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By Yasmine Wood

Tips for surviving university on a tight budget - Vol. 2

4 min
Male and female student standing together outside both looking at a phone smiling

Welcome back to our top tips for financially supporting yourself through university. This is where students like you share their advice, tips, tricks and hacks for good money management, as well as advice on how to make and spend money wisely.

First up was Mercedes, who shared her spending do’s and don’ts with us. Next is Yasmine, a third-year medical student at Aston University. Here she shares her advice on working whilst studying, what financial support is available to you, and ways to cost save.

Ways to support yourself through university

I came into university from a school with low rates of progression to higher education. I was also the first person in my family to go to university, so it’s been a difficult journey into medical school for me.

With this in mind, I wanted to share my advice on what you can do to support yourself if you’re in a similar situation to mine.

Working and studying

I started studying medicine in September 2020. Since then, I have maintained a part-time job to help support myself while studying.

When it comes to working alongside studying, my advice would be to get into a good routine and prioritise your time. Focus on what you want to achieve each day, but don’t be too hard on yourself when this isn’t successful.

In addition to organising your workload, make sure you allow time for relaxation and seeing friends. This will help you to avoid burnout. I would also make sure that you communicate with both your personal tutor and employer if you are struggling at any point, so that they can try to find ways to support you.

If you’re thinking about working while you’re at medical school, NHS jobs has a search tool where you can filter to find bank contracts. These are flexible contracts, meaning you can work around your studies.

Grants and bursaries

Once you have your offer for medical school, I would advise looking into grants and bursaries. There’s a lot of funding available to students from lower income backgrounds, though it isn’t always obvious.

I would recommend looking at the grants your chosen university offers, as well as any charitable grants that might be available. The British Medical Association (BMA) has a useful tool to search for grants, so it may be worth taking a look.

Setting a budget and being prepared

When organising my finances, I have tried to focus on each year at a time. I worked out what money would be coming in, including any grants and wages from part-time work. I then worked out my monthly outgoings to identify what disposable income I have.

I’ve found that preparation is key when it comes to cost saving, especially during placement years. Once you know where your placement is located, work out which transport options you have. This is because it’s cheaper to buy a rail or bus pass, rather than paying each day.

If you drive, it may be worth talking to other students on your placement to see if you can car share and spread the cost of the commute.

I think the main thing to remember is that the little things add up. In my first semester I didn’t prepare lunches and wasted a lot of money buying food at placement. I’m now preparing lunches for the week on a Sunday evening and this has helped me save a lot of money.

Making the most of discounts and offers

At the start of each academic year, in the months leading up to Freshers Week (August and September), there are usually a lot of short-term offers available for students on items such as stationery and more expensive tech items.

If these items are required for your studies, I’d definitely recommend shopping around to find the best offers. For those who are good with managing money, a lot of companies offer 0% finance options so that you can spread the cost of more expensive items.

For activities outside of university, such as a gym membership, a lot of places offer student discounts, so that’s another thing to consider.

Beginning your studies can feel overwhelming at first, but take each day at a time and remember that everyone is most likely feeling the same way. I think it’s important to keep in mind what you’re working towards.

When I’m struggling to balance everything, I like to think back to the young girl whose dream it was to become a doctor, and how proud she would be to know that I’m now on my way to achieving that dream.

Thank you to Yasmine for sharing her experience with us and for the great tips. We hope you’ve found this blog useful, and if you have any money management hacks to share, get in touch with us on Instagram @thewesnextstep.

You can also find more tips in volume three of supporting yourself financially through university.

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