Managing your budget as a student: essential information and tips

So, you’re going to live in Budapest soon, or perhaps you’ll spend a semester in Corvinus through a mobility program. It all sounds fun until you realize that you will have to deal with something pretty boring and sometimes even stressful – budgeting. Managing your finances as a student isn’t an easy task but it is definitely not impossible. How to spend your money in a way that you could have as much fun as possible yet you don't end up broke?

Some of your peers might be financial pros, knowing how and when to spend but not all of us are born with this gift of self-control and knowledge. Moreover, if you’ve never visited Budapest you probably don’t know the average prices of products and services which could be pretty problematic while constructing your budget before leaving your home country. If you still haven’t researched on the topic or you want to get some extra tips, this is the article for you!

Know your resources

Are you relying on financial help from your family or you’re planning to be self-sufficient by working next to university? Perhaps you’re going to obtain a scholarship? If you’re uncertain of the source of your finances, you need to start thinking about this now.

Many international students arrive in Budapest with the idea that work and education can be done together peacefully. However, most of them struggle to find jobs for different reasons – the lack of knowledge of Hungarian, the fact that they’re inexperienced, their timetable doesn’t allow it or the studies are keeping them pretty busy and there is simply no time for anything extra, like a job. If you are not a time management pro and you struggle a lot when being under pressure, there is a big chance of you being overwhelmed at some point. It is all up to you but that’s the reason why working in the first academic year is not recommended.

Be sure to check out the scholarship options. Being a Stipendium Hungaricum student is a huge advantage in these terms. In case you are a self-financed student, you should pay attention to your academic score because in some cases a high academic score means obtaining a scholarship.

Consider your most important monthly expenses

What is "important"? Obviously, the rent you’ll be paying, the cost of bills, transportation and food. Those are expenses which you cannot ignore or postpone so considering them as a starting point of your expenses on a monthly basis is a good beginning. So how much is each component of your budget?

Housing: Varies, depending on your preferences. Just like everywhere else around the world, the size, the level of comfort, location and other factors play a role in the price. Generally speaking, your rent can be anywhere between 50 000 HUF (for a single room, for example) and 200 000 HUF (for a whole small apartment).

Bills & transportation: Bills also vary in accordance to consumption but gas and water bills rarely exceed 20 000 HUF. A monthly transportation pass for students is 3 450 HUF and your mobile phone bill can go anywhere between 4 000 HUF and 10 000 HUF, depending on the provider and the mobile plan you’ve chosen.

Food: Once again – depends. Do you eat a lot? Maybe you’re vegan or you’re a picky eater? Do you eat out or you prefer cooking each and every meal for yourself? You can expect a rough average of 10 000 HUF for food per week if you’re relying on the supermarket and cooking but that price can go up to 20 000 HUF if you constantly get take away food.

Be a smart spender

A smart spender is a person who knows how to spend. Try not falling into traps like buying unnecessary items, extra products or things that are seemingly “on sale”. Perhaps once in a while when you see that you actually can afford it – that can work. However, having self-control is essential, especially when it comes to purchases. Moreover, cutting out unnecessary things that drain your budget is a great start of spending smartly – cigarettes, alcohol, coffee and other items are literally emptying our pockets when it comes to daily expenses.

Extra tip: “Do I need this or I simply want it?” is a magical trick to persuade yourself into spending less. Being aware of your needs and desires and making a differentiation between them will truly open your eyes when it comes to expenses. Desires can wait for times of special occasions, needs cannot.

Having fun on a budget

So being a student truly goes hand in hand with having fun. How can you have fun and not end up broke for the week after a night out, though?

  • Set a budget for the night and don’t exceed it. Your wallet will thank you the morning after.

  • Go to affordable places. Knowing the price range offered at the place you’ve chosen is great when you’re planning a night out.

  • Look out for discounted beverages – bars often have discounts for students in Budapest.

  • Don’t go too far with the drinks.

  • Share with friends and pay together. Every price is better when halved.

Use apps or write everything down

There are great apps out there which are really helpful in this matter like Spendee Budget & Money Tracker. If you aren’t into the idea you can always use online calculators or write everything down in a personal financial diary.

Be in charge

Never forget that you’re the captain of the ship! Improve, adapt, track, spend smartly, learn from your mistakes and find the golden mean.


– Benjamin Franklin 

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