5 tips for making your student loan last longer

As part of Money for Life’s #HeyFresher campaign, Save the Student reveals the money plan that can make your Maintenance Loan go further.

1. Dial down the shock factor

Grab a bit of paper and jot down all the things you’ll need in your life over the next 12 months, and how much they cost.

Start with the stuff you can’t live without (rent, electricity, food), then bundle in your flexible spends – think pants, partying and text books. Then go for the extras: hobbies, holiday savings, Candy Crush power-ups … dig deep and get it all on paper!

Seeing the costs stack up can be pretty intimidating, but stick with it: being able to see the big picture is a crucial money skill (plus we’ll show you how to iron it out below).

2. Pool your income

The Maintenance Loan can be a substantial wad of cash, but chances are it won’t be your only source of income. Plus, if your Loan’s on the skimpy side it’s because the government expects your folks to chip in: it’s worth having that conversation asap so you know how things stand.

Now’s the time to check how much you will (or could!) get across the board:

  • Maintenance Loan
  • Parental contribution
  • Wages from a job (or your own student business!)
  • Savings, or bonus cash/ interest from bank accounts
  • Any other student finance (bursaries, grants, disabled students’ allowance, travel expenses)
  • State benefits and allowances
  • Local incentives (council or cash) for care leavers, high achievers or anything else
  • Charity grants – turn2us can show you what’s on offer.

There may be lots of student finance options that apply to you. Check out our expert article.

3. Allocate the cash

Once you know how much you’ve got to play with, you can start allocating cash where it needs to go. If your income doesn’t quite cover all your expenses, you’ll also need to shuffle your spending:

  • Plan to pay essentials first – things you said you couldn’t live without and/or which come with penalties if you miss payments.
  • Anything that’s left over after essential costs is your allowance. Split it into a weekly or daily amount, so you always know how much you can spend and stay on track. It’s your job to make your other costs fit your allowance!
  • Cut out (or hibernate) anything you don’t really, really need, or can’t afford. If that’s painful, slide them over to a wish list and use it to motivate you to earn or save more!
  • For everything else – including essential costs – see if you can pay less by shopping around, switching deals, using vouchers or claiming cash back.

Heads-up: if the sums are saying you’ll struggle to meet essential costs, it’s time to bring in the back-up. Don’t wait for a crisis – talk to your folks, your bank or the uni’s welfare department, and plan how you’ll handle it.

4. Check your rent

Accommodation costs can swallow your entire Maintenance Loan – and that’s well before you’ve even fed, clothed or schooled yourself.

For that reason, make rent a priority. Think about how much it’s going to cost you, how you can pay less, and where the cash will come from:

  • If you can live at home and commute to college, you could save thousands. Worth considering!
  • Share a house or flat to spread costs otherwise, including for bills and household expenses
  • Start looking early. The more time to compare costs across locations, landlords and living options, the greater the potential savings.

5. Find ways to save

From using cashback and voucher sites, to scouring social media for freebies and cash hacks, there’s no shortage of ways to slash your spending.

That said, once you’ve got a talent for thrift, don’t just keep it for treats and goodies. Shop around on everything, including bank accounts, bills and broadband. It doesn’t have to be time-consuming, either: set aside an hour a week and be ruthless about reviewing all your spending and see how you can pay less. It’s your cash – the aim of the game is keeping it in your pocket as long as possible.

Make sure you download the Money for Life savings app, Pennies to Pounds. This will help you take control of your personal finances by helping to set a savings goal, and offering daily tips and inspiration to ensure you meet it.

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