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 help. You’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.
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?
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
Avg. Annual Cost
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.
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.
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
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.
Avg. annual costs of
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.
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.
Avg. Weekly Cost
Day nursery (25 hours for a child under 2):
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.
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.
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.
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.
Beware the tax man
Money from loans
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
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.
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
Student Finance England
PO Box 210
Darlington DL1 9HJ
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For full-time enquiries call 0300 555 0505
For part-time enquiries call 0300 300 3137
Student Awards Agency Scotland
You can use your SAAS account to message them:
Open SAAS Account
Log into your Dashboard
Select Submit Enquiry
Starting University in Scotland
Student Finance Wales
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.
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.
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.
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
studying outside London:
and studying in London
Depending on where you live and study
Depending on household income
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.
0300 200 4050
Monday to Friday (except bank holidays): 10am to 5.30pm
Student Finance Wales
PO Box 211
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
Childcare Grants for Parents and Carers
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
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
Managing your money
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.
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:
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
Planning your debts
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?
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.
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.
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.
Changing your mind
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.
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.
Where else to look
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.