As final year medical students, we’re faced with a significant drop in funding as the maintenance loan from Student Finance England is dropped to £1900. Unfortunately, the NHS Bursary has a maximum means tested award of around £4000.
This means that medical students from low-income backgrounds and are forced to save (if they are aware of the drop in funding well in advance) or take up part-time work to make ends meet in their final year of medical school.
So how did I combat the low funding for final year, with no parental support? The bad news is that 80% of my solution was part-time work as a private tutor, which isn’t always possible with the workload of medical school already being extraordinary.
The good news is that the other 20% is made up of a bountiful cache of money saving methods, starting with budgeting.
What is budgeting?
Put simply, budgeting is monitoring your incomings and outgoings. Once you’ve decided you’re going to budget, you have one decision to make – prospective or retrospective.
Retrospective vs. prospective budgeting
Personally, I budget retrospectively. This means that every few months I check in on my spending since the last ‘budget’ and make changes at that point in time.
This might leave a lot of room for inefficiency between budgets, but it means I don’t need to spend as much time stressing about my spending because I review my finances more regularly.
Others will budget prospectively, by focusing on setting spending limits and goals in certain areas. For example, if you set an ‘eating out’ budget of £15 a week, you would keep track of how much you’ve spent eating out and ensure the amount doesn’t surpass £15.
We live in a world of technology, and budgeting is no different. Today you can download apps like Emma and Money Dashboard that collate all of your expenses in one place. This means you get a full overview of what is going on with your finances.
I use a combination of these apps to keep track of my incomings, outgoings and savings. It’s a good way to be able to see a visual representation of your spending in a digestible form, and I like that it aligns with my values and interests.
If you’re adept with Excel and want a more customisable option, websites like Money Saving Expert provide budgeting spreadsheet templates. This option gives you a broader range of graphics that you can use to display your statistics.
There are lots of spreadsheet templates available, so if you’re not great with Excel there are other pre-designed options. Who would have thought that there would be a strong correlation between people who enjoy personal finance and people who like spreadsheets?
Remember that the best form of budgeting is whatever works for you – whether that’s occasionally cleaning up your finances using an app, or having a budgeting spreadsheet tailored specifically to your financial goals.