Saturday 12 March 2016

Keeping a healthy pocket during university – how to control your finances

Lisa writes about handling finances as a university student and saving her grades in the process.
- Lisa van der Steen

When I first started university, I was ready to have the best time of my life. I had never really been on my own before and I couldn't wait to leave my tiny home town behind to start a new life in the big city. I was hoping to go abroad in my third year and had my eye on various internships that were, as often is the case these days, unpaid. But unlike many of my friends, I didn't have parents who could financially support me. I soon found myself trying to balance my studies with an underpaid part-time job to be able to fulfil my ambitions, without sacrificing my entire social life. 

Whilst trying to maintain the lifestyle I had become a custom to at college, I found myself struggling to get by. My financial worries kept growing, resulting in many sleepless nights and in turn I saw my grades slowly declining.

Along the way, I found out that I wasn't the only one my age who was worried about money. In last year’s National Student Money Survey, it was estimated that 80% of students have financial worries and that two in three struggles to live solely off their maintenance loan. But what are the best ways of dealing with struggles like these? And who do you turn to for help? 

Here’s some tips that I found really useful for getting my personal finances in check. They could be the answers you are looking for if you are dealing with financial stress:

1. Apply for funding

This is something you’ll read about on every possible student financing website, but I benefited massively from having a student bursary.There are many ways of funding to turn to for help, such as charity funds (including local churches), alumni groups and career-related bursaries. Keep an eye on their deadlines, but remember not to give up too easily! 

2. Create a budget plan

Keep a log of your expenses, draw a budget and try to stick with it! Work out how much money you receive each month and keep track of how much you spend, and exactly what you are spending it on. There’s plenty of money-saving apps available for students and you could even try installing home accounting software to help you manage your money more easily and prioritise your spending.

3. Talk to someone at university

All universities and colleges have an advice centre specialised in financial issues. If you are struggling with your finances or even considering quitting university because of it, they’ll be able to offer you help and can inform you on finding alternative ways of funding. It might even be the case that you’re entitled to more money than you realised. 

4. Confide in a friend or family member

Don’t feel like you’re in it alone, confide in friends or family members to talk about your financial problems. There’s no need to feel embarrassed. Withdrawing yourself from others will only increase your stress levels. The more your friends are aware of your problems, the less often you’ll feel pressured for participating in expensive nights out. 

Despite your financial worries, don’t stop enjoying your time at uni. There are ways you can keep seeing your friends without spending lots of money! Try cooking together instead of having meals out, or take up a hobby that doesn't cost the earth, such as running together. Exercise isn't just good for your physical health, but for your mental health too, as it releases endorphins that will help improve your mood. 

For more information on finding support during university click here.

For more information about studying abroad click here.

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