How to make that undergraduate loan last the term

student loan

By Pamela Head,

So, undergraduate student; you’ve filled in your student loan application and been given a huge chunk of money. You’re away from your parents for probably the first time in your life, you’ve just made some awesome new friends and there’s a town full of shops, several bars around and a whole online world for you to explore. But wait! You’ve got to survive for three months with that money! Want some advice? Read on…

Remember: student loans for living expenses. This is something you’ll need to continually repeat in your mind, like a mantra, for the next three years. Your student loasn company won’t care if you’ve blown through your entire student loan in five minutes on a bit of student shopping, and it most certainly won’t give you any more than it has, so be careful.

The first thing I would suggest is that you work out a budget. In the UK, loan amounts vary so check how much student loan you’ve received and then take away the cost of your rent for the time you’re expected to cover with the loan. University living expenses are high. You can get away with living on 7p noodles for a few weeks but you can’t manage without a roof over your head.

Next, divide your loan by how many weeks you need it for, – and please, do NOT forget the holidays, you’ll need money to get you through Christmas and Easter too! – then you’ve got yourself a rough idea of how much you have to play with.

If your bills are included in your rent, then you can go nuts at this point, as the rest of your money is reserved for food and fun. If not, however, make sure you make a conservative guess at how much your bills will come to if you don’t have any past bills to compare to. It’s always better to have too much money rather than too little and not be able to pay your electric bill. Your essays are counting on electricity and your friends are counting on you being able to have regular showers.

Next, take a trip to a supermarket, local market, convenience store or wherever you’ll be doing your regular food shop. Now, be realistic here. If you’re a huge chocaholic and must have a regular fix, then not buying any to be frugal will probably be a terrible mistake when that craving hits and you run for the vending machine. Buy the foods you’ll realistically be eating over the course of a week and be firm with yourself… nothing unnecessary or random or ‘because the packaging looks cool’ or ‘omg, it’s new, we have to try!’ There’s plenty of time for that later.

Now you’ll have an idea of how much the basics will cost you. Everything else you have is yours. Some students decide to save their excess loan for a rainy day, or for the beginnings of a house deposit, or for a car or a puppy or whatever you feel like, basically. Others prefer to take uni life to the max and spend it on nights out.

The one tip I’d give if you go for the latter is: do not take your bankcard out with you. If you’re drinking, and you end up drunk, you won’t see that card as something you live on. You’ll see it as your ‘get lots of alcohol now’ card and that never ever ends well. So do yourself a favour and avoid the depressing shift through credit card statements the morning after as you drink water and clutch your head. Also keep your eyes peeled for any student deals or student discounts where you can save a few pounds or pennies.

If you’re going into new student accommodation in your second or third year, then you also need to be very careful here. Some landlords and letting agents require a deposit the equivalent of a month’s rent, advance rent and administration costs. This, you’ll have to pay from your loan, so make sure to factor that in to the costs if it’s something you’ll be doing.

As long as you take 10 minutes to plan and think carefully about any costs you’ll have to pay in order to remain at university, then you’ll manage. But make sure you do think – running to mum and dad a week into term because you’ve spent all your money on Kinder eggs will not go down well.