Budgeting for College Life – HomeHak Top Tips

Calculator and budget sheet

Managing money is a skill that some students may have learned at school but, for most, it takes time and practice. Having no money or stressing about money can be really miserable. Students who learn how to budget won’t just find their college experience easier: they’ll also have a useful skill for life. Here are HomeHaks top tips for budgeting for college.

Write down your income and expenses

Start with tracking your income and expenses with a money journal. Determine your income and find out how much you have to spend. Next, determine your expenses. Learn what you are spending and predict your future spending on rent, phone and other costs, as well as budgeting for variable expenses. Additionally, categorise income and expenses. You can also compare your income to your expenses. A household budget should be balanced, meaning that your income should equal or not exceed your expenses. If your expenses are higher than your income, you need to make cuts. Remember to make plans for unexpected or variable expenses. When considering this, think 50/30/20.

Keep in mind about 50% of your income should go on needs, 30% on wants and 20% on savings. Saving 20% may not always be possible, but it’s a goal worth aiming for as it can be a lifeline if unexpected expenses arise.

Budget list
Photo by Northfolk on Unsplash

Check out this article on how to create a budget.

Some of the problems when students first have to manage their money

You will be tempted to borrow money and getting into debt. What can happen is not paying debt back. Consequently, having a bad credit report which will stay with them for at least five years and could negatively impact future borrowing for business loans, cars, mortgage or other costs. Not managing their money correctly over a short period of time – spending all their money within a few days or weeks and having nothing left, depending on whether they are paid weekly or monthly. Spending too much money on non-essential things such as coffees and eating out. Learn a few nice packed lunches and bring a flask of coffee and you’ll save a small fortune. Linking college life to spending experiences – once out of college you will be forever spending money on things.

Top tips to cut costs and stay within budget.

If you and two other students are sharing a house, work together to bulk buy your food. Learn how to cook. There are plenty of free, online resources for recipes. If you want to buy something, take a breath and wait. Do you need those runners now, or can they wait? Always have your student card with you for discounts.


Budgeting for College Life - HomeHak Top Tips
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash



Budgeting helps you acquire life skills

Realise what a budget is: a way to have peace of mind, control of your finances and financial wellbeing. When we budget, we can be flexible, look at where we can save money and where it can go wrong. Develop self-awareness and understand your own strengths, weaknesses with financial temptations. Set goals: it’s very satisfying when you reach them. It allows you to focus on and become more committed to your budget. Having a budget allows you to make informed decisions – you are in control of your money instead of it controlling you.



To summarise

HomeHak has given a number of top tips to help in budgeting for college. First, write down your incomes and expenses. Examples of problems you might run into such as borrowing money and getting into debt. Tips to cut costs and budget. Finally, the benefits of budgeting.


For more articles on student hacks, check out our other articles:

Renting in Ireland – What is the tenant’s true cost?

a pile of euro coins

Renting in Ireland – What is the tenant’s true cost?


The price of rent can represent the tip of the iceberg when renting in Ireland. From utilities and furniture to Netflix subscriptions and bin charges, we have you covered with everything you need to appropriately budget your first few months in your new home.


Before you can start your new life in your new home you must first identify and secure your desired apartment or house against high demand, with vacancy rates tipping at just 1.31% across Ireland (Savills Ireland., Shifting Ownership in Ireland’s Private Rented Sector., 2017). Rental properties can receive thousands of views once posted on rental sites and you will need to brace yourself amongst the wave of applications you will be sidling alongside. 


renting in ireland man


1. Rent

First and foremost, and most costly, will be your monthly rent to be paid in advance of each month. The considerable cost of renting in Ireland is no secret with a National Rent Index recognizing the standardized average rent as €1,122 in 2018, an increase of 7.5% on the previous year (Residential Tenancies Board., Rent Index., 2018). This will no doubt represent the most pivotal variable in your ability to live independently. 


2. Deposit

In addition to your first month’s rent, you will have a sizably additional cost in your deposit. This is taken as collateral by the landlord for any potential costs they will need to suffer that we cover in our Guide to Deposits. Your deposit typically reflects one month’s rent and will not be returned until you leave the premises, contract fulfilled.


3. Moving

All your bags are packed, you’re on your way as John Denver once said, but he failed to mention the back and forth trips on moving day, ferrying a seemingly endless amount of possessions, clothes, jigsaws, and any other rainy day items. GoCar provides excellent prices on cars and vans ideal for such an occasion. 


