Being at uni can be overwhelming at times. It’s most likely the first time that you’ve been truly responsible for all aspects of your life; your study, your time and your money.
If you have little experience of handling your finances or haven’t a clue about how to budget, then don’t panic, you’re not alone!
A recent study showed that 79% of students worry about making ends meet. 73% of them say they don't have money to socialise. 53% say they're eating an unhealthy diet to save money. All of this has a negative impact on your grades, and then you can get into a downward spiral that can end with dropping out of university altogether.
The largest outgoing for everyone is rent. Since 2018, the average rent for student accommodation has increased by £25, to £431 per month. Meanwhile, the maintenance loan is only about £540 per month, leaving essentially nothing for students to live on, especially if parental contributions aren't coming in for whatever reason.
So, what can students do manage their budget and avoid this potential downward spiral?
Get the Best Deal You Can
Sometimes that's living on campus. Sometimes it isn't. For some students, bed and board may be an option, especially if your cooking skills aren't what they should be. It's worth shopping around to find cheaper digs (although be aware that sometimes cheaper digs may come with their own problems, such as damp, security issues, or even having to hang out with your landlady).
Always look at what's included with your rent. And while money shouldn't be the first concern, if you're having difficulty choosing between two universities, you should look at typical rent. Also, look at whether the property is "bills all-inclusive" or not. This may or may not be a better deal.
Claypenny offers award-winning student accommodation in Sheffield at a typical rent of £380 a month in some of the city’s most sought after locations: Ecclesall Road, Sheffield Hallam and Broomhall.
You can use a rent affordability calculator to determine how much rent you can afford on your maintenance loan and whatever your parents are able to provide.
The earlier you can start looking for student accommodation, the better. Start looking for your first-year accommodation as soon as you know where you are going. For the second and third years, you actually want to start looking as early as the end of October in the previous academic year. Yes, really. Good deals go fast.
If you are spending your first year on campus, you will probably be looking for your second-year accommodation very soon after settling in. This also means you should renew early if you find a property you are happy with.
Learn How to Budget
1 in 6 students don't budget at all. Most don't feel they’ve had enough of financial education or experience with dealing with bills. Not knowing how to budget can result in panic and added stress, which then impacts on your studies.
Your maintenance loan comes in once per term, so you need to make sure you don't give in to the temptation to spend too much of it when it comes in. Set aside enough for rent, bills and groceries. Most course material expenses are going to be at the start of term anyway.
For your sanity, do allow something in the budget for things such as socialising, travelling back home and clothes. Your mental health won't benefit from being constantly broke and unable to afford anything you care about. However, you should limit luxuries to things which really matter to you. Look for ways to cut corners that don't affect your health. For example, can you stay fit by running rather than shelling out on a gym membership?
Explore Alternative Income Streams
More and more students are resorting to part-time work to make ends meet. The problem with any type of work is that it cuts into your study time.
Start by making sure you have applied for any bursaries, scholarships and grants you might even remotely be eligible for. A lot of the time these grants have some specific criteria. They might require that your parents are below a certain income level, they might be for specific courses.
You may also be able to leverage your skills to earn a little extra income. Art or design students, for example, may find they can sell some of their work online.
Use Student Discounts
Take advantage of every single one of those student discounts. Make sure you have a student travel card, choose restaurants that offer discounts when you do eat out, etc. Get your 16-25 Railcard to save money on trips home. However, don't let this tempt you into spending money on stuff you don't actually need!
Oh, and when you buy food, buy own-brand products, except if there are offers like 2-for-1 deals.
Learn to Cook
If you don't already know how to cook, then it’s time to learn. Some dishes can be cooked in bulk on the weekends and then frozen to save time during the week. If your student accommodation doesn't have a kitchen, then you might want to look for ones that do next year even if it costs slightly more.
Learning how to bake can save you even more money, and make you very popular with other students!
If you are looking for affordable Sheffield student accommodation, Claypenny can help you. With average rents of just £380 per month and a variety of properties available, we can help you find the best place to live while you finish your studies.Share