This time last year, I was applying for university and student finance and thank god I did so early in the year because I was shocked to learn about the huge expense that going to university is. Not going to university was not an option for me, it was the next step in my life that I wanted to take no matter how expensive…
This topic is a difficult one to tackle however I think it’s important for young people to make their opinions on student finance heard. This blog post could’ve been a long rambly rant about how unfair the system is however negativity is not what this blog is about and instead I hope to suggest my ideas on how to prepare for the financial strain of uni.
Just a bit of background on my situation, I study at university in London, notoriously more expensive however it’s the perfect place for me to be. When applying for university, everyone gets their tuition fees ‘paid’ for by a government loan which you pay back in instalments once you earn over a certain amount of money. However living costs such as rent is covered by a maintenance loan from Student Finance England. This loan is dependant on your household income; essentially, the more money your parents earn, the less you get. In my case, I got a loan so small that it didn’t cover my student accommodation rent by almost £2000.
To put this into perspective, my rent for the year is £6000 and the majority of my friends and flatmates get almost £10,000 each in their maintenance loans. In comparison I get just under £5000. (NOTE: If you live in London you get slightly more.) From that you can see that in comparison to my situation, the majority of people I know have approximately £4000 to live on after paying their rent. I had a lump in my throat on reading how much (…or how little) I was expected to get in my maintenance loan however straight away joked, “at least I have a lot less to pay back in the long run!” Which is true and indeed a positive, it just meant I had to make a few social sacrifices and work my ass off during the run up to uni. I both needed and wanted to be 90% financially independent during my first year at university as I have a big family back in the New Forest however my mum does help me with some food money and my phone bill which is amazing.
I worked 2 or 3 evening shifts a week at my job in a cafe/bar/restaurant a week during Sixth Form however as soon as my exams were over at the beginning of June I upped my game to 6 or 7 shifts a week including split-shifts right up until I left for university at the end of September. It was a huge help that I worked alongside 2 of my best friends and a great team during the busy summer months however it was exhausting. Before long I was earning what I used to earn in 6-7 months in 1 month and the good thing about having only Monday and Tuesday off meant that I didn’t have time to go and spend money on going out at the weekends. To be honest, the hard work I put into my job the other 5 days of the week left me not wanting to waste money on going out anyway.
Working full-time meant that I missed out on a family holiday, a holiday with friends, festivals and enjoying weekends and the summer in general. However, knowing I was moving to university in September kept me going as did my great team and work friends. It was difficult at times with friends who had the “Ugh, you’re always working Alice” attitude and even more difficult knowing some people didn’t have to lift a finger because their parents were going to fund their entire university experience anyway. I had to remind myself constantly, that in the long run i’d be better off knowing what real life is like and making/managing my own money.
I gave myself 10 days off work before moving to uni to sort the admin-side of my life out before moving to London, (and to empty and clean my room at home!) I wanted to make sure I was fully prepared and had bought everything I needed. This called for a mammoth trip to IKEA where I spent £200, (easily done), on essentials and storage for my room and bathroom and kitchen. Next stop was Boots where I spent another easy £100 on toiletries. I know that sounds like a lot of stuff, and it was, however it’s now January and I still have more than enough shower gel, cotton pads and tampons let along a bag full to the brim with paracetamol, strepsils and allergy tablets!!
Once I moved to London, I decided not to get a job in the first term, it was important for me to settle in and enjoy myself without having to rush off to work every five minutes like I did for the past few months. Luckily I had saved enough to do so. Now it’s January, it’s back to reality and time to get a job. I’ve picked up some part time hours in a restaurant on the bar and making coffees. I’d advise shopping around for jobs until you find the one that suits you best. Some of my friends made the mistake of working in retail during December and got lured into working Christmas eve and boxing day. I’m in London primarily to study Journalism and that is, and always will be my priority. I hope to work no more than 18 hours a week in order tide me over with spending money and saving for my house next year.
Managing your finances at Uni is a huge learning curve however if carefully planned you can do it. I’m pretty impressed with myself that I don’t even have an overdraft let alone be hundreds of pounds into it like a few people I know (people that also have almost maximum loan………enough said)
Anyway, i’ve accidentally cracked my Macbook screen, the computer I spent the whole of 2015 saving for, so that’s going to need paying for asap…C’est la vie!
Thanks for reading,