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Customise your student budget

We all know that high tuition fees mean students are now graduating with more debt than ever, but a more pressing cause for concern is how university goers can afford to cover living costs.

The ‘maintenance’ loan is designed to help full time students cover day to day costs including rent, bills and food. Some students will also qualify to receive a maintenance grant, although this will reduce the amount of loan they are entitled to and it is dependent on your parent’s household income.

Unfortunately, the maintenance income doesn’t always cover actual living costs and parents are expected to foot the bills, but for many this just isn’t possible. So how do you actually cope?

Find out your entitlements

The Government have a handy checklist of what loans and grants are available along with eligibility criteria available at www.gov.uk/student-finance. Use their calculator for a good idea of what you’ll be able to get, and make sure you supply evidence of your household income when you apply. You may qualify for a grant or bursary directly from your University so contact them directly to ask about these. Some courses, such as teaching or medical degrees also offer their own bursaries.

Work out what you have

Do you have any income on top of your loans and grants? Perhaps you have some savings if you have worked prior to University. If you paid tax you may be able to apply for a refund now that you are in full time study. If your family are able to, would they be willing to provide any additional support? Suggest a loan rather than a gift if you would prefer this arrangement.

Get a job

You’re at University to study, so a full time job is out of the question, but working just a few hours a week could cover the cost of your food shopping, and you do need to eat! If you need to work, start applying for part time roles as soon as possible. Your first stop should be your University’s student services who will advertise student friendly roles.

Plan to save

As a student, you can’t expect to live to the same standard you would be accustomed to working full time. This doesn’t mean a diet of beans and noodles, but it does mean giving up luxuries such as satellite television, expensive gym memberships and depending on where you attend University, question how much you need your car.

Budget!

Yes, it’s that dreaded word that everybody loves to throw at students. We know you’re sick of hearing it, but learning to budget and stick to it is a valuable life skill that will get you through University and stay with you long after graduation. Your loan, grants, bursaries, any help you receive from family and your job all add up to an amount you have to live on for a whole year, so don’t be tempted to blow it all in fresher’s week.

If you still struggle to make ends meet, your University should have a welfare office where they may be able to offer you further help, such as emergency funding or a hardship fund. Turn to these first before considering other options - the last thing you need is more debt!