How to deal with financial stress as a student

a pink piggy bank wearing a graduation cap on top of a pile of books

With rising bills and soaring living costs, student loans need to be stretched that little further. Living on a student budget can be challenging at the best of times and can therefore be a little stress-inducing. You know you will need to get to the end of term with what you have, and we understand that keeping on top of it Is something that might always be at the back of your mind. Practical, financial and emotional support are all more available than you might think. Here are our top 8 tips on how to deal with financial stress as a student at university.

Set out your budget at the beginning of the term

The most proactive thing you can do to stay on top of any money worries is to stay on top of your spending habits. When you get your loan amount confirmed or the amount you will be getting from working or being gifted or loaned from parents, sit down with a cuppa and a spreadsheet. Take note of how much you will be getting and when. Is it per term? Is it monthly? Is it weekly? Jot this information down against all of your outgoings. Outgoings will include all regular payments and expected essential spending – rent, bills, contracts, subscriptions, groceries and travel. Calculate these to see what you will be left with at the end of the month. It’s important to do this before you get your first payment through. Many students find that they run low towards the end of their first term because they weren’t aware of their spending needs right from the beginning. 

If you can see from the get-go that you will struggle to make your payments, think about what you can drop. For example, do you really need the gym or can you start running or join a university sports club that will fulfil your fitness needs for less cash? Review your subscriptions to decide whether you really need them all. You can probably view your direct debits from your Banking app. Do you really need Netflix as well as Amazon Prime, for example? And don’t forget to adjust your budget as and when you need to continuously. 

A part-time job might relieve money worries

Why not think about getting some part-time work alongside your studies? Securing a part-time job not only helps reduce financial stress but also provides valuable work experience. Even if you have enough money to get you through the term, working will give you that extra little bit of pocket money to work with.

Plus, it can be a great way to make friends while at university and great for your CV as employers will always be impressed that you managed to juggle working alongside your studies. You could try retail work, hospitality, house sitting or even deliveries. The university might have a jobs board to keep an eye on

Have a clear out

OK, you mightn’t make loads of money getting rid of a few bits and pieces but selling old textbooks or selling clothes on second hand apps (such as Vinted or Depop) frees up a little bit of cash for things you need more. Plus, clearing out your space has a positive impact on clearing mental noise, which benefits your stress-levels and mental health

Make use of all the free things to do in London

Even if you are stressed about money you can still enjoy fun activities while you’re at university in London.. With the exception of the extortionately high housing and rental prices, London is actually one of the best places to enjoy life on a shoestring budget. The parks across London are where many students spend a lot of their free time as long as the weather is good. There are countless art and science museums which you can get into for free. For example, Tate Britain, Tate Modern, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Science Museum and many more – all of which have permanent collections which work at a donation-only basis. Getting out and about with your flatmates, classmates or just by yourself is generally a good idea for your mental health too. 

As well as the London tourist scene, there’s so much you can do at home completely for free. When you’re feeling stressed, try to take some time to do something you enjoy. Your flatmates might be able to splurge on going to the cinema often or eating out all the time, but with so many other students around, you will find others at university in a similar situation as yourself who will also have similar interests. If you don’t meet anyone through university clubs or societies, have a look on meet up apps or Facebook groups to see what’s happening locally that might interest you and won’t cost you a penny.

Don’t forget to use your student discount

By showing your student card, many shops, restaurants, coffee shops etc will give you 10% or even more discount on your purchases. This can add up and save you quite a bit over a year. However, one of the most common mistakes students make when it comes to student discount is treating is as an excuse to buy things we don’t need. Knowing that we’ll get 10% or 20% off something is not a good reason to buy it. It shouldn’t encourage us to buy anything, but it should be used as a little extra financial help. If you’re browsing student deals websites like Student Beans or Unidays, try to be mindful about what it is that you really need. If there’s an offer for something like a free doughnut for students with a £3 coffee, this might seem like a great deal but would you normally spend £3 on a coffee or would you just make one at home? 

