/ Money

How can struggling students budget better?

A plate of baked beans on toast

Student loans and grants will only rise by 1% in 2014/15 – less than the rate of inflation. But our research shows some students are struggling with living costs – so how can students make their money go further?

Recently, the rise in tuition fees has dominated the headlines when it comes to student finance. And yet day-to-day living costs are proving to be an enormous drain on many students’ bank balances.

We conducted a survey of first-year university students and found that four in 10 are finding it more difficult to manage their money than they expected. Furthermore, almost a fifth are worried about being able to afford to stay at uni. Here’s a snapshot of our research:

Student loans infographic

Bearing this in mind, there’s some discouraging news for students heading off to uni in England in 2014: maintenance loans (the part of your student loan designed to cover day-to-day living costs) and grants (which you don’t need to pay back) will increase by just 1%.

On top of this, the maximum maintenance loan for students living away from home outside of London will increase by just £55, to £5,555 per year. NUS president Liam Burns describes the below inflation news as a ‘real-term cut in support‘.

The reality of student budgeting

Before I went to uni, £5,000 sounded like a lot of money to me. I’ll never forget the moment my first student loan landed in my account – it was the first time I’d seen a four-figure balance! But I soon learnt the hard way just how quickly accommodation, food, travel, and other student expenses could send my account into overdraft.

When we surveyed 1,200 first-year undergraduates – the first intake under the new fee system – a worrying 3% had used a bank loan to help pay for some aspect of uni life. A further 50% of 18-year-old students told us they receive financial help from their parents.

I can speak from experience when I say being out of pocket before the end of term isn’t a good situation to be in. We’ve got some advice for students on how to budget and plan their spending accordingly. Do you have any advice for students struggling with living costs on how to make their money go further?


When I was a student I made ends meet by working part-time in retail. One shift a week was enough to cover my food budget and any extra hours I could do helped towards occasional purchases like clothes and nights out. If you can find part-time work that’s relevant to your degree, so much the better.

In my second year I saved a lot of money by sharing the shopping bills and cooking duties with my housemates. It was vital to keep our bills low that year, because our student house had an expensive pre-payment meter for gas and electricity.