How To Make Your Student Loan Go Further

At this point in the university year, you’ll likely be familiar with how your student loan (also called maintenance loan) works, including how much you’re entitled to and exactly when it’ll be arriving in your bank account. By our guesses, you’ll also likely be expecting a final instalment at the beginning of April… which after celebrating the end of January exams, you’ll no doubt be needing!  

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We know that everyone’s maintenance loan is different, and for some, it won’t be enough to cover your university lifestyle without finding an additional source of income. However, these budgeting tips can help you cut costs from whatever pot of money you’re using to live on, and in turn, hopefully save you some cash in the long run. 

With the final loan instalment about to land in your account, it’s never too late to look at ways you can make it go further – especially if you’ve got your heart set on some exciting summer plans with your university mates. And if you’re in your first or second year of university, you can implement these saving tips into your next academic year, too.

So, keep reading for our expert advice on how to make your maintenance loan go further, including ways to cut down unnecessary spending and nifty saving tips you previously probably might not have thought of. 

  • Calculate your costs 

    The first port of call when making your loan go further is to calculate just how much you’re spending. If you’re reading this blog midway through the academic year, this task will be much easier since you’ll already have a general understanding of where your funds are going. However, it’s definitely still possible to calculate your outgoings at the beginning of semester one – you’ll just have to think a little harder about what you’re going to spend your money on!

    We recommend grabbing a bit of scrap paper to do this, and maybe one of those fifteen free pens you stole from Fresher’s Fair… then you’ll need to jot down everything you think you’ll need to buy over the rest of the year, including how much they cost. An easy way to do this is to begin with the things you can’t live without like rent, electricity and food. You can then move onto flexible costs, for example, textbooks, nights out and clothes. It’s also worth considering any extras like saving for holidays over the summer or during reading week.

    Adding up all these costs can be pretty intimidating, but this exercise will help you get a general ballpark figure to stick to and can prevent you from veering too much off course with your spending. Considering funds for extras is also a good way to give you some additional cash to play with, so you don’t need to let a strict budget totally run your life and can still say yes to spontaneous plans!

  • Pool your money

    Maintenance loans can be tricky, especially when everyone will get a slightly different handout depending on their financial situation back home. For a lot of students, this loan alone won’t be enough to live on at university and you might have to look at other ways to pool your money. By sitting down and considering just how you can get to the figure you estimated during your calculations, you’ll feel a lot more relaxed with your student budget.

    There are several different ways students can fund themselves at university outside of their student loan:

    • Parental contributions 
    • Part-time jobs
    • Student bursaries and grants
    • State benefits
    • Hardship funds 
    • Course scholarships 
    • Local incentives 
  • Make a budget

    After you know just how much money you’ll likely need and where the money is coming from, you can start making a budget and allocating cash where it needs to go. It’s a good idea to create this budget when your loan instalment immediately comes in, so you know exactly how much you’ve got in your account to play with. 

    You can create a student budget by following these steps:

    1. Plan to pay for the essentials first and the things you said you couldn’t live without. This also includes anything that comes with financial penalties if you miss payments.
    2. The leftover money is your allowance to live on. You can split this allowance into weekly or daily amounts – whatever is easier for knowing how much you can spend to stick to your budget. Remember to give yourself some wiggle room for nights out and treating yourself to a Deliveroo hangover cure.
    3. Cut out any unnecessary costs – including things you don’t really need.
    4. See if you can pay less on any contracts by switching deals; we recommend researching the best-value phone contracts for students or considering pay-as-you-go mobile deals. You can then reconfigure this into your budget.
  • Prioritise your rent

    Even if you’re living somewhere known for its cheap student lifestyle, it’s normal for the cost of your student accommodation to make up the best part of your student loan. This can be scary for many students who might not have had to spend any money on rent before they moved out of their parent’s house. For this reason, it’s important to make rent a priority. 

    Students who live close to the university often choose to stay living with their parents and commute to class to save money; it’s still possible to live a full student life if you don’t move out! 

