Funding and budgeting

How can I survive on a student income?

As a student you are classed as being on low income and there are a host of useful webpages that you can simply google to find out about what help might be out there.

For example, MoneySavingExpert has '50+ tips on how to stretch your student loan' plus there are numerous of free budgeting websites.  Your own bank may well have some useful advice as well as additional support and tools to help you during this difficult time.  For more help creating a budget have a look at our Seek help section below.

The main thing is to ask - whether you speak to someone within the University, the Students' Union (SU), the Funding Support Team, the ASK@WLV Team or even your Academic Coach /Personal Tutor, speak to someone.  You are not alone in this and there is help out there.

Dealing with debt can be stressful but the key message is not to ignore it, as this will make things worse. Inform your creditors of your circumstances and try to negotiate a repayment plan. If this is proving difficult or too stressful you can seek specialist advice from debt organisations.  Have a look at the Seek help information below.

Living cost tips

Help you can get now

Every utility company has its own help and support in place to help all its customers, so if you are struggling to keep on top of your bills do contact your supplier to see what they can do to help.  They do not want to lose you as a customer.

There are also various charitable trusts to help support people no matter which energy company you are with, such as the British Gas Energy Trust, and where your water bills are concerned, Ofwat may be able to provide suggestions as to the many ways you can save water around your home.

For general help on every day spending have a look at Money Helper's Everyday money.  Here you can find information on banking, cars, insurance plus credit and borrowing as well as how to save money on household bills.

As well as www.moneysavingexpert.com/student/student-guide, other sites such as Save the student have advice on how to save money on your food shop and even the NHS has tips on how to eat well for less.

All supermarkets have offers or special deals that are always ongoing ad don't forget their reduced section.  Many a bargain can be had for food that has had to be reduced due to damaged packaging or use by dates.  Check out where you regularly shop and just ask where you can find these.  THey will only be thrown away if someone doesn't buy them.

Food Banks

If you are seriously in need of help getting food there are always food banks nearby, again just google food banks with your post code.  Here are a few near our 3 main campuses:

Wolverhampton
Walsall
Telford

 

Budget

Plan your spending

Make sure you are in receipt of the maximum funding you are entitled to – you can easily contact us to make sure that what you’ve been told is correct and, if its not, we can help make it right.

Pre-entry: Gateway@wlv.ac.uk or www.wlv.ac.uk/gateway 

Enrolled: money@wlv.ac.uk or www.wlv.ac.uk/fund and ASK@WLV or log a helpcall via the ASK@WLV tab on your e:Vision account.

You can also contact the Students’ Union’s Advice and Representation Centre (ARC) to speak with a Student Money Advisor (please complete their enquiry form at https://www.wolvesunion.org/advice/enquiry/

Follow the needs not wants rule.

If you’re tempted to buy something stop and ask yourself whether you actually need it or if you really just want it

Do budget in some fun stuff though.

Just because you are on a tight budget doesn’t mean you can’t go out and enjoy yourself just be sensible about it.

If you enjoy going to the gym, for example, don't just quit, speak to your current gym about what deals they have for students or, have a look around at what's out there.

If you know you have a crutch, something that you turn to when you need that little bit of help to get through, chocolate for example, budget some into your plan. That way you won't suddenly find that you've spent your next month's budget on a cupboard of chocolate!

You can always get help with managing your money, for example:

Don't forget the APPS.  There are so many free budgeting APPS out there that we couldn't list them all but Student Hut (an impartial platform that could help students with their higher education choices) have a dedicated Student Hut Recommended page that you may find particularly useful as a guide.

Alternatively, the National Assoiation of Student Money Advisors (NASMA) has it's own finance app.

This free finance and funding app from NASMA includes a calculator to enter your income and outgoings, a budgeting tool and a calendar. There are also contacts to help you get detailed answers to any questions.

For more about funding and finances as a student you can also visit the NASMA website.

The important thing to remember is to not keep silent or ignore it.  It won't just disappear and will only get worse.

 

Most banks have what is called a student account. Each bank will differ on what they have to offer but they all offer an interest free overdraft for the length of time you are studying. 

On top of that, once you’ve finished, it turns into a Graduate account so that normally gives you a year to pay off any overdraft you have without incurring any costs.

Go to your bank first but don’t feel like you have to stick with them, shop around see what works best for you.

Part-time work – if you can, register with The Workplace – our own job shop – employers come to us specifically to employ students and they understand that you will be limited because of timetables  - you can also work for the university itself.

