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How to cope with money worries at university

Even with the help of financial aid, many students find themselves always worrying about money.

While attending university and living away from home grants you the freedom to decide how to spend your cash, managing your budget can be difficult, often leading to money concerns.

The 2021 Student Money Survey found that 76% of students worry about making ends meet, with financial concerns leading to social, sleep, diet, and mental health issues. The report also discovered that more students are turning to risky ways of making extra cash, including investing in cryptocurrencies and cutting out meals to save money.

Luckily, there’s lots of help for uni students struggling with money. Discover how to deal with money worries at university and take control of your finances.

How to get extra cash at university

Woman taking photo of the shorts using her smartphone for selling or donating her clothes.

Getting extra cash while studying is one obvious choice for a student in need of money. Alleviate financial concerns by growing your bank balance, ensuring you have enough to see you through your studies.

Student loans

With job confidence after university at an all-time low, some students have chosen to opt out of receiving a student loan from Student Finance. The average student debt for people who started their course in 2021/22 is around £45,800 when they complete their course – a daunting amount to owe.

Only a small percentage of full-time workers will fully repay their student loans – an estimated 20% of the 2021/22 cohort and 55% of 2023/24 students. This is because you don’t start making repayments until you earn a certain amount, and after 30 years since graduation, the loan is entirely written off.

Taking a student loan to help with tuition fees and general living expenses is one option to help alleviate some of your student money worries. These loans are advantageous if your family cannot provide financial support during your studies, as you could be entitled to a higher amount.

Grants and scholarships

Means-tested Maintenance Grants from Student Finance that you didn’t need to pay back were unfortunately abolished in 2016/17, fuelling the student financial crisis. These grants were reserved for people from lower-income families, allowing them to afford rent, food, and other necessities without concerns of repayment.

Thankfully, many universities still offer grants for students with a smaller annual household income. Some institutions will automatically set up these payments for you without contacting them, using the information you provided to Student Finance. Check with your university before arriving to see their criteria and policies.

It may also be worth considering a healthcare career with subsidised tuition or bursaries, such as a nursing, midwifery, or occupational therapy degree. Some universities require you to work in the area where you obtain your qualification for a set amount of time after graduation to write off the debt.

Other departments may offer scholarships for those with high A-Level grades or sporting achievements. Once you know the school and degree you wish to pursue, research to see what’s on offer.

Part-time jobs

Having a job can make you more financially secure at university – in fact, the Student Money Survey also found that 66% of students engage in part-time work, the second most popular way to get money.

If your schedule allows, consider working for a few hours a week to earn some extra cash. On-campus universities are teeming with seasonal work in their cafes and bars or even as student guides or helpers.

If you can’t fit in regular employment alongside your studies, don’t panic. Look for nearby festivals and events requiring day staff. This work often pays above average and is also a great way to see top artists for free.

Surveys, side-hustles and selling online

Our online world has opened up many opportunities for making money online. From taking surveys that reward you with cash to launching a side hustle or even selling your unwanted items, there are many creative ways to turn your spare time into extra income.

Research companies are always looking for new members to answer questions about new services or even test products for free, easily fitting around your university schedule.

If you’re a talented writer, graphic designer, video editor, or social media enthusiast, monetise your skills. Head to Fiverr or Gumtree to discover individuals and small organisations looking for freelancers.

Keep hold of your textbooks at the end of your academic year – first-year students will pay a tidy price for used resources so that you can make some of your money back.

Apps such as Vinted, Depop, Facebook Marketplace, and eBay are fantastic ways to sell unwanted items. Some students and young people have even reported quitting their jobs and earning up to £1000 a month in this way, turning flogging vintage clothing and second-hand pieces into a reputable side hustle.

Student money help

If you’ve tried the above and are still struggling, don’t worry. There are many people, charities and organisations to turn to if you are a student with no money.

Talk to someone

The first thing to do if you’re struggling with your finances or have run out of student loan money is to talk to someone. Who you choose depends on your circumstances – many students may not feel comfortable discussing financial issues with their friends or family for fear of judgement or causing stress at home.  

If you consider asking a family member or friend for financial help, approach this with caution. They may want to know about your outgoings and how you plan to use the money before agreeing to help.

If you can’t speak to those close to you, student money advisors and student unions often offer financial advice for students. Most likely, they’ll direct you to emergency funds, grants, and scholarships that provide money for students in need.

Tell your landlord and bill providers

Student housing and bills are two of the highest costs students have to pay. However, the most important thing to remember is not to stop paying them – this can land you in legal trouble and further debt.

Speaking to your landlord can help, especially if you’re struggling with money because of illness or hardship. They may be open to a rent cut, rebate, or cancelling your contract so you can move back home.

If your landlord isn’t flexible, the housing charity Shelter can help. Contact them if you’re worried about homelessness, can’t afford to pay your rent, or want to know your rights as a tenant.

Reach out to your utility providers and inform them about your circumstances. They may have an emergency protocol or additional help for students struggling with payments. They might offer a switch to a cheaper contract, payment freezes, or temporary loans. Contact Citizens Advice to learn more about your rights as a bill payer.

Contact debt organisations

With easy-to-apply options for credit cards, overdrafts, and buy-now-pay-later schemes, getting into university debt is a common problem.

Organisations such as StepChange and Rethink are there to help. StepChange offers free, confidential advice for those struggling with debt, offering various solutions no matter your problems. They also campaign on your behalf to reduce the risk of problem debt and the harm it can cause.

Rethink is a mental health charity that helps those with poor mental health better manage their manage. They also offer free and impartial advice for people in crisis, including taking advantage of the Breathing Space Scheme, which can give you more time to repay your debts.

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