The Student Voice: How The Cost Of Living Crisis Will Impact Students
The current cost of living crisis is tough on everyone within the UK, but for those within higher education it can add even more stress, which can in turn affect students’ wellbeing and academic performance.
Research has found that 96% of students are having to cut back on their spending, with almost a third left with only £50 a month after paying for bills and rent. Unfortunately, students are struggling financially now more than ever and it’s important we shed light on this.
If you’re a student who’s worrying about how the cost of living will impact you, or if it’s already taking a toll on your life, then carry on reading. We’ll be discussing the ways in which rising living costs will impact students as well as why we’re facing this what can be done to help.
Why Are We Facing A Cost-of-living Crisis?
The cost-of-living crisis in the UK is an ongoing financial hardship which started in 2021, where prices for many essential goods like petrol and food started to increase. Essentially, the crisis refers to a fall in disposable incomes and high inflation rates.
There’s not one single cause for the rise in inflation, with several global issues like the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine impacting our economy.
Many people across the UK are being impacted by rising prices from rent to energy bills to food to council tax to water bills increasing, it’s affecting those from low-income backgrounds like working class families and students the most.
Although we will be offering tips on how to deal with the impact of the cost-of-living crisis within this post, the responsibility comes down to the government to sort out.
The recently elected prime minister, Liz Truss, has stated her number one priority is tackling ever apparent financial crisis and set out plans to freeze energy bills at an average of £2,500 a year for two years.
So, hopefully there will be big interventions by the government on the new 40-year high inflation rates.
Are Maintenance Loans Increasing?
The Maintenance loan as you will already know is a Student Loan provided by the government, and it’s intended to help towards your living costs whilst you’re at university.
Currently, there has been little increase in maintenance loans (2.3% over the next academic year) in line with rising inflation which is impacting students across the UK.
Whilst in previous years students’ loans will have covered their living costs and leave them with more disposable income, this is just not the case anymore.
Many people will be out of pocket and struggle to pay for things they need this academic year, which will impact upon student’s social life. If they can’t afford to pay for their rent, food and drink or energy prices, then they can’t afford to go out and socialise.
Which is an important aspect of not just university life but everyone’s lives, leading to more people feeling isolated.
1. Rent Costs
Whilst it’s no surprise that university is an expensive time for students, the high increase in bills, rent, and food prices to name a few, makes it even harder for students to afford to get by on a day-to-day basis.
Studies have found that the average student’s living costs are £810 a month (or £187 a week), with many maintenance loans barely leaving students with anything, if at all after paying rent.
We’ve researched and found that private student accommodation is now more cost effective than living in a shared house. A study by Knight Frank reveals that it’s a better choice for students to save money during the cost-of-living crisis.
So, if you’re wanting to save money on rent and bills, it may be worth opting to live in student accommodation for the next academic year rather than a house-share rented from landlords.
Many students are also choosing to stay at home with their family and commute to their university city or town because of the rising rent prices leaving them with unaffordable outcomes.
2. Food & Drink Costs
The cost of food and drink have rapidly increased due to production costs from the energy crisis, one study has found that food prices have risen by 10.4% from June 2021 to June 2022.
Aside from rent, most students’ money will be spent on necessities like food and drink. However, many are affording to feed themselves and are turning to food banks in desperation.
If you’re looking to save money on food costs whilst at university, one way to help is to start meal-prepping as you can buy ingredients in bulk, freeze extra food and save money on energy consumption. We have a guide on cheap and easy meal-prep recipes for students here.
Another way to help with rising food and drink costs is to set a budget and plan a shopping list in advance so you don’t overspend whilst you’re at the shops, you should also try going through your cupboards and seeing if you can use up things you already have.
A further money saving tip, is going to the cheapest supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl if you’re able to, and keeping an eye out for food reductions.
3. Energy Prices
The rising cost of energy bills are being felt by households across the country, but for students who must pay for their bills on top of their rent, it’s being felt immensely.
Some may not even have enough money to cover the increased cost and have no choice other than to not heat up their houses.
Households use more gas in winter than summer, due to the colder weather making houses freezing cold, so unfortunately, the worst may be yet to come.
There are a few money saving tips we can give you for rising energy costs, such as by turning down your thermostat and wrapping up warm instead, like wearing a few extra layers.
You can also charge your electrical devices at uni or within the library, rather than at home.
We’d suggest always sending meter readings to your energy company, so you only pay for what you use. You should also compare different prices and see what the most affordable energy provider is and make a switch.
4. Travel Costs
Rail fares have also increased with rising inflation, with a 3.8 per cent increase in ticket costs. Sadly, this is another aspect of the cost-of-living crisis which will impact on students.
A lot of students use trains as their most-used mode of transport, especially for travelling home or visiting friends and family whilst they’re away living in a different city or town for university.
A way to help with the cost of train fares is to think about getting a 16–25-year rail card. They cost just £30 and save you 1/3 on rail fares throughout Great Britain, some student banks even include railcards as a benefit for signing up with them.
It’s worth checking to see if the mode of transport you use offers discounts for students, some bus companies offer a reduced fee for those in higher education.
We’d also suggest booking your travel in advance if you can, such as If you’re visiting home buy your ticket a few weeks or days before, as buying on the day often means you’ll pay more.
5. Fuel Costs
Whilst the rising fuel costs won’t affect every student, if you do own a car and drive whilst at university, then you may be struggling to pay for petrol as it is at a record high.
It might be worth leaving your car at your family home and opting to use public transport if you’re able to, or if it works out as cheaper or not. If not, you should compare fuel prices and see where the most affordable place to fill your tank up is, so you save some money.
You should also ask your housemates to chip in if you often drive them places, money is tight, so don’t be afraid to ask for some money towards petrol.
The only good thing about the summer coming to an end, is that you’ll use your AC less, so you’ll save on petrol in that regard.
How To Get Financial Support
As we’ve mentioned the cost-of-living crisis is hitting students hard and will continue to worsen during the winter months, so It’s so important to budget and plan your finances whilst at university. If you’re able to, try to make your maintenance loan last and stretch it as a far as you can.
If you are really struggling with money and additional costs, then speak to your university about hardship funds or grants that you may be entitled to. There will be money advisors that you can contact if you’re worried about financial means, don’t suffer in silence.
You can also get in touch with external organisations or read helpful resources on Student Minds.
It’s worth noting, if your course allows you to have time for a part-time job, this may be helpful for you to earn some extra income whilst at university.
If you already have a job whilst you’re a student, you could try speaking to your employer about possible pay rises in line with the cost-of-living, it’s best to ask and see.
We’d also suggest ensuring you speak to your support network if you are struggling with money, especially your family to see if they can offer any money assistance or advice.
Whilst this post has been less cheery than usual, we know that students are struggling with sufficient funds to cover their expenses and believe it’s important to shed light on this, but there is support to help you out.
Do remember, you’re not alone in this financial hardship and there are people you can reach out to for support.