Making a money diary


A recent survey has said that 8 in 10 students worry about their finances[1]. If you feel like you are among the 80%, don’t panic, because there are plenty of practical and easy ways you can take control of yours. One of these is to create a Money Diary to track how you’re spending your money and work out the areas where you could save.

We asked Jake, a 3rd year English Literature student here at The University of Manchester, to make his own money diary and here is the result.

Jake's Money Diary

Name: Jake
Year: 3rd year
Monthly Income: £412 (on average)

Monthly Expenses
Rent: £350 
Bills: £52
Netflix: £7.50
Spotify: £4.99
Gym membership: £18
Phone contract: £12
Total: £444.49

Day 1: Monday

10:30am: Luckily, I’m off on Monday’s so can afford to have a bit of a lie in. For breakfast I had 3 bars of Weetabix and a cup of tea, which felt like enough to keep me going for a while.

1pm: After a bit of work and a lot of procrastination, I made myself a quick sandwich for dinner, washed some clothes and tried to make the most of my free day.

7pm: This Monday was turning out to be more boring than I’d expected, and knowing tomorrow is fast approaching, I managed to get more reading done later on. It was a day in the house, essentially. For tea I unfroze a meal I cooked last week, to try and use up the bulk of my food before doing a shop.

11pm: After a house-bound day I went to bed, without really being sure whether I’d been productive or not. Either way, I didn’t spend a penny, so the week started off cheap.

Daily total: £0!


Day 2: Tuesday

8am: Time for a shower and breakfast: another serving of Weetabix that I quickly swallowed down before heading in to work.

9:45am: Arrived at work, but had forgotten to bring any water with me. I grabbed a bottle of water from the shop in University Place. (89p)

2pm: With work done for the day I headed for my first lecture of the week, picking up a snack from the Uni Place shop on the way. (£2.05)

3pm: I decided to be responsible and hit the library in my break, which is also far away from any shops or café’s so that I’m never tempted to leave my spot.

5pm: Time for the second and final lecture of the day over in Humanities Bridgeford Street.

6:30pm: I finally arrived home after what felt like a really long day. At this point I couldn’t even muster the energy to think about doing a shop, so I sat in front of the TV for a while.

8pm: I made a quick and easy tea, having pasta with pesto to use up some of the basic ingredients left in my cupboard.

12:30am: Just after midnight I crashed in bed, somehow drained even though I was only in lectures for 2 hours of the day.

Daily total: £2.94


Day 3: Wednesday

9am: Up early again to shower and eat (I’m really getting sick of Weetabix) before work. Luckily, this is another day I’m off uni.

11am: I arrived at work, and bought a Nutrigrain bar from the Uni Place shop to keep me going until I could get some lunch. (70p)

2pm: At this point I knew I just needed to eat something, and got a pretty sad-looking meal deal from the shop which filled me up. (£3.50)

5:15pm: After finishing work, I met my housemate at the SU and bought a ticket for Manchester City vs Napoli the following Tuesday night. (£16)

6pm: Back in Fallowfield I went through Sainsbury’s on my way home and got some bread, eggs, chicken and a couple of other bits. I only bought about 6 things, but the spend still added up to over £13. (£13.39)

8pm: I used the stuff I’d bought from Sainsbury’s to make chicken burgers for a quick and filling meal.

11pm: After watching The Apprentice and a bit of Netflix, I went to bed early so that I’d make my 9am on time.

Daily total: £33.59


Day 4: Thursday

7:30am: Instead of Weetabix for breakfast I had some toast, making sure to leave the house early to avoid the massive queues for the morning bus.

9am: I made it to my seminar on time, but still not quite fully functioning; I’m just not a morning person.

11:30am: Back in Fallowfield after my seminar, and I could feel myself dreaming of sleep so bought a Lucozade to keep me going. I also sent off a package to a friend with first class postage. (£1.29 + £4.20 = £5.49)

2pm: Before heading back into uni, I made a quick omelette for dinner.

4pm: Back in for my final seminar of the day, another 2 hour class. At least I was a bit more awake for this one.

7pm: Arrived back home and picked up a birthday card, small present and beers on the way from Sainsbury’s. I did a bit of work before getting ready to go out. (£5)

9:30pm: I went out to pre-drinks for my friend’s birthday night out, hoping I still manage to make it in to uni tomorrow. (£5) 

11:30pm: We left my friend’s for Antwerp, which I had bought a ticket for a few weeks ago but I’m including in the costs for this week as the price of entry. Whilst there, I bought a few drinks with the cash I had and ended up paying on card for some. (£15)

Daily total: £30.49


Day 5: Friday

2:30pm: I woke up and somehow had slept in for my 2pm class – it seems that I really need my sleep after a night out now, first year me would not be impressed at all. Feeling guilty, I ordered a Domino’s. (£15)

4pm: With the Wi-Fi in our house down since Wednesday, I had to top up the data on my phone. (£10)

8pm: After a day of literally not moving from the same spot with my pizza, I went out to Withington to meet some friends at Solomon’s and then the pub across the road. (£9.56)

11pm: After a few drinks in the pub, I picked up some cans from NZ Wines and went to a friend’s house party. (£5)

Daily total: £39.56


Day 6: Saturday

7am: An early start this Saturday, as I was helping out at the open day, so I quickly showered and had a slice of toast before heading out.

8:30am: Open day begins, and I prepared myself for the never-ending questions from parents.

2pm: Lunch break, which thankfully is provided free of charge. 

5pm: I got back home after work and immediately went back to bed for a quick nap.

9:30pm: That quick nap turned into a long sleep, so after waking up I dashed over to Sainsbury’s before it closed for some quick food and drinks, and then got back, ate and had a shower. (£14)

10:30pm: I went round for pre-drinks at my friend’s house before heading to a party in Withington.

Daily total: £14


Day 7: Sunday

1pm: Another late lie-in on Sunday, I decided this would be a good time to rest and recover after a long weekend.

6:30pm: I settled down to watch Lord of the Rings on ITV2, but as I hadn’t really done a proper shop this week, was getting hungry.

8pm: I caved, and ordered a McDonald’s on Uber Eats, after flicking through a load of recipes online. (£10.58)

12am: After a very lazy Sunday, I called it a night and went to bed.

Daily total: £10.58

Total weekly spend: £131.16


What I’ve learned

Now that I look back on the week, I can see where I spent too much money. If I'd have planned out my meals there would've been no need for two expensive mini-shops at Sainsbury's and I could've gone to Lidl instead. This would've saved the money I spent on takeaways and snacks too!

Spending over £30 per day on some days as a student isn't sustainable, and keeping a total of my expenditures for the week has made me realise I should be more careful with my money.

Cutting out unnecessary spends will require a bit more planning in advance but the spare cash I have left over will be worth it - and this includes monthly costs, such as the gym membership I've been neglecting since term started, and even the more expensive Netflix membership.

Now that I've shocked myself into making a change to consciously monitor my spending, I'll definitely look to helpful online resources to make sure I get it right and keep my bank balance positive.


What else can you do to help with your finances?

A good place to start you off getting smarter about how you spend and look after your money are the Money Matters pages on the Student support and advice website, with loads of student-written content and a brand new discount scheme.


Go to to find out more

[1] Figure taken from the 2016 Student Money Survey –