Summertime, and the living is… dreary? Don’t panic if your last maintenance loan installment of the year is on the skimpy side: a few money rules can help it go the distance.
When it comes to student finance, summer term is a mixed bag. You’ll get slightly more maintenance loan to tide you over the long break (unless it’s your final year, in which case you’ll get less). Either way, it’s not always enough to live on: time to break out the tweaks!
1. Get realistic
A good rule of thumb is to revisit your budget any time your situation changes (new job, ex-job, Lotto windfall, or whatever). The same applies as you head into summer, when income and spending-patterns can look quite different than during term.
Start by listing everything you’ll need to pay for over the next few months, along with how much income you can count on during that time. You’ll probably find your loan installment gives you pretty skimpy coverage – but it’s better to know upfront!
2. Draw up a weekly allowance
Once you’ve totted up your income, divide it by the number of weeks it has to last and, whatever other cash comes your way, try not to spend more than this weekly allowance. Not only will dealing it out stop you blowing your loan too early, but underspending in the long run could also leave you with with savings to bankroll next term, too.
For most students, paying rent upfront won’t leave much left to play with – but the next step can even things out in your favour.
3. Stockpile money-makers
If there’s any chance money will be tight in the next few months, sniff out other income asap:
Loads of student money-makers can be carried out without much fuss. Unlike regular employment, you can do these as and when you have time, so they fit around studies, travel and other commitments.
Check out passive income – things you can make once and sell multiple times. You can sell digital photos to stock libraries, publish eBooks at Smashwords, and even profit from print-on-demand artwork through the likes of Redbubble.
Got clothes, books, or gadgets you haven’t used since Freshers’ Week? Start listing them for sale online or around campus now.
Have a priority list for SOS cash. Top of the deck should be your savings, family handouts, and a 0% overdraft (or, if you’re disciplined about paying it back, a 0% credit card). Keep borrowing that comes with fees, interest, or penalty charges at the back of the pack. Don’t touch private or payday loans unless you’ve talked to the welfare team and have ruled out cheaper options.
4. Slash your costs
Pause what you don’t need or can live without over summer, i.e. TV licence, gym membership, season tickets, or subscriptions. For everything else (from groceries to mobile bills), make it your aim to shave even just a fiver off regular costs: shop around or switch providers if you need to.
Be strategic about downsizing, though. If you really need a bike to get to work, for instance, there’s no point buying a rustbucket and paying to patch it up every five mins. Save up in advance, get the right tool for the job, and it’ll cost you less in the long run!
5. Exhaust freebies before paying for stuff
You don’t need to switch mobile provider to get Three’s Wuntu or O2’s Priority deals (just request a free sim to get started). Both give you a regular crop of freebies, such as coffee and snacks, audiobooks, digital mags, and prize-draws.
Not had an Amazon Prime Student free trial yet? Line it up now for six months of free movies, music, and next-day delivery. If you’ve already paid for Amazon Prime, you can even request a refund if you switch to the student subscription. If Amazon’s not your bag, check out free film-trials with Netflix, Now TV, and BFI Player+: schedule the freebie for your slackest month, or see if you can rotate it among housemates for year-round viewing.
Best of the rest
- Claim free beauty samples from department store counters: you can always re-gift or sell them for profit.
- Swap paid-for gym membership with free community runs, health-club tester days, or, if there’s one near you, a free park gym.
- Boots and Tesco run user panels, where they send products to members to try out for free. Check if your fave retailers run similar schemes.
- Whether you’re moving home, need a lift, or fancy a new TV, try swapping instead of paying up. You can offer stuff you already own or barter your time in return for the things you need.
The sums behind student finance assume that most students – and living costs – go into cryogenic stasis over summer, but when money’s tight, the last thing you want is to sleep on the job! Plan ahead, cut your costs, and use your skills (or your studies) to bring in extra income if you need it. It’s not always easy, but it can be done – and it all helps.
Guest blog written by Ruth Bushi, an editor at Save the Student – the UK’s largest student money advice site.