How to manage your money as a postgraduate student

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by Nicole, MRes Social Science

Money can be scary. Some days, I look at my bank account and wonder where it all went. But it doesn’t need to be a scary prospect. There are things you can do and people you can speak with to make sure that you have the money to support you alongside your postgraduate study and help you to manage it well. So, don’t panic, I am here to point you in the right direction!

Fear can sometimes lead to avoidance, which means you could be missing out on help, funding or great tips and tricks to make your money go further.

Firstly, and quite possibly most importantly, there’s student finance options. Student Finance England (SFE) is probably where you went to get your undergraduate student loans, and it’s where you are going to need to go again for postgraduate. If you’ve used SFE before, your login is the same, but if not, you will need to create an account. Once you’re in, you just need to complete a few forms and then you are done! SFE will check all of your info, and then let you know how much money you are entitled to. But there is one crucial difference from the undergraduate loans: your tuition loan is paid to YOU, not to UWE, so remember to bear that in mind when you are budgeting!

Another option for funding is getting some paid work alongside your studies. There are plenty of options here: everything from retail to working for UWE (like yours truly). The great thing about postgraduate study is that the courses are more flexible – so much of a postgraduate course is self-directed study. This makes it easier to fit a job around your studies. Not only can you earn money for this work, but you can also gain valuable skills, especially if you can find a part-time role in your field of study! Two birds, one stone!

Last but not least there is also a plethora of options provided by UWE, such as the summer fund, which can provide some additional funding over the summer break and the emergency fund, which can provided when something unexpected happens (for example, I used it when I knocked my laptop off of my desk and smashed it!).

Budgeting is your friend!

So, you’ve got your money sourced, now what do you do with it? Budgeting is your friend! It doesn’t have to be fancy or formal or even all that detailed, but it really is useful to have one. Personally, I have mine on an Excel spreadsheet – I find it easier to edit and it does the maths for me, which is good because my maths skills are severely lacking – but you can do it however works best for you. Play around and experiment to see what suits your style best.

One of the biggest expenses in this world is food. It’s necessary, so it can seem like there’s no way to reduce that bill. But fear not! There are some really simple ways to cut down on that expense! First and foremost, branded foods are not always the best out there, so give the supermarket own brand options a shot and you might be surprised at both the taste and the savings. Secondly, keep an eye out for the reduced to clear sections in the major supermarkets. They tend to reduce the foods that are going to be ‘out-of-date’ soon at about 8pm every day, and most of these are absolutely fine to eat a few days after that date AND most of them can be frozen and eaten at a much later date. I’ve managed to grab pizzas, cakes, bread, vegetables, cheese and so much more for pennies using this method. Don’t be afraid to dive on in and grab what you need!

Alright! I think that’s all of my tips for managing your money as a postgraduate student. My last words of advice would be this: don’t be scared about money and funding. Fear can sometimes lead to avoidance, which means you could be missing out on help,  funding, or great tips and tricks to make your money go further. So, take a deep breath, grab some chocolate (or other treat) and dive in! Good luck!

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How to manage your money at university

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by Eden, BSc(Hons) Architecture  

Top tips to make your loan last

As a student, one of the most daunting aspects of moving to university is money. For most people, the maintenance loan given by the government leaves little room for extra expenditures such as going out for food or buying new clothes. One way to improve this is to budget and spend wisely. I began studying at UWE in September 2018 and quickly realised that I needed to budget in order to make my maintenance loan last for the entire year! This blog will give a few top tips which will hopefully have a huge effect on the amount of money that you will spend, and save, throughout your studies whilst also enjoying the student life!

1. Choose accommodation with shared bathrooms

At UWE, there are many different accommodation options depending on how much you wish to spend and whether or not you would prefer an ensuite or a shared bathroom. For my first year at University, I lived in UWE’s Wallscourt park on Frenchay Campus in a flat with shared bathrooms. In my flat, I shared 3 bathrooms with 8 people. Although many people do not want to share a bathroom, it really isn’t as bad as you might think.  Because there were 3 different bathrooms to use, even if your usual bathroom is being used, you can just use a different one! By staying in Wallscourt Park with shared bathrooms, I saved approximately £1000 when compared to my friends who stayed in rooms with an ensuite bathroom. This is a serious amount of money when you are trying to budget!

2. Shop wisely

When starting out at university, I had never really gone for a weekly food shop before. With many different shops around Frenchay Campus such as the University shops, Asda, Lidl, and Sainsbury’s, it took me a while to figure out how to save money on food and which shops to use. After shopping at each of the shops mentioned, I would 100% recommend Lidl. Lidl is the closest non university-owned shop to Frenchay campus and is by far the cheapest. On a weekly food shop, I would save around £10-15 when shopping at Lidl when compared to Asda or Sainsbury’s.

3. Choose a good student bank account

Another useful tip is to choose a student bank account which gives you a large interest free overdraft. When I began studying at University, I set up an account with Santander which gave me a 4-year free railcard, saving 1/3 on all rail travel, and an overdraft of up to £1500 interest free. This was incredibly useful when I was required to pay my rent before my termly loan instalments had entered my bank account. The overdraft is essentially the bank giving you money for free whilst you are studying. Though I chose Santander, I would recommend looking at some comparison websites before as different banks offer different overdraft limits and extras each year.

4. Take the bus or coach

Although this tip may seem obvious, I know so many people who travel home using the train or get an Uber/Taxi back home after a night in the city centre. The cheapest way to get to/from Bristol city centre is using the metrobus services. These run 24/7 and a night ticket only costs £2 which lasts from 7:00pm until 4:30am. That’s only £1 each way! The metrobus services are regular and stop at Frenchay Campus, it takes around 20 minutes each way from the campus to the city centre. By using these buses, you will save at least £10 when compared to if you take an Uber or a Taxi home. When travelling further, I would recommend looking into coach travel. This option does take longer, however, you will save money. I bought a coach card for £12 which allows me to save 1/3 off national express coaches for a year. As I travel from Bristol to Plymouth once a fortnight, this definitely saved me money. A return coach trip was around £20+ cheaper than if I took the train!

5. Get a job

Another obvious way to save money is to work. The university and shopping areas always have jobs available! There are direct bus services from Frenchay campus to both Cabot Circus and Cribbs Causeway. The University hires students to work in the campus bars, shops and cafes. Also, UWE hires student ambassadors which involves casual work to help the university at events such as open days and UCAS fairs. The university jobs all offer hours which may work around your studies, whilst also paying respectable wages! Vacancies from UWE may be viewed online on the Students union ‘Jobshop’ page.

Read more about your fees and funding options at UWE Bristol