Whether you’re in your first year or third year, a postgraduate student or an applicant, it’s vital that you consider how to manage your finances while studying with us at dBs Institute. Here, we take a look at how to budget and what to do if you find yourself in trouble financially while studying.
Studying a subject you love at university can be a life-changing experience that allows you to spread your wings, gain independence, meet life-long friends and learn skills that can lead to a bright future. However, with more financial independence, it’s also important to learn how to budget properly and survive financially while studying.
According to a poll from Nationwide, 86% of first-year students are apprehensive about the cost of living and its impact on their finances. The same study found that 76% of first-years said living costs were key to choosing their university and 72% said they had considered living at home to cut costs.
Although living at home with parents is a preferable option for some, for others, it’s not something that they are able or want to do. To help any of our current or prospective students find their feet financially, we wanted to take a look at how you can budget better and what to do if you find yourself in real financial hardship.
Although budgeting isn’t going to be your first concern when you’re excited to start university, it should be one of the first things you think about. It’s not glamorous, but it’s important.
When you start university, your student loan will be deposited into your bank account at the beginning of each term. The precise amount you are entitled to depends on whether you are living with your parents or away from home, how much you, your parents and/or partner earn and whether you have any dependents. If you are going to be studying at dBs in Bristol, Plymouth or Manchester and you are not living with your parents, you can receive up to £9,978 per academic year - or up to £3,326 per term.
Once you know precisely what you’ll be getting in from the Student Loans Company, it’s a good idea to calculate what your necessary outgoings are going to be. These will include rent, utility bills, food, broadband, mobile phone bills and any travel expenses you might have.
Once you have calculated what these are per term, subtract that number from your student loan for the term and you’ll be left with your disposable income. You can then divide your disposable income by the number of weeks in the term and you’ll be left with a weekly budget that should ensure you don’t overspend.
Even though your first student loan deposit might be the most money you’ve seen in your account at one time, it’s important not to go on a spending spree straight away, as you’ll soon be left with very little until your next loan amount is deposited.
Save before university and in between terms
They say that prevention is better than a cure and that’s the same when it comes to budgeting at university. If you can, try and save as much as possible before you arrive to give you more money to work with when you’re studying. The summer before you start your first year is a great time to work hard and save up, and by doing so, you should be able to breathe a little easier financially at uni.
As well as saving up before you start your first year, if you can, aim to work during periods between terms and between years. It will give you a bit of a buffer to come back to so you don’t have to be quite as precious about your spending when you get your next loan deposited.
Automate your spending
The ‘Piggybank’ method of spending can be a great tool if you want to be really strict about how much you spend and on what. First, categorise what your main areas of spending are - food and drink, gig tickets, video games, holidays and clothes etc - and then decide how much you want to spend on each category each month or week. Once you have this information, you can create ‘pots’ in banking apps like Monzo or Starling and automatically transfer money from those pots to your main account every week to ensure that you’re only spending what you can afford.
Another way of doing this is dividing your disposable income amount by the number of days until your next student loan deposit and transferring yourself a daily allowance. If you don’t spend anything one day, you’ll have more to spend the next if you want to!
Boost income through work
It’s not possible for everyone, but many students work during their studies to help them pay their way without getting into debt. In cities like Bristol, Plymouth and Manchester there are countless bars, cafes, restaurants, venues and shops that you may be able to find part-time employment in. Although you might not think you will have time, many students do work and it can help ensure you have enough money to live comfortably and enjoy your time while you study.
If you already work at a nationwide retail brand, like a major supermarket, cafe or clothing store, you may be able to transfer seamlessly from one store to another so you’ll have a job secured in your new hometown before you even arrive and can avoid the frustrating process of applying for roles.
If you are thinking about boosting your income through part-time work, you can talk to our team about the recommended amount of hours per week to commit to work. Generally, we advise that anything over 15-20 hours per week may negatively impact your studies so it’s worth talking to us about your options and what would be most suitable.
Getting a student bank account from one of the major UK banks can be a great way to give yourself a bit of breathing space if you find yourself running low on money. These types of bank accounts often have great perks including a 0% interest overdraft limit which is usually in the region of £1,000 to £3,000. Although it’s important not to get into debt, once you graduate, your bank will change you onto a graduate account and most banks keep the 0% interest on your overdraft for the next 2-3 years. If you decide to use one of these, it’s vital to ensure that you gradually pay it off once you start working post-graduation. You don’t want to be stuck in your overdraft when higher interest rates kick in!
As well as interest-free overdraft limits, many banks also offer other perks, such as free student rail cards, free cash for joining and vouchers.
What if I run out of money anyway?
For some people, these tips will not be enough to stop them running out of cash. In those extreme circumstances, there is support available from us at dBs.
If you find yourself in financial hardship during your studies, you can apply for the Hardship Fund from our university partner Falmouth University. This should only be used in extreme circumstances and you’ll need to explain why you need the money as “It is expected that students will only enrol on a course with a robust financial plan in place.” In most instances, this fund will be paid directly into your bank account, but in some instances, it will be paid directly to an organisation such as a landlord, energy company or debt collection agency.
As well as this, we also have an Emergency Loan service we can provide to students who, “have not yet received their student finance payment or are in temporary financial difficulty.” These services are designed for students who have extenuating circumstances and are really struggling - you should always start by trying to budget properly, finding a job or leaning on family - if you’re able to - before applying for the Hardship Fund or Emergency Loan.
Seek support if your mental health is struggling
We know that money can be a huge source of stress for students as well as adults. That’s why it’s so important to speak to our incredible Student Support team if you feel like your mental health is being impacted by financial struggles. We’re here to help whatever the problem is and want you to enjoy your time studying at dBs.