or on other occasions so this should go into your budget as well.  Plan well in advance and you have a good chance of saving a lot when buying your plane/train tickets.

Check for any promotions and pack light as most low cost airlines only include a carry-on bag in the price (any luggage you check in is extra).


Don’t forget the cost of transportation between your university and the airport. Depending on your location, this can be quite expensive.

My situation:

Because I’m from Portugal, which is pretty close, I go home at least once every term but I do know people who live too far and for whom it would just be too expensive to fly home for short breaks.


Could You Live Without a Mobile Phone?

money tips for international students

If you’re staying in the UK for longer than one academic term then it might be useful to get a UK SIM card as it will allow you to keep in touch with your friends and have a UK contact number which is good.

There are a gazillion plans out there to fit any budget. It’s basically down to how much data you want because most providers offer unlimited text and hundreds of free minutes.  Search for companies like Three, GiffGaff and Vodafone – and compare the deals they offer and how well they suit your needs.


Paying monthly with no contract means you don’t have to pay during the summer when you’re probably back home.


Books, Printing & Stationary: A Part of Student Life

money tips for international students

This really depends on your course but for the most part there are books you’ll need to buy and some printing you’ll have to do throughout the year. If you’re studying a more practical subject, you might have to budget for materials and equipment as well, so keep that in mind.

I decided to buy a printer as I thought it would be a good investment and I don’t regret it as it’s been very convenient.


Search for secondhand books or check out book prices online before you go to the book shop on campus as you might save a lot doing that.

My situation:

My books for the whole year cost me around £200 (I can’t remember exactly) and I bought them at the bookshop on my university campus as they had a promotion going on. To be honest I don’t spend much on stationary at all and, when I do, it’s not really very necessary stuff.


Studying is Great, but so Is Entertainment

money tips for international students

When studying abroad, don’t forget to party! (As if).

Make sure you’re not studying all day everyday since it’s really not good for you. How much you spend on going out is totally up to you but make sure you set aside some money for it.

Whether you like partying and drinking, going to the cinema or just dining out with friends, you’ll spend at least a few Pounds on entertainment each week – and usually more than you had planned.


When going out somewhere further away, instead of taking the bus or train, check if there are enough of your friends going and share a big taxi instead – it’s more convenient and might save you a couple of Pounds as well.


Don’t Pay More for Money Transfers

money tips for international students

If your parents are sending you money from abroad, then choosing the right method is crucial as banks usually charge high transaction fees on top of the currency exchange rates.

How often you receive money is also very important for your budget planning.  When I started university in the UK, at first my parents would send me money and when I needed more I would just ask.  This turned out to be quite messy because I could never predict how much I was going to spend and a few times I ended up having no money – remember, an international transfer can take 2 to 3 days to arrive. So, my parents and I then agreed that a weekly allowance would be best especially and would allow me to better manage my own money.


TransferWise is a website that allows you to transfer money between bank accounts in different countries more cheaply.  Basically, they charge lower  exchange rates and therefore you lose less money with every transaction.


How Expensive Is Your University’s Location

money tips for international students

As you might know London is one of the most expensive cities in the world so if you choose to study there you will have to budget accordingly.   However, don’t simply assume that everywhere outside London is cheap: some towns and cities – or neighbourhoods within them – can be quite expensive also. Accommodation and transport are usually the biggest expenses but prices can vary a lot with location.


When applying to different universities, don’t just look at tuition fees.  Keep in mind the different cost of renting and do your research before deciding.


Create a Budget and Plan Your Spending

The thing in my view that can make all the difference when managing your money is having a budget plan.  I wished I’d know about this earlier as now the year is almost gone and I realise how much I could have saved by setting myself a budget.

There are all kinds of budget plans depending on what you spend on and how much money you get. I think weekly or monthly ones are the easiest to stick to. It can be as simple as a table with all the items you spend on in one column, and how much you spend in another column. Like so:

Week 1 – Budget Week 1 – Expenditure Difrerence
Food £30 £25 £5
Local travel £6 £9 £3
Stationary £5 £0 £5
Mobile Phone £20 £23 £3
Going out  £15 £17 £2
Total £76 £74 £2

Depending on your lifestyle, you may want to add other types of expenses.

Final Thoughts

money tips for international students

Being a student is almost synonymous with being broke most of the time.  But I hope that with some of these tips you’ll get a better idea of the kinds of things you may be spending money on when studying abroad.

I’ve tried to cover pretty much everything I could think of and certainly the kind of expenses I’ve had as an international student.   Most of these costs I hadn’t thought of before coming to the UK – and I learnt at my own expense.

If there is one tip I would leave you with it would be the last point I made: plan your budget in advance.  This way you avoid any nasty surprises and uncomfortable situations.

Good luck and take care!

Meet me, Marta!

Marta-Tavares-Sussex University1

Born in beautiful Portugal, I moved to the UK to pursue an undergraduate degree in Business Management with a professional placement year at University of Sussex in Brighton.

I love meeting new people, new places and basically anything involving new experiences. I joined the MESH-ED bloggers team as I believe that taking chances in life and putting yourself out there is very important.  Hopefully, answering some of your questions, I can help make your study abroad decisions a little easier.

Leave a Comment