Practice self-care

While it’s important to budget and manages your finances well, money worries are still worries, so you need to ensure you’re looking after your mental health properly. Stress can be detrimental to both your physical and mental health. Your health should always be your top priority. Did you know that stress can have an effect on your memory and concentration? That’s as well as the quality of sleep you get. So, practising good self-care is really important. Here are a few things you can do to ensure you’re taking good care of yourself to help stave off stress and money worries getting too much.

Being well-slept means you’re much more able to deal with the challenges of everyday life. It’s proven to help maintain healthy stress levels. So, make sure you get between 6-8 hours of sleep every night. The quality of your sleep can be improved by reducing the temperature of your room by even just a couple of degrees. Staying off your devices in the 1-2 hours before bedtime also means you’ll get a better night’s sleep. Give yourself a bedtime ritual or routine to allow your body to get used to the fact that sleep is on its way. 

What you put into your body also plays a part in your stress levels. It might be tempting to save some money and buy lots of frozen food or cheap oven pizzas to save money, but it’s really important to get lots of fruit and vegetables into your diet to stay healthy and keep your immune system ticking over. There are a few student cook books out there that are well worth taking a look at for ideas as there are lots of healthy meals you can do on a budget. How about batch cooking with your flatmates? That way you’ll save both time and money too. Avoid eating too many fatty or sugary snacks as these will give you bursts of energy and crashes. Caffeine is also proven to affect our anxiety levels negatively, so avoid consuming energy drinks or cups of coffee too much. Keeping caffeine to the morning only is a good idea for our quality of sleep.

In society today, we have become used to sitting at a desk all day with very little natural light. This confuses our natural circadian rhythm. By getting up and out early in the day, we’re telling our bodies to wake up. Natural light is good for our immune system as well as our mood. Vitamin D is also proven to help with the quality of our sleep. 

If you’re getting outside, why not combine it with a quick run around the park? This is a fantastic way to release some endorphins and boost your energy levels. Running is completely free of charge too. You might be interested in joining a sports club or society at uni. This is a great way to get your regular exercise in while spending time with like-minded people. 

Life is too short to be spending time around people who don’t treat you well or who you simply don’t like. Of course we aren’t encouraging anyone to be rude, but if there are people in your life – whether classmates or friends – who don’t make you feel good about yourself, there’s no need to be around them. We should all be more proactive in keeping our social circles to those who we actively choose to be around. There are some situations where this can’t really be helped. For example, there might be someone you live with who brings you down. If that’s the case, always be polite to keep your living situation running smoothly but remember that you are free to limit the time you spend with them. 

Don’t keep your money worries to yourself

And finally, the worst thing to do if you’re feeling stressed is to bottle it up and keep it to yourself. Though simply talking it out won’t bring you more cash, it can bring you a sense of comfort when you feel overwhelmed. Speak to your parents if you’re worried about money. They mightn’t be able to offer you any additional financial help but they might be able to support you emotionally and in other ways. As well as your family, you will undoubtedly have some friends at uni in a similar situation as yourself. With living costs and bills soaring, everyone is tightening their shoestrings and being much more aware of spending habits. So your friends, flatmates or classmates will understand why your finances are always at the back of your mind and will be happy to lend an ear. 

Why you shouldn't stress about money

Research has shown that concerns about finances can affect us in various ways:

  • Physically – you might observe that contemplating money matters triggers discomfort in your stomach or chest, causes jaw clenching, or tightens your shoulders, leading to physical agitation. 
  • Sleep – financial worries can disrupt your sleep patterns, leading to either insufficient or excessive sleep.
  • Academically – your university performance may decline as it affects your ability to think and concentrate.
  • Relationships – your emotional state may also negatively impact your relationships.

So it’s important to keep your student financial stress at bay!

As well as making use of those around you, university can offer you some support too. UWS have a free service called Silvercloud which includes CBT (Cognitive Behavioual Therapy) to help guide you through changes you can make day to day to help with your stress and anxiety levels. 



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