I remember it like it was yesterday. It was the second week of uni and Tom, a guy I’d met in a queue for free burritos at Freshers, arrived at the bar a group of us were meeting at. He was donning a new faux fur coat, his trainers looked pretty new and so did his nose piercing and glasses.
“Fancy coming to the bar with me Tom?” I asked
“Can’t mate, I’ve got no money…”
“What? We only got our student loan 3 days ago!”
“Spent it, didn’t I...”
Tom had burnt through almost all of his student loan in 3 days. He'd maxed out his overdraft, he'd taken out a loan and he'd even spent the emergency fiver his grandma had given him before he moved away. The university had to give him an emergency loan and he spent the whole of first year paying it back. The faux fur coat sat gathering dust as he paid off his debts by working weekends at Greggs.
For most, a student loan is the most our bank accounts will have ever encountered. You finally experience a sense of financial independence: you don’t have to ask your mum for a tenner and no one can control how you spend your money. It’s the dream.
My mate Tom spent most of his Saturday nights in alone eating Greggs sausage rolls playing solitaire on his phone and he told me that is was, and I quote, ‘fucking shit.’
But with 66% of you claiming that the maintenance loan isn’t enough to keep you going, being good with the money you already have is more important than ever. And if the loan really isn't a fair amount of cash, as you are all claiming, then getting carried away with your spending can cause your uni experience to be a bit of a shit show.
Your mates are out on the lash and you’re sitting in watching re-runs of Peep Show eating easy peelers. It’s no wonder that around 50% of you all reckon that being low on cash causes your mental health to suffer as not having a lot of money as a student is extremely limiting, stressful and isolating.
My mate Tom spent most of his Saturday nights in alone eating Greggs sausage rolls playing solitaire on his phone and he told me that is was, and I quote, ‘fucking shit.’ He had to sell the items he had bought just to get him out of some of the debt as well, which is a shame because that fur coat really brought out the colour in his eyes...
Now, if you’ve blown it all, this article isn’t going to save you. Head to your uni’s support centre and explain your situation and they’ll try and help you out. But for those who are on the edge and have spent a lot but still have a bit to spare (though I can imagine most people don’t really have much floating about), then have a look at this...
Look. At. Your. Bank. Account. You can’t continue to spend money, hoping for the best and waiting for that one moment when your card gets declined buying a lighter in the corner shop to indicate you have ran out of funds. You need to know what you are working with if you are ever going to have a good crack at surviving the storm. Be brave and rip off the band-aid.
Send out the smoke signals
You’re over the age of 18 now so you can’t really rely on mum and dad… but when they call and ask you if you’re okay, briefly mentioning the fact that you’ve only eaten toast all week won’t do any harm. Nor will telling all your mates you’re skint so they can stop asking you to come out for a drink because temptation only leads to giving in and spending more money.
Overdraft is a dirty word. Repeat.
Extending your overdraft to overcome financial instability is sort of like eating a Big Mac when you're hungry but also need to lose weight. In the short term, it might seem like it is solving a problem, but in the long term it’s just feeding the issue. Spending years paying off your overdraft is disheartening and you don’t want your goal to be that you hit zero only to keep going back into the minus. Don’t just borrow more money, get better with the money you already have.
Don’t treat ‘em mean
A good relationship with money is sort of (but also not in any way) like a good relationship. If you try to manipulate your bank balance, ignore what you really have and take more than you give back, then your relationship with money will be fruitless, toxic and pretty painful. You have to appreciate what you have and nurture it.
The fact is, you fucked up. It happens. But you need to start being really strict with yourself because an ‘oh-fuck-it’ attitude isn’t going to cut it when you have bills to pay. Be realistic about what you have to spend. If you have £50 to spend each week then start walking to uni, cook at home and walk away from the pub. If you have money left over from your budget, then you can treat yourself and it will be deserved. But until then, you need to be harsh.
What's shocking is that 91% of you have never used apps to track your spending or to help manage your money. But apps like Loot give you live transaction notifications so you know what your spending and they have features to help you budget. You also get a contactless card that you can use abroad without paying any additional fees. For more info, have a look here.