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5 Postgraduate Money Problems and How to Solve Them

Money worries getting you down? From getting by to getting advice, here are the practical solutions than can help.

 

1. Your Job Eats into Study Time

working
image via buzzfeed

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 if you can: they may have some flexibility with shifts, deadlines or time away from work.
     
  • There are loads of ways to make money that don’t tie you to office hours. You almost certainly have skills or time you can sell, from tutoring to teaching a language or hobby over Skype to going freelance with your professional skills. Even dog walking can bring in a steady income with a little patience!
     


2. You Can’t Afford a Social Life

can't afford a social life
image via theodysseyonline

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

  • While it sounds counter-intuitive, make time to socialise! Your mental health and motivation will benefit from time away from the books, plus mixing with fellow students or supportive colleagues can help you let off steam, solve problems and find inspiration.
     
  • Speak up if you can’t afford to eat out or go to expensive venues and offer suggestions for places that are more inclusive.
     
  • Make the most of free museums, galleries, gigs and festivals, and keep an eye out for ticket giveaways or free launch events and previews. Think a little broader, too: meeting up for walks, runs or for a shared low-cost hobby can be just as satisfying.

 

3. You Struggle to Live on a Budget

budgeting
image via giphy

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 ahead (accounting for costs, emergencies and consequences), the easier you’ll make it on yourself.
     
  • Don’t just log the numbers – 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. Then start doing them!
     
  • Get a notebook to track all your spending or set up a second bank account and transfer a fixed allowance into it every week. Use your student discount or shops and facilities on campus (if they’re cheaper) to make your money go further, too.
     
  • Surviving on very little is a great skill, but don’t make it goal in itself. Extra income always makes life easier, so how will you get some? 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, or awards and prizes you can enter?
     
  • Remember that it’s not forever. Your postgraduate qualification will leave you better off for a long time to come: eventually, the sacrifices pay for themselves!

 

4. You’re Stressed about Debt

debt
image via giphy

Feeling under the thumb of debt is never pleasant, yet studying and borrowing often go hand-in-hand. 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 the coming Doctoral Loan) until you’ve left your course and are earning enough. In the meantime, borrowing a realistic amount – and making it last – can be more productive than worrying, especially if it helps avoid taking out more expensive credit to cover living costs.
     
  • The Career Development Loan and other bank loans aren’t as flexible, so it’s important to understand the terms and plan ahead for repayment (or anything that might stand in the way).
     
  • Current debt – things like paying bills or credit cards late – needs 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. It’s also worth trying the Turn2Us benefits and grants calculator to identity any other funds you could apply for.

 

5. Feeling Burnt Out

feeling burnt out
image via giphy

The pace and pressure of postgraduate study is often gruelling, but once you add employment, commuting, family life or a lack of cash into the mix, managing the fall-out 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 advice, or contact a listening or advice telephone helpline (mental health charity Mind lists a few).
     
  • 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.

Postgraduate study can be hugely rewarding of itself and even lucrative in the long term, but we’d be lying if we said it was easy. In the meantime, 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.

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