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Five Postgraduate Money Problems and How to Solve Them

Postgraduate study can be hugely rewarding and even lucrative in the long term, but we’d be lying if we said it was easy. As with undergraduate courses, studying for a postgraduate degree is a lot of work, can be particularly competitive in some cases and will often require a substantial financial investment. Paired with the cost-of-living constantly rising, alongside the everyday stressors that we all encounter, it can all become overwhelming and intense. It’s important to keep in mind that there are always things you can do to help alleviate this stress, which we have gone through in this very article. 

1. Does your job eat into study time? 

Employment is brilliant for paying bills and furthering your career, but it can take a toll on your schedule – especially when you still have to make time for studying, placements or seeing your tutor. Handling conflicting deadlines or priorities isn’t plain sailing, either. 

What you can do about it 

Talk to your employer – they may have some flexibility with shifts, deadlines or time away from work. 

There are many ways to make money that don’t tie you to office hours, allowing you to separate your study time and work time in a way that suits your schedule. You almost certainly have skills or time you can sell, from tutoring to teaching a language or hobby on Zoom to going freelance with your professional skills.   

2. Do you feel like you can’t afford a social life? 

Feeling isolated is a common concern among postgraduate students, yet when money’s tight even going for coffee with study buddies can leave you feeling guilty or stressed out. 

What you can do about it 

Make the most of free museums, galleries, gigs and festivals. Think a little broader, too – meeting up for walks, runs or for a shared low-cost hobby can be just as satisfying. 

Speak up if you can’t afford to eat out or go to expensive venues and offer suggestions for places that are more inclusive. 

While it sounds counter-intuitive, make time to socialise! Your mental health and motivation will benefit from time away from the books, and can help you let off steam, solve problems and find inspiration.  

3. Do you struggle to live on a budget? 

Coming back to postgraduate life after time out from studying can bring one particularly tough challenge – downsizing. Even as a recent undergrad, always watching your cash can leave you feeling fatigued. 

What you can do about it 

The more rigorously you plan (accounting for costs, emergencies and consequences), the easier you’ll make it on yourself. Use your student discount or shops and facilities on campus (if they’re cheaper) to make your money go further, too. 

Ask yourself how you can pay less or save more. It might involve sharing a house rather than living alone, regularly checking for better deals on bills, or walking instead of driving. Go through every item in your budget and identify cheaper options for each one.  

Extra income always makes academic life easier. Could you squeeze in a job, more shifts or make passive income from savings interest or a business idea? Are there scholarships, grants or extra funding you could apply for? 

Go to: Read our Ultimate Guide to Postgraduate Funding

4. Are you stressed about debt? 

Feeling under the thumb of debt is never pleasant yet borrowing is often an integral part of affording postgraduate education. The important thing to keep in mind is when your debts need action. 

What you can do about it 

You don’t have to start repaying a Master’s Loan or Doctoral Loan until you’ve left your course and are earning above a certain threshold. These loans are a popular option for this very reason, as they allow you to delay having to think about them too much until you are in a more comfortable position to repay them. 

Things like paying bills or credit cards need more immediate attention, as regularly accruing interest or penalty charges will make it harder to clear what you owe. Sometimes willpower and pruning your spending can be enough, but if you can’t see a way out – or are considering borrowing more – get expert, independent advice. Your Students Union or Welfare Team can point you in the right direction. 

As well as practical advice or support, your university can tell you about emergency funds or student finance you may be eligible for.  

5. Do you feel burnt out? 

The pace and pressure of postgraduate study is often intense, but once you add employment, commuting, family life or a lack of cash into the mix, managing it all can seem overwhelming. 

What you can do about it 

Get a support network. It could be other students, tutors, your GP, family, colleagues or a mix of all of them. Ask your student welfare team for support or get in touch with a mental health charity to talk about your issues. 

Go to the inductions, study skills sessions or workshops your university runs. They may seem basic, but finding out how things work, where things are, and how to get help will make it easier to get back on track if you run into difficulty. 

A good plan can help manage stress – just remember to keep it up-to-date. Whether it’s a budget, study schedule or career plan, regularly check-in and review your progress. Spotting problems in advance can stop them snowballing into full-blown issues. On the other hand, acknowledging that things are going fine can be really reassuring. 

Guest blog written by Ruth Bushi, an editor at Save the Student – the UK's largest student money advice site. 

Next: Read more postgraduate life advice


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