I can’t believe it has taken me until my final year to write this post! Being able to afford being a full time student with bills to pay was about the only thing I had to consider very hard when applying to university as a mature student. Whilst I don’t have the responsibilities of children or dependents, I do have a house to pay for, bills and general life costs! Going from 3 years with a full time salary to student finance was daunting, and I know will be for so many others.
So I thought I would share the few steps I took to get a better idea of how I could manage my money as a student and ultimately make my dream of university as a mature student a reality! Also a little disclaimer that I do live with my fiancé who works full time, there are no dependents in our household so it is a little easier for us than maybe for other people; but I still think that it is possible for others if you really do want to go for it!
The first thing that I did when considering university was sit down with my partner and go through our bank statements/direct debit and list out everything that we paid monthly for. We made columns of essentials, the kind of things that you have to pay for like water, electricity, phones that we already had contracts for and so on. We made another column for spends such as petrol and food; things that we need to spend money on but probably didn’t budget properly for before. Writing it down gave us a better idea of how much we were spending on average on this per month to get an idea of how much we should realistically budget for this.
Then another column for subscriptions such as Netflix, Amazon Prime; the things that we could realistically live without, but might be nice if we kept one of if we could afford it. And finally a miscellaneous column for anything else we spent our money on – to give us another average of how much we spent! This then gave us a rough idea of what we spent each month in total and what was a necessity and what we could realistically stop spending our money on, even if only just temporarily whilst getting through my degree. This gave us a total of how much we needed to live comfortably to afford the necessities.
It is so easy to just settle for the price that your current provider for utilities, or wi-fi is offering for your next contract period and let the contracts roll over. But spending that extra bit of time to compare prices online really pays off. If you get better prices elsewhere but want to stay with the current provider, let them know you’ve found a better deal elsewhere, the might just be able to magically lower their prices. The money is 100% better off in your pocket.
The same goes for supermarkets, always check out what coupons you can use through loyalty cards/rewards schemes as the points you collect can be used for money off in other shops and they soon add up! Another tip for supermarkets is to make a meal plan – that way you don’t end up buying unnecessary food, especially helpful if you are on a tight schedule with lots of uni work to do and need to keep organised.
Seems like such a simple thing, but seriously make use of it!! I think a lot of people don’t realise just how much you can get student discount on. Amazon prime for example , is half the price per month with student discount. So you can change the amount you need to budget for a luxury like that! For other subscriptions which don’t offer a student discount, see if there is someone you can share the subscription cost with. Many TV subscription services for example offer multiple devices under one account, which may be an option for you!
If you are an independent student your parents income will not be taken into consideration when applying for maintenance loans. The different criteria for being an independent student can be found here. This may mean that you might be eligible for a higher maintenance loan than if your parents income was taken into consideration. This fortunately, was the case for me due to having financially supported myself and lived away for home for over 3 years. Though it is important to remember that if you are married, or over 25 and living with a partner their income will be taken into consideration.
However, a maintenance loan is not the only way you can get financial help to be able to support yourself and your family. For example, some healthcare students are eligible for the new NHS Bursary, where you can receive a £1,000 non means tested bursary, or more through means-testing. It is worth looking into and more information can be found here or on the NHS Bursary website.
Also check the bursaries/scholarships/grants that your university may offer for exceptional grades/students with children and other reasons! There may be something to help you financially which may simply take filling in a form to get!
Part time job to work around studies
I know that a lot of people say that zero hour contracts should be banned, but a zero hour contract has been a life saver for me as a student nurse. I’ve been able to pick shifts around my studies/placement and it has also allowed me to work more in the quieter weeks and then less when I have a lot to do. It is certain that I would not be able to sustain a set hour per week contract with an ever changing schedule. If you are on a course where you know what your schedule will look like then a part time job with regular hours may suit you, and definitely a great option for some extra money.
Utilise your university resources
I have lost count of the amount of times people have asked what books they should be buying for their healthcare course. Honestly, I have bought zero so far and am in my final year! I know that some courses may be different and you may need to purchase some books. But always check with the library first to see if they have copies of the books you need. You may also be able to take extended loans out for some of the books you may need for a longer period of time, some I have had since the first day of first year!
This also applies to software such as the Microsoft suite, which includes things such as word and powerpoint. I didn’t pay for this when I started university as it comes included as a student of the university.
Do research about what else your university can offer you before buying things out of your own pocket straightaway. You may be able to get help with the purchase of a laptop, or even be able to loan one from your university.
I know this won’t have answered everyones concerns and worries regarding financing time at university, but I hope it has helped somewhat! Good luck with your studies! You can also find more university posts from me here.