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What To Do If You’re Struggling With Money At University

If you're short on money once you're at university there are lots of options available to you and ways for you to reduce your costs.

If concerns about money are having a detrimental impact on your university work and mental health you may be able to qualify for extenuating circumstances. The university might be able to extend your deadlines and provide you with extra support and tutoring if it’s making you fall behind in class. You will usually need to prove it’s out of your control and having a significant ability on your ability to study.

Take Advantage Of Deals

  1. If you have to buy books for your course look out for your department’s second hand book sale, the books are often less than half price. You can find deals on ebay by searching for common misspellings of the book names, less people will have seen the item so you can put in an offer for a lower price.
  2. Don’t buy anything that’s full price. The majority of websites offer some kind of discount, you can either use your student discount or just Google for a 10% off code.
  3. If you live with 5 housemates and you all have your own Netflix account you can all save money by sharing an account as Netflix allows multiple profiles on one account if you live in the same household. Saving £7 a month doesn't seem like a lot but by the end of the year you'll have saved £84!
  4. Make the most of free trials and student deals such as free 6 months Amazon Prime next day delivery and movies.
  5. If you buy a new computer/laptop and need the Microsoft suite, most of the time your university will allow you to download the full suite for free from their website.
  6. If you open a student bank account with Santander you'll get a free three year rail card that saves you 30% off train travel!

Here’s 83 other great ways to save money

Medication Waiver

If you're a student who needs medication and are struggling to cover the costs of it you can apply for a certificate which waives the fees. This means tested, and more information can be found here. If you need multiple prescriptions each month consider buying a prepayment certificate, this allows you to get unlimited prescriptions for the duration of your certificate.

Means Tested Bursaries and Scholarships

If you're not already in receipt of a bursary or scholarship it's worth researching if your university allows applications during the term time. Most universities offer students with lower household incomes the opportunity to receive a non-repayable means tested grant, the grants can be on a first come first served basis so make sure to research the bursaries your university offers ASAP.

Academic Scholarships

Some universities offer scholarships and awards if you achieve certain grades in your university work. Sometimes you have to apply for the scholarships and other times they're automatically awarded, research what funding is available from your university in detail so you don't miss any deadlines.

For example:

Queen's University Belfast’s AA Sherrard Prize awards £500 to whichever student gains the highest mark in the assessment of the module “Land Law” in the LLB programme.

University of Brighton also has merit scholarships worth £1000 for students at the end of their first/second year. There is no application process, it’s just awarded based on academic performance.

Get A Part Time Job

If your course leaves you with enough time you could consider getting a part time job in your university town. Universities regularly recruit students to work in the student union as open day ambassadors, pay tends to be good and they’re very flexible about your studies.

Usually an easy way for students to make money is by working at hospitality events, as events can’t currently take place, there are plenty of jobs you can do from home. All you need is a stable internet connection and you can earn money by taking surveys, online tutoring, working as a virtual assistant or social media manager. Find online opportunities here.

Food Banks

Most universities will have a food pantry for students in need, there are also local food banks which sell food at lower prices.

Hardship Funds

Universities often offer hardship funds for students in trouble, often called Access to Learning Funds (do not factor this into your budget). If you've managed your finances responsibly and already accessed all funds available to you e.g. have a student loan you may be able to access a hardship fund to support your studies. To apply, go to your university’s student support team, they will go over your bank statements and bills with you to draw up an action plan. The amount you get is decided by your university and can be paid in a lump sum or in installments, this is usually non-repayable.

Starting Your Own Business At University

If you’re entrepreneurial or creative you could make some extra cash by starting your own business. This doesn't need to be a massive business, even starting your own Etsy store selling cards and prints, or a Depop store selling customised clothes can see you earning a decent amount of money.

You could also make a passive income by writing a Kindle book or uploading a design to RedBubble, once uploaded you can just sit back and wait for the orders to come in, you do not have to do anything, the website will handle it all.

Some universities actually offer enterprise scholarships to help you with your business. For example, the Enterprise Scheme at the University of Leeds helps you with training and transport costs, matches you with business and university mentors to help you grow your business.


If you’re struggling a private loan or a credit card should be your absolute last resort, it’s easy to get sucked in and you'll be stuck with really high interest repayments. You should exhaust other options first, for example Santander offers a 0% student overdraft for four years (again don’t factor your overdraft into your budget). At all costs, avoid payday loans, the repayment rates are extortionate. Explore other options for loans such as increasing your student finance loan, speaking to your university, family members, and your bank.

Emergency Short Term Loans From the University

If you are in dire need of financial support and have exhausted all options available to you (Student Finance, your student overdraft, savings, any bursaries or grants you're receiving), you may be able to apply for an emergency short term loan from your university. These loans tend to be interest free and usually need to be repaid. All loans have terms and conditions, some universities allow you to use the loan towards rent, others only allow you to use it for day to day living expenses.

If you are struggling with finance, speak to your university's student union.

For example:

Brighton University has a Bridging Loan available to students who are in a temporary crisis and can't pay for day to day expenses such as food and travel to university. This loan is short-term and will need to be repaid in 4 weeks.

Keele University offers an Emergency Loan if an unexpected emergency arises. They normally process them on the same day, and you have 6 weeks to repay the money, they do not charge interest.

By Clarissa Ducie

Posted in Advice, Student Life on Nov 30, 2020 by

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