Managing on a student budget after being in paid work was one of the hardest things to manage for me, so make sure you manage the transition effectively, take stock and prepare to cut back a bit.
Possibly one of the most essential considerations if you’re deliberating returning to study after spending time in employment is the impact this will have on your day-to-day finances.
It’s one of the things I didn’t consider fully when making my decision a year ago, and when I did go back to study and was faced with living on a student budget again I almost crumbled. I could cope with the workload but not so much the pay cut I was enforcing upon myself, so in the hope you don’t fall into the same trap as I did, I’ve made a list of all the things I wish I’d been told before I turned up to my first seminar.
Learn to Stick to a Budget Again
Living on a budget doesn’t have to mean eating beans on toast or soup for dinner seven days a week like you did during your undergraduate degree, but it does mean sacrificing those pricey lunch trips to Pret-A-Manger and those daily flat whites that have steadily snuck into your everyday lexicon.
Prioritize Your Spending
On a larger scale it’s highly likely that rather than you’ll no longer be spending your hard earned cash on clothes, music and dining (basically the fun stuff). Instead you’ll have to reserve your loan/savings/allowance or past earnings for things like course materials and memberships to academic and employment bodies, and those things can be pretty expensive.
Assess Your Outgoings
One of the best pieces of advice I was offered before signing my loan papers and delving into my Masters course was to perform a financial assessment across my current accounts (I know, dullsville, but so worth it, trust me).
I spoke to a 29-year-old postgraduate student who moved to the UK from New Zealand after working for two years overseas who enjoyed a comfortable monthly take-home that allowed her to go out regularly with her friends and feed her Topshop addiction whenever the whim took hold. She recently admitted to me that performing financial surgery was the only way she could function again on a student loan without falling into horrendous debt.
Budget Cuts Aren’t Forever
It’s a ruthless way to deal with things but by compartmentalizing everything, and by constantly reminding yourself this is a temporary culling of fun, you’ll ultimately end up better off, and won’t be losing sleep over mounting debt.
Potentially the most difficult thing to learn to come to terms with when returning to study will be that most or all of your friends will not be in this position, and will still be living with their annoying disposable incomes.
One of the ways I learned to deal with this was to speak to my friends about this before I started the course. By asking friends over for dinner instead of meeting at a restaurant and by searching out free activities, gigs and going for walks at the weekend I was able to feel like I wasn’t missing out.
Preparation is Important
It’s imperative to focus on the long-term with these strategies, and to remember that you only have to cut back and slim your budget down for the length of your course.
So get ahead by doing a financial assessment ahead of starting your course. Remember that your year of saving and saying ‘no’ to things will be worth it in the long run and you’ll have something amazing to show for that small sacrifice.
NEXT STEP: SORT OUT YOUR MONIES
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