Getting by on a shoestring budget as a student is certainly no easy feat. According to a recent National Student Money survey, it was found that a staggering 84% of students worry about having enough money to live on. Though it truth, it perhaps comes as no surprise when, these days, loans barely stretch to cover the cost of accommodation alone.
When you’re a student, money worries aren’t just bad for your bank balance - for many, financial hardships at university place an overwhelming strain on other aspects of day-to-day life, making the entire university process even more difficult than it already is. In the same survey, 50% of students said they’d experienced mental health issues as a direct result of money problems, with 34% also saying their grades often suffer. It isn’t uncommon for students to skip meals or miss classes when they’re struggling with money, because they feel they can’t afford basic necessities like public transport and proper nutrition. As well, financial strains can cause some students overwhelming anxiety and depression.
So, how do you get by at university when your money worries seem insurmountable? The first thing to keep in mind is that you’re most certainly not alone. There are dozens of students in the very same position, as well, there are plenty of people out there who can lend a helping hand in getting you back on your feet. In this post, we’re discussing some of the best steps you can take lighten the burden of your financial woes - and they’re much easier than you might think.
Talk to someone.
You know what they say - a problem shared is a problem halved. Though simply talking it out won’t bring you more cash, it can bring you a sense of comfort when you feel monumentally overwhelmed. If it’s feasible for you to do so, you could talk with your parents about your financial difficulties and see if they are able to offer you any extra support until you get yourself back on your feet. Though, this should always be approached with caution - many students admit to feeling guilty about asking their family for financial help, with 42% of students admitting it can take a toll on relationships.
If, for whatever reason, asking your parents for help just isn’t possible for your personal circumstances - you could opt for seeking professional advice. You could set up an appointment with a student money advisor, which is typically something that is offered through your university or SU. They can access your specific situation and may be able to suggest emergency funds that you may not know about. Alternatively, there are a number of charities out there who can provide money advice for those affected by mental health issues, such as Rethink and StepChange.
Research additional funding.
Each and every year, many bursaries, grants and scholarships go unclaimed by students, mostly because they don’t even know they are there, not to mention that they may be entitled to them. These types of funding don’t have to be repaid, either, so they could offer to lift a huge weight off your shoulders. What’s more, contrary to popular belief, these types of funding aren’t just given to those from disadvantaged backgrounds or to those who are academically gifted. They are offered by the universities themselves, but also by companies, professional associations and charities, and offered for all kinds of reasons, so it’s worth doing your research - you never know what you might be entitled to.
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Look for a job.
If it’s feasible for you to do so, perhaps considering looking for a part-time job to fit alongside your studies. The extra income can be a great way to boost your budget, as well, you’ll have the benefit of putting down new experience on your CV, which is always a good thing. Though, you should approach this with caution. Only take on what you can cope with. The last thing you want is the additional burden of stress from a job that may not even be worth it at the end of the day.
Increase your income in other ways.
Believe it or not, getting a part-time job isn’t the only way you can increase your income whilst you’re at university, so don’t panic if getting a job isn’t something you can do. For example, an increasingly popular way for students to make a bit of extra money is by filling out online surveys in their spare time - we’re serious! Various research companies are always recruiting new members to answer their surveys and test their products - something that students can very easily jump at the opportunity to do as it’ll often fit within busy schedules. You could try sites like MySurvey or Toluna.
You could also try selling your second-hand items online - if you’re a second or third year student with textbooks that you no longer need, first year students will jump at the chance to buy them pre-owned. You could even sell your notes that you no longer have a need for, on sites like Notesale, as long as you don’t mind sharing them with other students.
Make your money go further.
Making your money go further is often easier said than done - but it’s not impossible. The best place to start is by reducing your outgoings. You can do this by only buying what you need - a top tip is not to go food shopping on an empty stomach or when you’re hungover, because there will always be an impulse to overspend on non-essentials. As well, always be sure to shop around for the best deals, especially when it comes to your utility bills. Take time to revise exactly what you’re paying and for what, and consider whether it’s really a necessity or something you can do without.
Most important of all, be sure to set yourself a budget - and stick to it. Although it may seem like a daunting task, budgeting your money really is much easier than what you might think. It will help you to understand exactly how much money you have coming in, going out, and how much you have left to play with - and it can bring peace of mind. Budgeting weekly and monthly will improve your money management skills, and you’ll be better equipped to avoid debt.