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Budgeting for your studies

We've provided advice to help you budget for the expenses you're likely to need to meet while you're a student at Birkbeck.

Find out about accommodation and living costs.

Covid-19 emergency budget

If your finances have been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, making an emergency budget is a crucial step in avoiding further financial hardship.

This is a temporary budget template to help you prioritise essential expenses (and cut back on non-essential expenses) to get you through the next few weeks or months.

Download our budget template.

Step 1: Work out your new income

  • Your income may have changed considerably since the outbreak.
  • You should ensure you have accessed all possible government support schemes, such as the Job Retention Scheme or benefits.

Step 2: List your essential expenses

  • These essential expenses cover your basic needs so you will need to prioritise them.
  • These typically include housing costs (rent/mortgage), utilities, food, and travel (should you be unable to work from home).

Step 3: List other important costs

  • These will be specific to your situation, and you must limit this list to the genuinely important costs.
  • Such costs may include credit card repayments and overdraft fees.

Step 4: Eliminate or reduce non-essential costs

  • List all the other expenses that you are spending on but are non-essential. If your new income cannot cover all your expenses you will need to prioritise the essential expenses to be able to meet your basic needs.
  • For example, these could include online clothes shopping, subscriptions, or take-aways.
  • Make sure you are not continuing to pay for services you don’t use any more because of the lockdown, such as gym memberships.
  • Even if you are able to afford it, try to reduce your non-essential expenses to build up some emergency savings.

Money advice and budget planning

If you are applying to receive Birkbeck financial support we will ask you to complete a budget planner, but you don't have to wait until you apply to start controlling your spending.

Be sure to include all your income, including student loans, and try to be as accurate as possible with your expenditure in order to get the most out of this exercise.

Student budgeting workshops

  • Birkbeck will run a number of workshops throughout the year to help students to set up a budget and learn how to save money. You can book a place when we announce our next available workshop.

Citizens' Advice Bureau drop-in service

  • Birkbeck has partnered with Camden Citizen's Advice Bureau to provides a regular one-to-one advice service for students with enquiries related to budgeting, debt management, housing or benefit-related enquiries. These 30-minute appointments are available most Thursday afternoons between 3pm and 6pm, and can be booked via the Student Advice Service. Telephone appointments are also available on request.
  • If it is difficult for you to travel to appointments, you may want to contact your local Citizen's Advice Bureau to find out availability and waiting times.


The cost of travel in and around London can vary considerably depending on which travel zone you live in.

Students living in Zone 1 (closest to our central London campus) may want to think about walking when possible, using a bicycle, or taking the bus, as single fares cost just £1.50 and if you make another journey within an hour the second journey is free.

Full-time students living outside Zone 1 may want to consider buying a railcard to keep costs down.

Student railcards

  • If you live outside Zone 1 and are travelling regularly to Birkbeck, you may wish to consider a student railcard.
  • TfL 18+ Student Oyster photocards
    • If you are 18 or over, live in a London Borough, and are enrolled on a designated programme of full-time study at Birkbeck, you may be entitled to apply for an 18+ Student Oyster photocard. This offers 30% off the cost of travelcards and bus and tram passes. It does not offer discounts on pay-as-you-go fares.
    • Applications are online and cost £20. Birkbeck cannot authorise applications until term has started and you are fully enrolled.
    • Please note that students on part-time courses (including Certificates of Higher Education students studying 120 credits) are not eligible to apply.
  • 16-25 Railcards (also available to full time students aged 26 and over)
    • These provide a third off all rail journeys as well as off-peak pay-as-you-go tube (underground) journeys.
    • If you already have an 18+ Student Oyster card you can arrange to combine this with your Railcard for 34% off the cost of your travel (check for any restrictions).

Student discounts

  • NUS Totum Cards
    • The Totum card is the new replacement for the NUS Extra Card, and offers a wide range of discounts from shopping to travel. Apply through the website and collect your card from the Student Union Office on the 4th floor of the Malet Street Building.
  • Useful websites for student deals and money-saving tips: