Student Money
Guide 2020

Resources
Where else to look
Budgeting
Managing your money
Resources
Where else to look

Welcome to Blackbullion’s Student Money Guide for 2020!

So, you’re studying, or you’re planning to. You must have a lot on your mind. What are your options? What do you want to achieve? What will your future look like, and how will you get there? And of course… how are you going to pay for it?

This guide should give you a grasp on the basics of money and provides a starting point, but you’re the only one who knows what the right choices are for you. Before you make any decisions, chat to someone you trust — older siblings who’ve been there before you, parents or guardians, student services, teachers or counsellors at schools – there are lots of people out there who’ll want to helpYou’ll also find tips for managing your money, and if your uni has access to Blackbullion you’ll find lots of lessons to help you learn more.

Good luck — not that you’ll need it! When you’re armed with the knowledge you need, you can tackle any challenge.

Expenses
Money going out

Studying comes with expenses. Pinning them down is the first step towards building a budget and mastering your money.

If you’ve only recently left school, then figuring out your own expenses may be new to you — but it has to be done. On the other hand, if you’re a mature student or already independent, and you’re used to managing your money, you’ll be a step ahead. That being said, you may still not be sure what studying is going to cost.

So, what one-off costs will you need to consider, what recurring costs will come up regularly, and what should you expect to pay?

Tuition

When it comes to studying expenses, this is the big one. Tuition fees are a reality that you’ll have to face.

In England, the most a university can charge for tuition is £9,250 a year. This cap was set as of July 2018, although tuition can cost more for international students. Make sure you stay informed, here

If you’re a UK citizen, you’re probably eligible for Tuition Fee Loan from Student Finance, which helps you cover the course tuition fee, so you won’t have to pay up front. If you’re not a UK citizen, you might still be eligible — it’s always worth checking.

You won’t have to pay the loan back until you’re earning over £511 a week or £2,214 a month (before tax and other deductions). Repayments are calculated as a percentage of your income. See our section on Student Finance, under “Income”, for more details.

Fees and Funding

Find out how tuition fee loans work, how much you will repay, and interest on your loan is calculated.

Watch this lesson

Course materials

Avg. Annual Cost

London
£450-£1070

Other UK
£450-£1070

Course materials might set you back quite a bit, depending on what you study. Textbooks can be pricey — check your course guide to get a proper idea of what you’ll need. It’s best to be prepared ahead of time, so you know what everything is going to cost you.

Be on the lookout for ways to save. Make yourself familiar with the uni library, and find out what they have to offer. They’ll have physical books, as well as online resources they can connect you to: journal articles, eBook and audiobooks, databases and the like.

Don’t shy away from second hand book stores (or buying second hand from online stores). You can also share costs with your classmates. There might be student discounts you’re entitled to — always ask, and always shop around.

Make sure you ask your university’s student support team if they have an Aspire scheme. That’s where you can get a preloaded card to use for books and course materials at the university shop.

Take the time to look into any apps or tech platforms that might help you out, too, like  Perlego or Kortext. Perlego works a lot like Spotify, except it’s for your textbooks instead of your music. Kortext works with university faculties to get you access to textbooks on your phone, laptop, or tablet — for a fraction of the cost.

Living costs

Living costs are your day-to-day expenses, the things you need to get by. It always pays to find ways to save. Consider signing up for TOTUM, and take a look at Student Beans. They can get you discounts from hundreds of big brands.

Accommodation

Avg. Weekly Cost

London
£162
Other UK
£126
On Campus
£142
Okay, so it’s stating the obvious, but you’re going to need somewhere to live. Somewhere to put your feet up at the end of the day. And of course, you’re going to need to pay for it.

Accommodation is one of the costs that fluctuates the most, depending on where you live and what your circumstances are. You might be staying in halls, or living at home with family, or renting privately with flatmates. Maybe you already have a place of your own — you might even be supporting your own household.

There’s really no way for us to tell you exactly what it will cost. You just need to make sure you understand what options you have available, and what’s going to be expected of you — what the cost is for living in halls, or for stuff like rent, bills, and the internet for private accommodation.

Groceries

Avg. Monthly Cost
London
£112
Other UK
£92

Here’s another essential: you gotta eat. Your costs will vary depending on your circumstances. If you’re a school-leaver with only yourself to take care of, this will be a smaller expense. If you have kids, or if you’re a carer, you’ll have more than just yourself on your shopping list.

Work out your food costs ahead of time, so you can stay in tip-top shape with three square meals a day. You’ll be tempted by the convenience of take out, but you can’t do that every night — your wallet can’t afford it, and neither can your body.

Then there are toiletries like toothpaste, toilet paper, soap and all that sort of stuff — that’s right up there with food in terms of essentials. Just go without for a few days, and ask the people around you. They’ll definitely agree.

Depending on your needs and preferences you may decide to spend a little more on some things like your favourite shampoo or moisturiser. For everything else, though, just buy own-brand items — after all, what’s the difference? As long as it’s proper quality, you’ll be making a saving.

You can save on these costs by buying in bulk (things like loo paper and dishwashing liquid) and splitting the bill with friends, family, or your flatmates. Shop around, and find the best deals — check out discounted stock, minimise your meat intake (go meatless Monday!), plan ahead, and avoid impulse purchases. Look out for coupons and vouchers, too.

Utilities, council tax, and other living expenses

Avg. Monthly Cost

London
£32
Other UK
£32

If you live in halls, then utilities and taxes should already be included in the cost. If you’re renting privately, though, things are different.

Full-time students are exempt from paying Council Tax, but if anyone you live with isn’t studying full-time you’ll have to pay. You might be entitled to a discount, though — check with your local council.

With TV Licences, you’ll need to have your own if you have a separate tenancy agreement. With a joint tenancy agreement, one TV Licence will cover the whole household. You can check here.

For private renters, utilities — things like electricity, gas, and water — will each be paid separately. There are bill splitting apps for flatshares, and you can often save money by setting up a direct debit. Have a look around to find what suits your situation best.

The internet is usually provided if you’re living in halls, or there’ll be free WiFi you can connect to. If you’re renting privately, check out the best deal and make sure you understand what you’re getting into — some deals include additional fees, like phone installation and line rental, which you might not really need. You could be better off using campus facilities, or your local library, and connecting to the WiFi there.

Your costs will depend on your usage, so don’t use what you don’t need. Be smart about it: only run your washing machine in off-peak hours, and only boil as much water as you’re going to use, that sort of thing. If you’re paying utility bills, then compare different suppliers so you can find the best deal.

Insurance

Avg. annual costs of
contents insurance

For 20 to 24 year olds
£63.18
Source: MoneySuperMarket (June 2019).

Sure, it might seem like just another expense to add on top of everything else — but if you end up needing it, you’ll be glad that your stuff is insured. You might have a laptop, a tablet, a phone — then there’s your textbooks, your clothes, your shoes… you definitely don’t want to be out of pocket if something happened.

For school leavers, you might be covered by your parents’ policy. If you live in halls, you might already be covered by their policy. Otherwise, there are student contents insurance packages that are very affordable. Just make sure you understand the terms and conditions so you know what you’re really paying for.

For all students sites like GoCompare or CompareTheMarket can be a good place to start your search for an insurance policy.

Transport

Avg. Monthly Cost

London
£78
Other UK
£44

Transport costs vary based on your location and how you choose to travel. If you can walk or take a bike, that’s a great way to stay in shape and save money — if you have to drive, consider carpooling and sharing the costs.

If public transport works best for you, look into the 16-25 Railcard, which can save you a third off on rail tickets. If you’re in London, check out the 18+ Student Oyster Photocard for discounts. There’s also the Young Person’s Coach Card, which you might find useful — it gives you a third off coach fares.

Childcare

Avg. Weekly Cost

Day nursery (25 hours for a child under 2):

London
£174
Other UK
£127
Source: Average childcare costs – Moneyadviceservice.

If you’ve got kids that need looking after, that’s another expense you’ll need to consider. Take your time to find out what childcare options are available in your local area, or if your uni has facilities you can use. You might be entitled to a student rate. Otherwise, family or friends can be a good option if they’re willing and able to help out.

It may be worthwhile looking at the Childcare Grant available via Student Finance.

Clothing

Avg. Weekly Cost

London
£37
Other UK
£31
When it comes to clothes, it really depends on what you’re willing to pay. Don’t be tempted to splurge when you could just as easily save. Keep an eye open for student discounts and get to know your local second hand stores. Just be careful of the big markups that can be found in some vintage shops.

If you want to keep your look fresh, consider doing a clothes swap. Check out The Great Fashion Revolution Clothes Swap on Fashion Revolution for one example — they’ve got all kinds of events and resources, too, like videos on darning socks and sewing buttons back on. Learning those basic skills is sure to save you some cash. You can also get some ideas on Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube on how to recycle old outfits and bring your old gear back to life.

Entertainment

Don’t let anyone tell you entertainment isn’t essential — you absolutely need to unwind at the end of a long week of studying. It doesn’t have to be anything big and fancy, but you’re going to want to stay in touch with your friends and enjoy a night out every once in a while. Make sure you’ve got that marked down as an expense.
You’re the only one who can control how much you spend on entertainment. Plan it out in advance to avoid surprises, and make sure you stay on top of what you spend.

Save money by looking for cheap (or free!) activities. They’re everywhere, if you look for them — check what’s happening at your uni, look online at sites like Meetup, or grab your local TimeOut.

Student Lifestyle

Discover some of the hidden costs that are commonly underestimated by first-year students.

Watch this lesson

Income
Money coming in

No amount of financial know-how is going to help if you don’t have any money. Income is any money that you have coming in, whether it’s from working a job or another source.

So, where can you get some money? It’s a simple question with a thousand answers. There are plenty of possibilities, like Student Finance, bursaries and scholarships, even part-time or freelance work — we couldn’t possibly cover everything here, but the list below should give you a lot to work with and start you on the right track.

Money from work

When it comes to making money, the first thing you’re likely to think of is a job. That’s certainly an option, and many students take up part-time or freelance work to make some extra cash.

Working part-time

In between your classes and the time you spend studying, you might have time for a part-time job. There are a few go-to areas for students looking to make some extra cash – retail or food service — whether that’s serving fast food, waiting tables or working a bar. Look around for jobs with flexible hours that fit your schedule.

If you can manage it, it can really help to get a job in your field of study. You’ll get to see what the field really looks like, which can help out with your studies, and when you graduate it looks great on your CV.

Working freelance

If it’s flexibility you’re looking for, freelance can be a great option. You can find jobs in areas like writing, coding, customer service and more on sites like Upwork or Fiverr. Or, if what you’re looking for is handiwork or physical labour, check out Taskrabbit or Airtasker. If you manage it right and it works out well, you might even be able to turn it into a side business.

Beware the tax man

If you’re working, you want to make sure you work out your taxes too. In most cases, the first £12,500 you earn in a year is tax free — this is known as your “Personal Allowance”, which works out to about £1,042 a month. You’ll also have to pay National Insurance if you earn over £166 a week. You should check gov.uk for more info.

Tax

Learn about how taxes are used in a social democracy and briefly introduce different points of view.

Watch this lesson

Money from loans

A loan isn’t technically income — in any other situation, you’d count it as an expense. After all, you end up paying off more than you borrowed once you take interest into account.

We can make an exception for when you’re studying, though. You’re getting the money to help you out while you’re at uni, and you’ll start paying it back when you’re working — so we’ll count it under your income.

 

Student Finance England

In England, the cap for tuition fees is £9,250 a year — though it can cost more for international students. The good news is, most UK students are eligible for Student Finance, which means you don’t pay anything up front.

Who can get it, and how

Eligibility for Student Finance is a complex beast. In the most basic terms, it depends on:

  • What uni you’re studying at — does it offer qualifying courses?
  • What your course is — is your course recognised?
  • Your nationality and/or residency status — are you a UK or EU citizen, are you a UK resident, and if so for how long?
  • Whether or not you’ve studied a higher education course before — is this your first higher education course?

The best thing you can do is go straight to the source — the Student Finance section at GOV.UK. You can also check the eligibility requirements for the support available. Student Services at any university should be able to help you out too, or at least point you in the right direction. UCAS also has a lot of helpful info on their finance page.

What you pay, and when

In England, you don’t start paying back your student loan until you’re earning over £511 a week, or £2,214 a month — that’s before tax, of course.

 

Once you hit that threshold, you’ll be paying the loan back monthly until it’s paid off. You’ll pay at a rate of 9% on your earnings above the threshold — so if you’re earning £3,214 per month, that’s £1,000 over the threshold, and you’ll pay 9% of the amount over the threshold, so in this example, £90 per month.

 

Unfortunately, your student loan earns interest — currently, in England, that’s 5.4%pa. That can change, so make sure you stay informed. You can find more info on the GOV.UK website, or by getting in touch with the Student Loans Company directly.

 

A quick note on voluntary repayments — that is, making contributions to your student loan above and beyond the 9%. It’s not necessarily a bad idea, but think about it carefully first. You might want to get it all paid off as soon as possible, but consider this: if you end up earning below the threshold in future, you won’t have to make repayments until you reach it again. If that happens, you might wish you’d held onto the money in savings.

By phone:

0300 100 0607, or by NGT text relay on 18001 then 0300 100 0607
Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm — Saturday, 9am to 4pm — Sunday – closed

By post: 

Student Finance England
PO Box 210
Darlington DL1 9HJ

Online:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SFEngland
Twitter: @SF_England

Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS)

Who can get it, and how

As a Scottish resident studying for the first time at university in Scotland, the Scottish government will pay the University for the cost of your tuition. 

It’s important to remember that even though you don’t need to pay for tuition fees, you will still need to apply to have them paid for by the Student Awards Agency Scotland, or SAAS, each year.

As a Scottish student studying in England, you will apply through SAAS to receive student funding.

What you pay, and when

Universities in England can currently charge tuition fees up to a maximum amount of £9,250 per year. You can apply for a tuition fee loan from SAAS that will cover up to the full amount of these fees.

Maintenance Loans

You can apply for a loan to assist you with your living costs for each year of study. The loan available is up to a maximum of £5,750, or £4,750 if your household income is greater than £34,000.

Repayments and Interest Rates 

The loans that you take during your time at university will be repaid at a rate of 9% of your earnings over £19,390 from the April after you graduate or leave your course.
You will be charged interest on your loan from the point you begin to receive funding. Interest is charged at 1.5%.

For example, you graduate and begin earning a salary of £25,000. This is £5,610 over the earnings threshold. You will repay £505 over the course of the year, or £42 a month.

Young Students’ Bursary 

You may be eligible to receive up to a maximum of £2,000 per year, depending on your household income. This bursary does not have to be repaid.

Getting in touch with SAAS

Phone
For full-time enquiries call 0300 555 0505
For part-time enquiries call 0300 300 3137

Post
Student Awards Agency Scotland
Saughton House
Broomhouse Drive
EDINBURGH
EH11 3UT

Online
You can use your SAAS account to message them:
Open SAAS Account
Log into your Dashboard
Select Submit Enquiry

Starting University in Scotland

There are lots of roads to success. But don’t let money be the driving force in your decision.

Watch this lesson

Student Finance Wales

Who can get it, and how

Eligibility for Student Finance in the most basic terms, depends on:

  • UK national and lived in the UK for the past 3 years
  • Ordinarily live in Wales
  • Studying your first degree

If you meet these criteria, you could be eligible for the full package of support for the duration of your course.

Don’t worry if you don’t meet these criteria, you might still be able to get student finance if you meet other eligibility criteria.

What you pay, and when

Universities in Wales can charge you up to £9,000 a year for undergraduate tuition. Universities in England, Northern Ireland and Scotland can charge up to £9,250 a year.

Support available

Tuition fee loans

You can apply online to Student Finance Wales for a loan of up to £9,250 to cover your tuition fees. If you’re attending a private university, you can get a loan of £6,615.

The loan is non-means-tested, so your household income doesn’t make a difference to the amount you’re entitled to. You’ll eventually have to pay it back.

The loan is paid by Student Finance Wales straight to your university.

Maintenance Loans

You can apply for a Maintenance Loan to help with your living costs. You can also get a Welsh Government Learning Grant (WGLG), which you won’t need to pay back.

Your student finance entitlement will be based on where you’re living and studying during term, this means the amount you can get is not based on your household income.

Maximum maintenance support you can get

Living with
your parents:

£8,335

Living away from home and
studying outside London:

£9,810

Living away from home
and studying in London

£12,260

Student Finance Wales only use your household income to work out how much Maintenance Loan and Maintenance Grant makes up your entitlement.
Tuition
Fee Loan

Up to
£9,250

Maintenance
support

Up to
£12,260

Depending on where you live and study

Welsh Government
Learning Grant

At least
£1,000 –

Up to
£10,124

Depending on household income

Repaying your student loan

In England and Wales, you don’t start paying back your student loan until you’re earning over £511 a week, or £2,214 a month, or £26,575 a year — that’s before tax, of course. (https://www.gov.uk/repaying-your-student-loan/when-you-start-repaying).

Once you hit that threshold, you’ll be paying the loan back monthly until it’s paid off. You’ll pay at a rate of 9% on your earnings above the threshold — so if you’re earning £3,214 per month, that’s £1,000 over the threshold, and you’ll pay 9% (or £90) per month.

Getting in touch with Student Finance Wale

By phone:

0300 200 4050
Monday to Friday (except bank holidays): 10am to 5.30pm

By post:

Student Finance Wales
PO Box 211
Llandudno Junction
LL30 9FU

What to do if you aren’t eligible

If you’re not eligible for Student Finance, that doesn’t mean your dreams to study at university are over. There are other ways to get the funding you need: you can work, which we’ve covered already, and then there are private loans, grants, bursaries and scholarships, you can get help from family, or from crowdsourcing — read on to see what other options might work for you.

Maintenance Loans

If you’re a full-time student and UK citizen, you might be eligible for a maintenance loan. This is to cover your day-to-day expenses: what you eat, what you wear, where you live, that sort of thing.

On the GOV.UK website, you can check if you’re eligible and how much you’re likely to get. If you’re not a UK citizen, you might still be eligible, so check it out. You can look into other options for support, too, and find out how to apply.

The amount you’ll get from a Maintenance Loan will vary depending on where you live, and whether you’re a full-time or part-time student. They’re means-tested, too, so you’ll need to share your household income.

Private Loans

You have to be careful, here — private loans are a tricky business. It can help a lot if you need some extra cash to cover your expenses, but it can be dangerous, too. Some lenders are predatory, taking advantage of your desperation with a razor-toothed smile.

If you understand exactly what you need, exactly what you can afford, and exactly what the terms of the loan are (and what they’re not!), then you can avoid being exploited with extortionate fees and interest.

Make sure you read the fine print, shop around for the best deal, and ask someone you trust before you make any decisions.

Money from grants

A grant is a great thing to get — unlike loans, a grant doesn’t have to be paid back (barring certain conditions, like if you decide to drop out of uni).

There are scholarships, which you might be eligible for on the basis of your achievements — academic, sporting, musical, or otherwise — or you might be eligible for a bursary, which are granted on the basis of need.

NHS Bursaries

If you’re in the later years of medical or dental training, you might be eligible for an NHS bursary. These are means-tested, so it depends on your household income. You can find out more, here.

If you do get an NHS bursary, your payment will go into your account within ten working days of your first day of term — so make sure you’re ready to wait it out until then.

Nursing and Healthcare Students

All you need to know about your tuition fees and maintenance loans.

Watch this lesson

Other Scholarships and Bursaries

There are so many scholarships and bursaries out there. You should have a look at the UCAS page for “Additional Funding” or spend some time on the Scholarship Hub or Blackbullion Funding Hub. You might find something on the Turn2Us Grant Search page, too. Check-in with student services at your university, too, or even on your university’s website.

The amount of time and effort it takes to find and apply for a grant is well worth it. Sure, maybe you’ll have to write an application essay or two, but why wouldn’t you want some extra money and support?

University Funding UK

Understand the funding structure, course fees and financial support that is available to you at university.

Watch this lesson

Money from family

Any money you have coming in will count towards your income, and that includes any cash your parents are able and willing to give you. If any of your income is coming from your family, make sure you let them know how much you appreciate it. In fact, maybe you could take some time right now to send your family a message. Let them know you’re thinking of them. We’ll wait.

If you haven’t had a chat with your family about money, you really should. Not every family is able to help out financially, but there may be other ways they can help. Maybe they can offer you a lift to class to save you on transport costs, or maybe they can provide you with some meals, or much needed laundry services.

At the end of the day, though, the important thing is to know what to expect. The more reliable your income is, and the more you know what support you’ll be getting, then the better you’ll be able to budget. You just won’t know if you don’t ask, and your family won’t know if you don’t tell them what you need.

Money from benefits

Depending on your circumstances, you might be entitled to additional funds or tax credits. It’s well worth checking whether you’re eligible for the different kinds of benefits the government provides.

These are things like income support for students on a low income, childcare grants for full-time students with children or dependents, and assistance for students with additional needs under the Disabled Students’ Allowance.

 

Check out the GOV.UK Benefits section, and the Extra Help page on the GOV.UK Student Finance section. Citizens Advice could help you out as well — they offer advice and support in a number of different areas, including what benefits you might be entitled to.

Income Support

If you have low income, you might be entitled to Income Support. You don’t need to have a permanent address to apply. There are different kinds of criteria for Income Support, so you’re best to check the GOV.UK website, or get in touch with Jobcentre Plus for assistance.

Childcare Grants for Parents and Carers

Parents or carers who are studying full-time may be entitled to additional funds, on top of what you’re already getting from Student Finance — and you don’t have to pay these grants back. You’ll apply at the same time as you put in your application for Student Finance, and you’ll need to provide evidence.

The Childcare Grant is for those with children under 15 (or under 17, in certain circumstances). The Dependent Adults Grant is much the same, but for those who have adult dependents. There’s also the Parents’ Learning Allowance, for full-time students with children, which doesn’t affect your benefits or tax credit.

Disabled Students’ Allowance

A Disabled Students’ Allowance, or DSA, can help you cover any costs that arise from mental health issues, long-term illness, or another disability. These are things like specialist equipment (including computers), non-medical helpers, travel expenses, and other costs. You’ll find information on how to apply for a DSA when you’re applying for Student Finance.

These payments will depend on your individual needs, not your household income, and don’t need to be paid back. You’ll need to undergo a “needs assessment”, first — you won’t be reimbursed for any purchases you make beforehand. The funds will either go straight into your account, or to the organisation that’s providing you with the service or equipment that you need.

Money from other sources

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is simple: you get a group of people — that’s your “crowd” — and they each contribute a small donation. There are people out there who are happy to help, especially if you can share your story and connect with them. There are a few platforms to choose from, like GoFundMe, Hubbub, or JustGiving, but there are loads more out there if you look for them.

Family Action

If your university has a partnership with Family Action, you may be able to get a grant, or assistance with your education. Even without a partnership, you might still be able to apply — check the specifics of what’s on offer at the Family Action website.

Budgeting
Managing your money

Budgeting, in the most basic sense, just means keeping track of what’s coming in and what’s going out. A budget doesn’t have to be a tedious spreadsheet full of complex formulas that need constant adjustment — it can just be an overview of your income, and a plan for managing your expenses.

You might already keep a budget, but if you don’t then it’s a good habit to establish early. You’re never not going to need one — managing your money is a lifelong responsibility. All of life’s big decisions, like buying a car or a house, or deciding whether or when to have kids, will all require your budgeting skills to be on point.

There’s another great benefit to budgeting, and that’s peace of mind. Worrying about how much money you have and whether you’ll have enough isn’t very much fun. Uncertainty breeds anxiety, and anxiety sucks the joy out of life.

Budgeting

We’ve already had a look at expenses and at income — a budget is just about lining those up and keeping them balanced.

If you’ve not created or managed a budget before, you’ll be wondering what you’re meant to do and what sort of things you’re supposed to focus on. Well, it’s not too tricky — here are some pointers:

  1. Money coming in — How much are you making? Could you be making more, and if so how? Are there scholarships and bursaries to look at? Extra work you could pick up? Assistance you could ask for from your family?
  2. Money going out — How much are you spending? Could you make any changes so you’re spending less? Are there any expenses you can reduce or cut entirely?
  3. Money tracking — When are you spending your money? Do you have recurring expenses like bills, rent, or a weekly grocery shop? Are you tracking your income and expenses so you have enough for when you need it?
  4. Money expectations vs. Money reality — In an ideal world, what would your money situation look like? Are you finding yourself overspending on your food budget, or facing too many unexpected expenses? How could you change your behaviour or circumstances so your reality matches your expectations?

Budgeting

No one expects living on a student budget to be easy. So let’s create a manageable plan that will set you up for success.

Watch this lesson

Debt

Debt isn’t a dirty word — what matters is how you manage it. For instance, if you have debt from a Student Finance loan, you don’t pay it back until you’re earning enough, and it’s paid back as a percentage of your income. That’s a debt that you can manage.
If you’re planning to take on any private debt, there’s one simple rule that you should bear in mind: don’t borrow what you don’t need, or what you can’t afford. It might seem like having cash up front would be worth it, even if you have to pay it back with interest later on — but that’s a trap. Plan for the long term, consider every angle, and make sure that you can pay back anything you borrow and the interest, too.

Planning your debts

Being prepared is the most essential step for taking on debt. We understand this won’t be too helpful if you already have debts you have to handle, but if you’re in a position to prepare then make sure you do.

That means being responsible about the loans you’re planning to take out, budgeting your debts ahead of time, and being clear on all of these questions:

  • What are the terms?
  • How long will you have to pay it off?
  • What level of interest are you looking at?
  • Most importantly, what do you need it for — that is, what expenses is it covering?
  • And how will you pay for it — in other words, what income accounts for the cost?

Student overdrafts

Planning your debts also means finding the best option for getting a loan. You might consider looking into student overdrafts, which can be a helpful way to stay on top of your expenses when you’re not receiving a regular income.

An overdraft is when you spend more money than you really have. If you’re a student, you can get what’s called an “Arranged Overdraft” — that’s when your bank agrees to let you spend up to a certain amount, even if you don’t have the money in your account.

You do have to pay it back, though, but if you manage it correctly it can be a big help. Different banks offer different overdrafts, for different amounts and with different terms. Check into what’s on offer and make sure you compare before you commit.

Beating debt

Beating your debt is like running a marathon, or preparing for a prize fight. Keep your eyes on your goal and always be on the lookout for any opportunities to take some steps forward.

If you see a way to save some money, jump on it. If there are any opportunities for you to earn a bit of extra money, take it. Make sure you’re staying organised, too. Your budget is a great tool to help you tackle debt.

Debt

Debt is the obligation to pay money under an agreement, and so is credit. These agreements often involve interest.

Watch this lesson

Planning

If you’ve never managed a budget before, you’re probably wondering where to begin. Here’s a helpful template that can get you started — we’re not saying it’s the best approach, by any means, but it’s a simple way for you to get familiar with tracking your income, your expenses, and making sure it all balances.

Options
Changing your mind

Some of us know exactly what we want to do the moment we learn how to walk. For the rest of us, we sometimes realise that even the best laid plans can change — uni is all about learning, growing, and developing, and sometimes that means learning that you’d rather be doing something else. Everyone’s entitled to change their mind.

Changing courses

If you want to change courses, you’ll need to consider what expenses that might involve. Your material costs will be different — you’ll need different textbooks for sure.

It could even impact your transport costs and other expenses, and it might mean that you’re studying for longer than you expected, which will change your overall accommodation costs. And there be a knock-on effect to your student finance entitlement too.

Dropping out

You might’ve realised that studying at university just isn’t for you. Another opportunity might’ve come up that you’d rather pursue. Maybe circumstances outside of your control mean you can’t keep to your plans.

No matter the reason, there’s nothing wrong with it. Life happens when you’re busy making other plans. You just need to make sure you manage it right.

Managing your change of mind

Before you make the decision to drop out or change your course, make sure you check the terms of any loans or grants you’ve received. If your studying situation changes, you might have to pay back any scholarships or bursaries you received.

Talk to student services, talk to your university, and talk to anyone else you trust. They’ll help you consider anything that needs to be considered, and you can plan accordingly.

You will have to pay back your student loan if you leave your course. You need to tell your university, and contact Student Finance England as well. If you end up being overpaid, you’ll need to pay that back too.

There’s more info about how suspending or changing your course can affect Student Finance on the GOV.UK website, so check it out and make sure you’re making an informed decision.

Resources
Where else to look

We’ve mentioned a lot of different resources — here’s where we bring all of them together in one place, to give you a handy reference.

Just another reminder on these: they’re presented for your information only. We can’t recommend anything, because we don’t know your circumstances. Consider it a starting point for your own research.