Six out of ten university students feel they’re struggling financially. Becoming a student and taking control of your own finances in a world where the cost of living is at an all-time high may provide new challenges and could potentially have a massive impact on student mental health. It’s a pretty hard world to navigate, from choosing your accommodation, to weekly budgets and managing your income, you’ll almost certianly need to prioritise your spending and watch where your money goes. Prior to going to university students may have had little to do with managing their finances, being thrown in the deep end, students will need to prepare themselves to ensure the best possible university experience and avoid money problems.
1. Planning your spending
Planning your finances before going to university can help you avoid student debt and understand what is and isn't affordable going into the years ahead. One of the top concerns amongst students spending is rent. Getting accommodation to suit your budget and to give the best student experience may be hard and require a lot of searching to find something which suits you. Before committing to anything ensure you have searched any extra costs associated with different accommodation choices, for example, additional bills, and transport costs, reading the contract thoroughly before signing to avoid any hidden costs.
Sitting down and planning your spending across the board can also be useful; considering what your student loan may cover, and what other income you might have or where it might be needed to cover the cost of student living can be of great help in navigating your pathway as a student. From here plan your essential outgoings, including your rent, tuition fees, any bills you might pay, and how much you’ll need for food each week. You’ll then be able to determine what you’ll have left to spend elsewhere, including a little bit for going out and enjoying yourself! Discussing finances with someone who’s opinion you value before going to university can provide valuable insight into the control you need to have over your spendings. Such planning will allow you to derive a weekly spending budget with your accommodation taken into account to ensure you make budget friendly spendings.
2. Overcoming peer pressure
The reality of controlling your spendings at university is much harder than the practice. Quite often it’s easy to get carried away with the non-essential spendings, being caught up in the student experience. Nights out, shopping, meeting friends for lunch or coffee… and literally just saying yes to every opportunity that arises you soon realise the hole being burned into your pocket, as it all adds up. It’s important to set budgets for yourself to do the activities you want to do, but also find cheaper ways of doing things with friends that don’t break the bank. Consider where you’ll be able to go for free or places you can use student discounts. Break the stigma and talk to your friends or those around you about the money stresses you might be having because the likelihood is they will too, and in the future they may be more considerate about the plans they propose and find more cost friendly activities.
Learning to budget as a student will set you up with an essential skill, which you can carry into your adult life. Buying a budget planner, or making your own can be extremely useful, following on from your plan and setting out how much you spend per week. Write down your spending and keep track of both the smaller and larger expenditure to keep in line with your weekly budget. Set a plan for the different activities you’ll be doing in the week and consider how much you would like to spend on them and where this fits into your budget.
"The NUS published it's Cost-of-Living Research in November 2022. Its online survey polled 4,500 UK students in October 2022, and found over a quater had less than £50 a month after paying rent and bills."
Food insecurity is having a huge effect on students with the increasing cost of living. To navigate increased costs students may be reducing their weekly allowances on food to balance the budget, which may have an impact thier diet. To attempt to reduce the amount you spend on your food shop, writing a meal plan and making a shopping list can be useful to avoid overspending. In extreme circumstances it’s also important for students to be aware of the support they can receive for example, that offered from local foodbanks and in some cases hardship funds.
Being a student and having to plan and manage your own finances, adapting to the rising cost of living and acknowledging the impact of these additional pressures on student mental health is something we need to prioritise and take steps to deal with. Individually, students can take control of their finances. Planning your time at university, and budgeting the activities you do to ensure you use your money efficiently and allow you to live your best student life!