How to live off your student loan

The jump from living with your parents to living individually can be difficult. Learning how to budget your own money and not spend it all in one go can be challenging when you get a student loan! A part of the university experience is being able to learn more about money and how you should manage it. Spending your own money on food shopping may not be fun but it has to be done!  

One of the trickiest things is being able to make your student loan cover your food, your rent, any bills and all of your living expenses. I have put together a little guide explaining a bit more on how you can learn to live off your student loan. 

 

An overview of student loan: 

When you apply for an undergrad student loan you can apply for a tuition loan and a maintenance loan. The tuition loan will go straight to your university, and you won’t need to worry about hat until you graduate and need to start paying it back. 

Your maintenance loan is what will go straight into your bank account. This is meant to cover things like your accommodation, your food and living expenses. 

You will receive your loan in three payments, one at the start of each term. 

If you are a masters student then your loan will work slightly different. You get only one loan and this is to cover tuition fees and maintenance fees. For masters students, the price of the course will vary depending on which university you attend so your loan may or may not cover this fee.

How is it calculated: 

You will normally be given the full amount of tuition loan (so however much your course costs). Alternatively, you can choose to not take the loan and to pay the fees yourself – which means you won’t have to repay this loan. Or you can choose to take a certain amount of loan and pay the rest yourself. 

The amount of maintenance loan will be based off your parent’s income. The idea is that your parents are supposed to help you out and give you the extra money if you get a lower loan.  

If you want a masters loan then you can choose how much loan you get.

How to budget: 

At first, you may end up spending your first loan payment like there’s no tomorrow. Freshers’ week usually takes up a big chunk but after that you will need to start budgeting.  

Step 1: The first thing you need to do is check how much loan you will be receiving each term. Usually, you get the biggest loan in third term so make sure you check this. 

Step 2: The next thing you need to do is check how much money per term you need to spend on accommodation as this will be coming out of your maintenance loan. 

Step 3: Once you have these numbers for first term, second term and third term then you can do a little sum to find out how much you have left per term. Get your loan and take off your accommodation fee, when you have this figure for each term you can divide it by the number of weeks in the term to get your weekly budget. 

For example: 

Say you are an undergrad student and your  your maintenance loan for the year is £8000 and your accommodation for the year is £5000. Firstly, work out how much of the loan you get in first term. Say this is £2000 for first term. Say you need to pay £1500 of your accommodation in first term. 

This means you need to do £2000 – £1500 = £500 of left-over loan for first term. 

If term is 12 weeks long you need to do: 

£500 divided by 12 = £41.60 

£41.60 is the amount you have left over to live on per week if you were to live purely off your maintenance loan. 

How to stretch your loan 

Becoming a student means finding the cheapest ways to do things to make your loan last longer. A few tips include: 

  • Downloading Student Beans/ UNIdays to make use of any student discounts. Check out this post. 
  • Always ask if places have student discount. 
  • If you have to pay for circuit laundry, if possible, wait till you visit home and take all of your washing home. A bit cheeky but if your parents are willing to help you out, take it. 
  • Make home cooked meals instead of buying takeaways 5 days a week. 
  • Buy your food shopping from a budget supermarket if possible, so an Aldi instead of a Tesco. 
  • If your only option is one of the bigger supermarkets, then make sure you get their loyalty card. For example, if you shop at Tesco’s then get the Clubcard. 
  • If you need to use public transport to get into university e.g. The bus or the tram, then buy a pass as you will be saving money in the long run. 

What to do if you don’t have enough loan? 

Part-time jobs 

There will be plenty of part-time jobs available around the city you are now living in. Especially now that you are a student.  

If you cannot find any physical part-time jobs, then try looking online to become a student ambassador for brands that you love. This is another great way of making a little bit of money on the side. Try looking on Indeed for jobs in your area.

Another thing you can do is take a gap year and work or do a placement. This way you will be able to take a break from paying student costs and save up some money ready for the following year. You can take your gap year before you start university, or in the middle (providing your university allows this). Many courses may offer a placement year after your second year of study. This is not only a great opportunity to make a bit of money, but it means you will have a years worth of experience and you will not have to work during your final year of university.

Another option is to work in non-term time. So work at through your Christmas break or Easter break. If you have a job in your home town prior to attending university see if you are able to keep it. They may let you work when you return home for breaks from university.

Student jobs 

Normally, your university will be able to provide lots of student jobs in and around campus. Some will be every week jobs such as working in the Student Union or in the cafes. Whereas some might one-off jobs such as working on the open days that your university offers or running campus tours for new students. So, make sure you reach out to your university employability team or job centre to see what they offer. They will create these jobs to make them fit around your university timetable which is what makes these jobs so ideal. 

Talk to student services 

If you are working a job, you have received your loan and you are still struggling with funding then you should try and talk to your student services. There will be an email you can find on the university website. Or your university might have a stand somewhere on site where you can go and speak to someone. They will be able to offer you advice or point you in the right direction to get help. So, make sure you do reach out!  

One final tip and it’s one the student services may suggest, you can apply for a bursary. This is designed to give you that extra helping hand when it is needed and is usually transferred similar time to the loan. However you must meet the university requirements! Your course may even offer scholarships which you could apply for.

Final Thoughts: 

 Budgeting at first can be a difficult task to do however if you prepare well it can make it easier. Remember all the tips and tricks I have given to help you on your financial journey as a student. I have seen people in the past worry about having a part time job affecting your studies. However if you let your place of work know your timetable, shifts should work in your favour. I have known many people work a part-time job and have managed to fit it around their studies so it is completely do-able. If you do feel like you cannot keep up with everything then you should be prioritising your studies. As mentioned earlier, if you need to drop the job to study then chat to your student services and see what they can offer you.