No matter the mode, persistent ‘one final car-full’ trips will take their toll on your petrol. Be careful you don’t blow the deposit on day one with any reckless transportation of big bulky items with sharp edges that can dent your new home’s walls and its deposit!

For A Faster, Easier And Less Stressful Move check out this article!


4. Furniture

If you manage to keep the leg of the chair away from the walls on move-in day, you may be lucky enough to complete the entire set without so much as a mark incurred. 


While most accommodations will come fully furnished, you will quickly discover a table and four chairs may not suffice. Bed stands, dressing tables, armoires, bureaus, coffers, and davenports, may not be at the very top of your list, but every trinket needs somewhere to rest upon.


Due in no small part to their affordable value and effectively Swedish flat-pack features, Ikea is a renter’s best friend. While its home just off the m50 is a forestry of flat-pack furniture, there will be many local providers and charity shops. Or you could peruse Donedeal for an opportune bargain, with an hour’s sanding and painting to transform any antique.


boyfriend and girlfriend showing off new keys to rental property

5. Food

You will quickly find that your food costs are particularly flexible. Weekly shops can cost as low as €30 with stringent restraint, but they can also soar considerably higher without careful monitoring. Your first step in reducing your shopping bill requires ditching the costly takeaway and cooking your own meals.


Aldi and Lidl are the unequivocal champions of value while the other end of the spectrum will find significantly higher prices in Marks & Spencers or boutique groceries. Jalapeno Peppers can be sought for less than euro in certain more palatable retailers or rising to a far spicier €7 for example.


6. Renting in Ireland Utilities

Four walls by themselves will not do much in terms of keeping the heat in. Aside from brief weeks of summer bliss, our other three seasons prove the need for comfortable heating and lighting. Gas and electric bills are ingrained in the Irish psyche due to generational berating with regards to a certain immersion. However, it is worth shopping around and identifying the best deal for you.


Consider other utilities like your phone, internet, and bin charges. Again, shopping around is an effective method in quelling creeping costs that can erode your pocket.


happy new family of tenants

7. Entertainment

Aside from sleeping and eating, your home should primarily be used for living in! Life is to be lived beyond necessity! When budgeting, make a realistic allocation for entertainment and hobbies such as Netflix, painting supplies, videogames, or gym memberships. 


While drafting your entertainment budget it would also be worthwhile to make an extensive list of low-cost or free activities that you can participate in, for further bootstrapping.


8. Transportation

Location, location, location are the three most important words when it comes to accommodation. The goldilocks zone would be located a short walk between your place of work, family, and friends. Realistically however you will be spending some amount on public transport, petrol, or most cost-efficiently a bicycle. 


The more convenient the location, the higher the cost, as seen when comparing standardised average rents in Dublin (€1,620) to outside Dublin (€1,149) (Residential Tenancies Board., Rent Index., 2018). Thankfully we can ensure you that there are more places to live than just Dublin!


Cars will get you furthest fastest, but this convenience has a higher cost. Insurance, maintenance, tax, and fuel, combined with the price of parking (if no on-site parking is available), can quickly reach untenable costs.


9. Insurance

Keeping your worldly possessions kept safe and away from harm has its price.  Unfortunately in Ireland the cost of insuring your home and car is considerable and rising. In the last decade alone, the average cost of motor insurance has risen by 42% (Central Bank of Ireland., Private Motor Insurance Report., 2019).


Much like utilities, shop around to obtain the best deal. Hours spent on the phone to multiple brokers and agents are grating and tiresome, but this is the price that must be paid to improve your bottom line.


10. Savings

At the end of the month, it may be difficult to categorize any of your remaining income as savings. This is a particular issue in Ireland with 1 in 10 people spending over 60% of their income on rent (Social Justice Ireland., National Social Monitor., 2019). This is why it is best to categorize your savings at the start of the month while drafting your budget. Savings should be prioritized in line with other costs no matter how tempting they are to shave and spend.


A few hundred euros each month could be deemed an immaterial amount in times of less restraint. However, month by month, your savings investment will slowly but surely build and be there for you in times of need or to finally purchase your own home so that you can bid farewell to your rent and welcome in a mortgage.


agent giving keys to tenant



Renting in Ireland is undoubtedly a costly endeavour. The playing field is rarely even, and any number of unseen variables can capsize even the best-made plans. However, with careful planning and foresight, you can navigate and mitigate almost all risks. Invest your own time and effort into reducing your monthly costs. This will allow for greater investment in the things you would rather capitalize upon, such as your future!