Budgeting as a PhD student

4 December 2020

In this article, our PhD contributor Simone shares how she keeps to a budget as a student.

phd budgeting

I wasn’t great at budgeting during my undergraduate and Master’s degrees. I never got into really bad trouble, but my money would invariably run out some time towards the end of the vacation and I’d be in a state of slight panic until the next chunk of my loan or grant came through.

Last summer, I resolved that this would change – I was going to be doing a PhD, on a scholarship which would be enough to live on but still not a vast amount. It was time to learn to manage my money. Considering I’m coming into the summer of my first PhD year and my money isn’t on the verge of running out, I think I might have cracked it. So what have I done?


I got a budget app! I use it to log all my expenditure and income – and I mean all of it. It means I can see at a glance how much money I’ve got left in my accounts, how much I’m spending every day, what I’m spending it on. And you don’t need to do this electronically! You could do this using pen and paper – anything that helps you keep on top of how much you’re actually spending.


At the beginning of the year I sat down and worked out how much spending money I should have weekly or monthly once outgoings and savings were deducted from my funding. Together with my budget app, this means I know how much I should be spending each week – and whether I can really afford those new books or meal out.


I have several bank accounts – and don’t keep all my money in my current account. So, when an instalment of my scholarship comes through, I move it at once into a savings account, and pay myself a certain amount into my current account every week. This really helps me not to overspend. Of course, weekly might not work for you – you might prefer to pay yourself bi-weekly or monthly. The point is that you don’t face the temptation of suddenly having thousands in your current account. I have a couple of savings accounts – one to draw from then-and-when for moments of large expenditure, and a serious savings account that I can’t access until I’ve been paying into it for a year.

These have really decreased my anxiety about money – now, when I splash out, I know I can afford it, and I also know when I need to rein it in a bit. Remember the extra costs that PhD study and academia might incur, the new tablet or laptop, the book that you can only get for £60.00. Of course, PhD study will also bring extra income from time to time! If you start teaching, that’ll be some handy extra cash to squirrel away. Good luck!

Last revised: 8 September 2021

By Simone Webb, PhD student in Gender Studies