How to make the most of your student loan
With the Easter bank holidays over and the excuse to eat your bodyweight in chocolate feeling like a distant memory we could all do with a little pick me up. Good news. If you’ve been receiving maintenance loan payments from Student Finance England, Northern Ireland or Wales then your next instalment should be in your account on Monday 20 April 2020. Any University Bursary recipients should receive their last instalments on Friday 1 May 2020 too. This sudden boost to your funds might be the little lift you need but, given the situation, it’s important to take some time to make sure you spend it wisely. The team at the Student Finance Centre have pulled together some tips to help you do just that.
Rent and Bills
These are very odd times, and whilst your living situation may have changed in most cases you’ll still be expected to pay rent as you would do usually. If you are struggling to make your rent payments, speak to someone. Let your landlord or agency know your situation so you can come up with a plan together. You can also speak to the support services here at the University for advice on what to do next but whatever you do, don’t avoid the problem.
If you have any debts, like credit cards or private loans, make sure you pay those too. If your finances have been affected by coronavirus and you will struggle to meet payments then check out the information on Money Saving Expert to see if the new Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) regulations might help. You’ll need to apply directly to your lender but if you're eligible you might be able to request a three-month payment holiday. It’s important to remember that you will still owe the lender any money you’ve borrowed and you can still be charged interest during the payment holiday.
Ignoring money worries definitely does not make them go away. If you are struggling to get a handle on things get in contact with the Student Finance team. Whilst the building might be closed the service is still open. As well as being able to give you information on advice about applying for funding and managing your money, we also have a Support Fund which students in financial difficulty can apply for. Contact us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or drop us an email via email@example.com
It’s not too late
If you didn’t apply for financial support for living costs through your national funding body for this academic year it might not be too late. If you get your funding through Student Finance England, Northern Ireland or Wales you can apply up to nine months after the start of the academic year. You’ll have to act fast. If you did apply but didn’t take all the funding you were offered you still have time to request the remaining amount should you need it.
Plan your meals
Making sure you’ve got enough money to keep your cupboards stocked right up until September might be tough, especially if you’ve been used to living on Co-op meal deals and Speedy Pizza’s. But meal planning can help you make ingredients go further. Chefs like Jack Monroe have some great recipes to help you make delicious and nutritious food, even on the smallest budget. When you go shopping, have a budget in mind and try to stick to it. If you need to you can add it up as you put it in your basket, that way you can make swaps there and then. BBC Good Food has some great tips on freezing food so you can cut down on any waste.
Turn your Wifi on
With everyone learning online it’s easy to inadvertently eat through you data and rack up big mobile phone bills in the process. If access to the internet is a problem let your tutor know, they should be your first port of call. Make sure when you join a lecture or seminar on a mobile device that you’re using your wifi and not your 4G. If you need technical help or advice contact Information Services.
Avoid online temptation
Being stuck inside makes it so tempting to spend time buying things online. Things you never knew you needed or that even existed. If it’s not something you would ordinarily buy, take some time to ask yourself do you really want it or need it. Just before you check-out try leaving the app or page and doing something else. Leave it for 24 hours and chances are when you come back to the item that temptation will have disappeared.
And don’t forget to delete your cookies - this can really help stop the incredibly effective, and targeted banner ads that follow you around the internet.
Check your balance
Take this time to go through your bank statements. Yes, you might have spent the last three years perfecting elaborate avoidance techniques for checking your balance, but believe me when I say in this instance knowledge is power!
Knowing how much money you’re spending, and on what, will not only help you manage your money but it’ll also make it easier to spot any unauthorised transactions on your account. If you spot anything suspicious report it to your bank as soon as possible and to the police via Action Fraud. Checking your balance regularly will let you adjust your spending to ensure you have the funds you need until September.
Planning what you are going to do with your money is key to getting a handle on your finances. If you can successfully budget whilst you are at uni then you’ll have mastered a life skill even your parents would be envious of. It might be time consuming and at times painful but making a weekly or monthly budget isn’t difficult. Start with your income. How long does the money have to last? Make a list of all your outgoings. What is essential, what could you do without? If you have money left over, give it a purpose, put it in a savings pot and attach it to a goal. Creating a zero-based budget means you’re less likely to spend it on other things.
Money For Life has great advice on creating your own budget. Spoiler - if it’s going to stick, it’s got to be realistic.
Cancel unused subscriptions
We all have them. Rolling subscriptions for things we don’t use, or we don’t get value from. How you spend your leisure time will have changed so much since the lock-down too. Some companies know that times are tough and are giving customers the option to suspend or cancel their subscriptions early. Do some research and find out if any of your subscriptions fall into this category. Monitoring your direct debits and when they come out is another way to help you spot fraudulent activity on your accounts. Protect yourself against scams and fraud by following The Money Advice Service advice.
If you have any money worries or want more information on anything mentioned in this post please get in contact with the Student Finance Centre. You can contact them via email firstname.lastname@example.org, or on social media Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.