Top tips

Here are some useful tips to help get you through.

We know you're adults and that you are more than capable of budgeting yourself but when you receive that 1st instalment of finance it will look like a lot of money.  Remember the loan you receive at the beginning of the term has to last the whole term, don't spend it all at once.

If you've already split the entire amount into 12 you'll already realise that it really isn't that much.  While money is tight, as it will be while you're at University, you will need to make your money go a long way.

Remember - money for tomorrow's needs is more important than today's wants.

Once you have successfully applied for your funding, the notification you get will show the amount you will be receiving and also show you that it will be split in three equal instalments as follows:

  • 1st instalment in September (once enrolled) - 14 weeks
  • 2nd instalment in January - 16 weeks
  • 3rd instalment in April - 6 weeks

The number of weeks correlate to the how long that particular instalment is supposed to last.  The 1st one also includes Christmas!  The last one, although it looks great, is the last amount of money you will receive from them until the next academic year (September).

If you are a January starter, obviously the dates and weeks will be slightly different:

  • 1st instalment in January (once enrolled) - 16 weeks
  • 2nd instalment in April - 6 weeks
  • 3rd instalment in September - 14 weeks

If you split the entire amount you will be receiving into 12 equal payments that will tell you how much you will be expected to live off per month from September to September, or January to January.

‌You already know how much income you'll have so why not sit down and work out a proper budget?  There are plenty of online budget planners out there:

If you'd rather do it yourself, here's a downloadable document: Budget planner (Word doc 39k)

Identify and be realistic about your income/expenditure and don't let other people influence you. Also, remember to plan for the unexpected. 

If someone was to hand us a £100 each today we can guarantee that out of 10 random people they would each have their own idea about what they'd spend it on.  Your money is your money and no-one can say that how you're spending it is wrong as it is right for you.  BUT - don't forget to include the good extra things too.  It's no good saying 'I'm going to stop eating chocolate' so you can include the money you would normally spend on that into your budget if, realistically, you are going to still have chocolate.  Maybe just cut down a little, budget it in so that you know you can have some but don't end up spending what little budget you have on that "I need chocolate now!" craving that you know will hit at some point.

Whether it's chocolate, or wine or whatever your personal crutch is (we all have one), be kind to yourself.  Coming to University is hard enough without giving up those things that get us through as well.

Don't forget to include the following in your plan:

  • housing costs
  • utilities 
  • council tax 
  • insurance
  • phone
  • TV licence
  • food
  • debts
  • clothing
  • travel costs social/hobby
  • health costs
  • books and stationery

and anything else that you regularly spend money on

With all the new technology that gives you instant access to your money it is just as easy to keep track of it as it is to spend it.  If you use an app to keep control of your money look into getting one that can link all your accounts together and check it regularly.  They can help set limits on how much you are spending and keeps you in complete control.

If you're less tech savvy or just don't feel comfortable trusting an app with so much of your personal financial information then why not just use cash?  Set yourself a weekly or daily budget and only have the amount on you for that particular day. Although, please do remember that the Unversity is now a cash free zone.

Here's Which?'s curent guide to the best apps: Best budgeting apps or Which? has their own tips and help on everything financial, including student loans.

They also have a Student Budget Calculator that you can tweak depending on your personal circumstances to get a monthly breakdown of how much you’ll roughly need to live on.

Read more: https://www.which.co.uk/money/university-and-student-finance - Which?

However you do it, keep a track of what you spend and control your costs.  That way you are in control of your money and not the other way around.

Useful information

Some more useful tips

If you are moving here to study, whether that's from just up the road in Birmingham or you've travelled from the other side of the world, one of the first things you'll need to do, once you've settled in, is to register with a local doctor and dentist.   

All you need to do is go to the NHS England website (opens in new window) and put in your postcode and it will show you all the doctors and dentists closest to you that are currently accepting new patients.

Another thing to remember is that, as a full-time student, you are not automatically exempt from NHS or dental costs.  You will need to apply for an exemption certificate from the NHS called a HC1 form.  You would apply as a "low income" goup.  Again, you can find this via the NHS England website at NHS Low Income Scheme (LIS)

Once you have applied you may have to pay costs upfront and then send off any receipts and you should be at least partially reimbursed.

Also health related, make sure you are immunised against Meningitis (opens in new window)

If you are not eligible for funding, an employer is paying for you or have decided to fund it yourself, there are various ways of paying for your course.

