Life As A Student In A Cost-Of-Living Crisis: Mental Health Impacts And Money Saving Tips

Francesca Montefusco

Our nation is living through a time of economic catastrophe as living costs are rising and affording even basic essentials has become tough for many. Whilst talk of this crisis floods the media, the enormous impact it is having on students seems to be overshadowed. Francesca Montefusco gives advice for students who are struggling. 

According to the National Union of Students (NUS), 96% of students are cutting back on spending, with almost a third left with just £50 for a whole month after rent and bills. More than one in ten are accessing food banks, and an increasing number are turning to their savings, credit cards and bank loans. Students are struggling to afford enough food, pay for washing and take the bus to get to class, let alone afford to socialise.

The students in the worst financial positions are clearly struggling and are in need of support

Money worries taking a hit on your mental health? You aren’t alone. Earlier this year the NUS found 90% of the students they surveyed said that the current cost of living crisis was affecting their mental health. Another survey from Save the Student found 59% of students struggling with money said their mental health has suffered, and 64% said their social life had taken a hit. Many even consider dropping out altogether due to a mix of money worries and subsequent poor mental health. Clearly, whilst we may not like to admit that money brings happiness, the students in the worst financial positions are clearly struggling and are in need of support.

To make matters worse is that things we may try to do to help our mental health cost money such as grabbing a quick coffee, going out with friends or going to the gym. This can trap students into a very isolating bubble.

Importantly, do not be afraid to reach out to the support services

What to do about your mental health and money? Nearly the best thing that can be done when you are struggling with your mental health is to SAY that you are struggling with your mental health. Maybe you haven’t noticed that many of your friends have money worries too. Why not ask them to have a games night in or a cooking night together (saving money, waste and having a laugh) or suggest coffee at your flat or house instead of at Costa. Instead of having to isolate, try to communicate and together you might come up with cheap and fun things to do.

Importantly, do not be afraid to reach out to the support services. All well-being issues are completely valid, including those surrounding money, and there is no problem whatsoever with talking through your worries with a professional adult. Help at Nottingham can be found through looking up the Student Services online or by clicking on ‘well-being’ on the MyNottingham App.

The University of Nottingham also have a Funding and Financial Support team (google them if you can’t find them) who would be great people to talk to and could lead you to finding the right solutions. This could even bring bursaries and other direct help.

Keep your student ID on you at all times and ask in shops and restaurants

A few other tips for dealing with money:

• Ask for student discount always
Firstly, download the apps like student beans and UNiDAYS. But also, keep your student ID on you at all times and ask in shops and restaurants even if you see no signs for student discount because it’s worth a shot- maybe they’re just bad at signposting. Other deals might come through creating accounts, signing up with emails or getting apps- so check that out too.

• Plan and budget
Whilst it might be a little boring, working out a budget can be really helpful and can make you feel more in control (helping your mental health too). Take the time to work out your weekly allowance and how much money goes to food, bills, bus fares etc. It could be beneficial to have multiple bank accounts so that you can give yourself weekly money. Apps like Monzo can also be great with the ability to put money into different pots and also locking pots (don’t worry, you can unlock them, but it makes you think twice!)

Nottingham has some great charity shops, with lots in Beeston as well as the city centre

• Meal plan and cook
Write a meal plan. This can allow you to pick different dinner ideas but incorporate some of the same ingredients to cut costs. It is likely to work out cheaper sticking to one weekly food shop than popping to the shops every time you’re hungry. Cook multiple portions and use the freezer or even cook with friends to cut costs (and have fun). Cheap recipes can be found all over google, TikTok and Instagram from simple pastas, noodle dishes and rice bowls. Eating veggie for a few days a (think bean chilli and chickpea curry, rather than realistic meat alternatives) can also really help cut costs.

• Shop pre-loved
Not only is this good for the planet but it is good for the wallet too. This could include those very expensive text books as well as fashion. Nottingham has some great charity shops, with lots in Beeston as well as the city centre. A personal favourite is ‘White Rose’- there are quite a few in Nottingham with trendy clothes, perfect for students.

But perhaps action from both the University and the businesses found in Nottingham is needed. I want to ask…
• Could the gym membership be cheaper?
• Could there be more funding for societies to make them free and their events cheaper?
• Could our accommodation include washing machine use?
• Could societies prioritise less costly events?
• Could the Co-op near Broadgate Park not overcharge their clearly student customers? (I paid £1.40 for own brand Oat milk that online says is 85p!)

And ultimately, we can hope the government has plans for us students, to sort out this issue so that university can really be a place for all young people to succeed in.

Francesca Montefusco

Featured image courtesy of Micheile dot com via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image. 

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