Going to college or university can often be the start of your independence. That means a whole load of added responsibilities you didn’t think about before. Yup, we’re talking money…
Rent, bills, loans, taxes: they’re all words many of us don’t have to think about until we move out of our parents’ house, and become financially independent. But part of the fun of going to university is getting to grips with looking after yourself, and learning the ropes of adulthood.
One of the biggest struggles of becoming financially independent is drawing up a budget, and sticking to it. We’re all guilty of overspending now and again, however, the trick is to be realistic about your spending: add up all of your monthly outgoings, from rent and bills to food and socialising, and work out how much you have left over.
Don’t make your budget too small either, as you’ll just end up going over it every month, and, as we all know, that can be a slippery slope to over spending even further.
Michaela Sinclair works for the Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) Student Finance team; providing advice to students on any financial issue they may be having. Running drop-in sessions for general queries, or scheduled appointments for one- on-one support. Similar services can be found at every Scottish university.
“Students mostly come to us looking for advice with debt, budgeting, or if they’re having a financial crisis,” explains Michaela. “We help in many ways: from providing emotional support, to helping more practically, by assisting with filling out forms, or identifying hidden costs, such as TV licenses, insurance and travel costs.”
For prospective students in the 2019/2020 academic year, it’s never too early to start planning. Though the official deadline dates have not been released yet, if you do not apply for funding by the end of June, the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) will not be able to process your application for the start of your studies, meaning you’ll have to foot the bill until your application is sorted. Eeek!
Sure, you’ll have your money backdated, but is it worth it to have to scrounge through freshers’ week all because you didn’t get your application in on time? Nope.
The loan you’ll be granted depends on your household income (your parents’ income if you live with them permanently). Households earning up to £33,999 entitle you to £5,750 a year from SAAS, but if your parents earn £34,000 or above, you can claim for £4,750 a year.
Depending on your situation, you may be eligible for more money, too.
The Care Experienced Students Bursary is available to students who have been in the care system and are under 26 years old on the first day of the academic year of their course.
The Disabled Students’ Allowance provides extra help if you incur additional living costs because of a disability or learning difficulty. Colleges and universities also offer their own bursaries, which can be applied for on their website.
For current students, don’t forget your application at the start of first year is not valid for your whole time at university – you must apply to SAAS every year you require funding of tuition fees and living costs.
Human Resource Management graduate, Molly McAleavey began to experience financial trouble in her first year of university.
“I never checked my bank account and assumed my rent money had been withdrawn, however it had not,” admits Molly. “I basically spent my whole student loan, which was meant to last me the whole term as I was funded by Student Finance England, in just under two weeks during freshers’ week.”
Molly lived every student’s worst nightmare: living away from home for the first time and running out of money within weeks of moving out, trying to work out how to survive until the next loan payment. Fortunately, Molly was able to turn to her university, who had the means to help her escape her financial trouble.
“I was able to use an emergency loan when my whole nightmare happened, which was really helpful,” says Molly. “I also found out about the university’s discretionary fund which helps students who receive no financial support from family. I applied for this in my second year and successfully received a loan for the remaining time at university.
“This really helped me with financial worries and stress and I think it’s a great thing that the university provides, as not everyone has parents who can send them money every month.”
Universities provide discretionary funds for students who are experiencing severe financial trouble, and can be a lifeline for those on minimum loans, or whose parents can’t afford to help out now and again.
However, this option is not a backup after you’ve splurged on a shopping spree, or paid for a spontaneous mid- semester trip abroad – it’s a last resort for students who cannot manage without it.
“Don’t avoid checking your bank account,” urges Molly. “Keep track of what you’re spending in a notebook or on your phone, so you can always be aware of how much money you have.”
“The most important thing you can do is not avoid the situation,” Michaela agrees. “If you’re struggling with money, make sure to visit your university’s student finance service – don’t pretend that the problem doesn’t exist, because that will only make things worse.”
We’ve all been there: spending a little more than we meant to on the weekly shop, or impulse-bought that coat that we had to have there and then. Nobody’s saying you can’t treat yo’self now and again, just don’t make it a habit.
Part of growing up is learning to be responsible for yourself, which includes looking after your money. So, whether you’re already money savvy, or just learning the ropes, make sure to use the services available to you, to make the most of your dolla.
If you’re experiencing financial difficulty while studying, get in touch with your university or college’s finance team, who will be able to advise you on the support available.