For more information on the various ways to pay or who to speak to regarding a payment plane have a look at our How to pay webpage.

Payment in instalments

If you are paying the fees to the University yourself, then you can pay by instalments - for no extra charge.

Instalment payments are made via a bank Direct Debit If you choose to pay by Direct Debit you can now pay in three equal instalments.

Please contact the Finance Department by emailing incomesection@wlv.ac.uk to discuss instalment options.

Remember to clearly put your 7 digit student number into any correspondance to the University
 

Don't forget to top up your printing credit!

In the University you can print, scan or copy using any of the Multi-Function Devices (MFDs) located on the University Campuses. To use an MFD you will need:

  • Your University ID card
  • Enough credit in your print account to pay for your printing.

For more information, including how to add credit to your account, visit:  https://www.wlv.ac.uk/its/self-help/how-to-print-scan-and-copy/ 

Rather than wasting time, money and paper by photocopying, you can scan your work and documents to be sent straight to your email at a low cost.

Whether you’re a student, a parent or you provide student accommodation, find out when a TV Licence is needed and how much it costs.

The law still applies to students. You must be covered by a TV Licence to:

This could be on any device, including a TV, desktop computer, laptop, mobile phone, tablet, games console, digital box or DVD/VHS recorder.

A TV Licence costs £159 a year

You can pay in one go, or spread the cost weekly, monthly or quarterly. You can buy and manage your licence online. And if you don’t need your licence for a full 12 months, you could apply for a refund.

For more information go to: TV Licensing - Students

Cut down that spending

There are lots of little things you can do to help yourself

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If you are a full-time student you are exempt from council tax.

If you are a student living in a household with no other adults (any other adults in full-time education are also exempt so don't count) then you are completely exempt from paying any council tax for the duration of your course

If you live in a house with 1 other adult who is not exempt from paying council tax then the house is eligible for a 25% discount.

If you are part-time or live in a house with 2 or more adults who are not exempt from paying council tax then, unfortunately, there is no discount.

If you need to prove that you are exempt from paying council tax then, once you have fully enrolled, you can request an exemption certificate through your e:Vision account which you need to give to your council and they will recalculate any council tax.

If you can, see if you can borrow things or, if you do have to buy anything, see if you can get it cheaper second-hand or reconditioned.

Whatever you are looking for, it is always worth shopping around for the best deal, whether it's insurance or baked goods, you will almost always find a student discount that would work for you.

 

Don't buy food when you're hungry. 

 

Sounds simple enough but its amazing how much additional extra food you buy just becuse you're hungry.

Plan your meals

Every week set out to stick to a basic menu and buy accordingly.  That way you're less likely to impulse buy foods or items you don't really need.  If you share a house or kitchen with someone why don't you plan together?  Bulk buying can be a lot cheaper in the long run.

You can always freeze leftovers or cook that little bit extra in one go to freeze for later. 

If you have the freeze space why don't you use those plastic take away food tubs to create portions to freeze to make a quick and easy weekday meal?

Mashed potato, for example, freezes really well and can just be gently defrosted in a saucepan or microwave.  Great as a quick side dish or just add cheese and beans for a meal in itself.

Cheese sauce is another good thing.  Just use freezer bags and split into individual portions.  Just cook a bit of whatever pasta you have to hand, add the frozen cheese sauce, heat gently and 'hey presto!' a quick version of 'macaroni cheese'. If nothing else its a quick midnight snack when you're revising for those pesky exams.

Also, why not bring packed lunches in rather than rushing out to buy something at University or in town?

Avoid using credit cards or store cards if you can help it.

Unfotunately, things happen and debt can very quickly accumulate and become a serious trigger for stress and worry.

Have a read of Save the Student's What are store cards and are they worth it? article.

If you do use a credit card, build it into your budget and set up a direct debit for the minimum payment.  If ever you are a little more flush you can always pay of a bit more but still know the minimum payments are covered.

If you want to see more information on the best ways to use a credit card, or the worst, have a look at best egg's Best and Worst Ways to Use Credit Cards

If you have anything that you currently pay for regularly, contact them and explain that your income will be going down as you are a student and try to negotiate a repayment plan.

If this is proving difficult or too stressful you can always seek specialist advice from debt organisations like:

Or some general advice from:

We cannot stress enough though, reach out to someone, get some advice, ignoring it won't make it magically go away and will, in fact just make things worse.  The sooner you get control of your finances the more in control you will feel.