Liberty is my friend from Jesus College, who is now studying at Harvard! Today she's sharing some top tips with you on being financially independent at uni. Check out her Harvard journey on her blog: https://libertykingharvard.com/ and Instagram: @libertykingharvard
Today Lib is sharing her top tips on budgeting at uni:
This is probably the most important point when it comes to being able to support yourself at university. For many people, receiving their student loan is the first time they have had their own money, and because the SLC pays it in three instalments (rather than monthly) you receive a substantial amount of money all in one go. The temptation is often to spend quite frivolously and not really think about what your outgoings are. However, I saw so many people come to the end of term and have barely any money left because they blew their student loan in the first few weeks. Oxford is already stressful enough without having to worry about money in this way, so my most important tip is to set a weekly budget and be strict with sticking to your budget.
I was lucky to have grown up with a mum who is extremely good at budgeting and being frugal, therefore I didn’t struggle with this at all (as I learned from the best). I would do different things to help me budget, for example I would take out cash at the beginning of the week (the amount that I have allowed myself to spend that week) and then leave my debit card at home and only spend using the cash I had. This is a really good way to keep on top of what you’re spending, and it makes you conscious of little expenditures that add up. For example, you question whether you really need to buy that £3.50 coffee when you can make coffee for £0.10 at home and bring it in a reusable mug.
Do this on nights out too! When you’ve had a few drinks on a night out, it is quite easy to get a bit generous with buying everyone shots…! Instead just take £10-£15 cash for: entry, a couple of drinks and a taxi home and don’t take your card! This really helped me a lot.
Little costs really do add up and saving on the little things makes a huge difference. Instead of buying my food in the closest supermarket (a Tesco Express) I would cycle 20 minutes out of the centre to the Aldi, get my shopping there, load it up in my basket and panier on my bike and then cycle home. I became a bit of a laugh amongst my friends of being an Aldi fanatic, but weekly my shops were considerably cheaper than if I had bought the equivalent food at Tesco Express. I would buy a whole chicken from Aldi every week (around £3.50) and roast it on a Sunday afternoon. I would then strip the chicken to get as much off as possible (it was probably the cleanest carcass you’ve ever seen) and this would be enough chicken for chicken salad Tupperware lunches for the whole week! It’s very easy to slip in to spending £3.50-£5.00 a day on lunch around town but cooking it at home and brining it in meant I spent a week on lunches what others would spend in a day.
Living this way and being conscious about the little costs meant that I was able to live comfortably and not have to worry about finances during my time at Oxford.
So, you can see – being financially independent at university is possible! In fact, living in a house of a lower-income actually means you receive a lot more money from the SLC. Oxford in particular has great schemes to support students from lower-income families and I am extremely grateful for all the financial support I received from Oxford and Jesus College. On top of working full-time in my university vacations, this support meant that I was able to fully support myself living and studying at Oxford.
I understand that other people will receive less money because they live with two parents, however there is no upper limit on household income and eligibility for receiving a student loan, it’s just the amount you receive will reduce the more income your household has. Also, regardless of household income, most students are able to work during the holidays. Expect of course those with certain disabilities – but there are specific bursaries to support students with disabilities (https://www.practitioners.slc.co.uk/products/full-time-undergraduate-education/full-time-disabled-students-allowances/).