    For those who do want to move out of the family home and try student accommodation, a great tip is to start looking early – this works for both Freshers and those moving into private accommodation. Taking time to properly look at your options for first-year accommodation can help you find one that suits your budget, while beginning your house search as soon as you’ve got a group together will leave you with more options to consider across a range of rental budgets. 

  • Cook smart, eat smart

    As well as rent, food costs like weekly shops, eating out and takeaways make up a big part of your student budget – and not being smart about the cost of feeding yourself can quickly eat into your maintenance loan. The following tricks can help you cook smart, and eat smart:

    • Plan your meals by creating a meal plan. Incorporating a variety of foods will ensure you never get bored with what you’ve decided to cook in advance.
    • Track just how much you’re spending on eating out and doing food shops to get an insight into your daily and weekly expenditures. You can then use this to adjust your budget.
    • Speaking of food shops, you can shop smart by making a shopping list before you go to help avoid impulse purchasing, as well as keeping an eye on in-store sales and discounts. When you can, buy staple items like rice, pasta and canned goods in bulk – these items are typically more cost-effective when bought in larger quantities. 
    • Minimise food waste by cooking in batches and freezing portions for another day. This can be really good for exam season and when you have a busy schedule. You can also prevent food waste by embracing versatile ingredients that can be used in various dishes like spinach, eggs, tofu and chicken. 
    • Investing in some good quality kitchen tools like knives and a non-stick pan can make cooking at home not just more efficient, but more enjoyable too. These tools are a staple part of even the most basic student recipes
    • Cooking with housemates and splitting the cost of ingredients is an easy way to save money – not to mention make some delicious dishes together!
    • Take advantage of student discounts offered by many grocery stores, restaurants and even food delivery services. When you don’t fancy cooking for another night, these discounts enable you to eat out or grab a takeaway without stretching your budget too thin.
    • Utilise innovative food waste apps like Too Good To Go, an app where users can browse food establishments nearby and pick up ‘magic bags’ full of leftover food that would otherwise be thrown away for a fraction of the retail cost. For example, a box full of morning pastries from Starbucks, or a chicken burrito from Barburrito. Another great app is Olio, a platform where neighbours can list unwanted food items for free that they no longer need.
  • Find ways to save

    You’ve got to be thrifty to make your student loan go as far as it can. By finding small ways to save here and there, you’ll soon see your bank account climbing penny by penny. As well as shopping around for the best broadband deals and phone contracts, there are a ton of other easy ways to save:

    • Find a student bank account with good sign-up incentives. Even if you’ve got an account already, many providers have great switching offers you can take advantage of if you’re not fussy about who you bank with. 
    • Use Vinted and Depop to shop for clothes. You can also use these platforms to sell anything you no longer wear that’s still in good condition. Like something in your housemate’s wardrobe that never sees the light of day? Ask if you can borrow it sometime.
    • Spruce up your student CV and go hunting for part-time student jobs. Studies show that 55% of students are now doing paid work as a way of earning extra cash.
    • If you’re paying for a gym membership you don’t use, consider ways to stay fit for free instead. You could start running around the student area, use YouTube to find free HIIT workouts and yoga sessions, or even just walk to and from campus instead of getting the bus. 
    • If you really want to stay at a gym, Pure Gym and The Gym Group have some great student deals, while your university gym on campus will also have reduced membership costs for students.
    • Make sure house costs are evenly split between housemates, including bills and household expenses. It’s also worth checking you’re not paying council tax as students.
    • Planning to escape it all and fly somewhere nice? Plenty of travel companies offer student discounts, while cheap airlines like Ryanair often fly cheap to European hotspots – even if the early start might make you wince a bit.

Balancing your outgoings as a student and making your maintenance loan go as far as it can requires a certain sense of thriftiness. However, with some prior planning, some clever calculations and some tricks on how to save money in all parts of your student lifestyle, you’ll soon be able to make your next instalment go further – which of course, means more money for a well-deserved post-library pint.

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