Student loan payment? Liposuction, a holiday and a cauliflower please…

  • 1 in 6 students spend their student loan within a month with many making poor decisions when it comes to spending it
  • We talk to students on their experiences of their spending.
  • There is support available from universities to help struggling students such as Hardship Loans.


text about a cat shaped cactusWaking up after a night out and realising you’ve bought a mini grand piano, a wedding dress or an inflatable sheep might not be what you had in mind when your student loan dropped in. Well, we all know the things you should be spending it on – course books, rent, food…

But what about plastic surgery? A University of Essex student spent £10,000 – all 3 years of her student loan – on liposuction for her bottom, hips, thighs and knees. Or maybe a bit less extreme you could spend £600 on a pug puppy named Hogan. Whether or not students are making big purchases or are attempting to work out how to budget, it seems there is the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to the world of student spending.

According to research by VoucherCodes.co.uk, 1 in 6 students spend their entire terms loan within the first month compared to 51 days for the average student. So where is it going? As found by savethestudent.org, students are often spending their money on ‘necessary’ Apple products, holidays and flights, shopping sprees and cars.

For those that aren’t making big purchases like these, food shopping is where most of their money goes as this is their biggest purchase at £84 a month. In second place are alcoholic drinks coming in at £45 a month – but this is insignificant when compared to spending £300 on alcohol in a single night. Aaron, a first year student from the University of Hertfordshire admits to spending £1500 in Fresher’s week alone.

“I spent all my money purely on alcohol and takeaways – I think it was just the complete mad rush of Fresher’s. I must have been buying drinks left, right and centre!” he says. “When I first saw how much my balance had gone down I didn’t care but now I regret it!”Drunk text about spending

Alcohol may not just be what students are spending their money on – it may also be the reason behind their spending. A survey by studentmoneysaver.co.uk shows that a third of students shop online when they are drunk which has led to some questionable decisions. This includes some pretty expensive items from £300 sneakers, a holiday to Croatia, an iPhone 6 and a drone to the just plain weird including 20 packets of cous cous, a life size giraffe, tea towels, a cauliflower and 4 inflatable sea gulls.

So what’s making students splash their cash in these ways besides alcoholic beverages? “I strongly believe that money habits start at home so it’s heavily down to a student’s parents/guardians” says Jake Butler from savethestudent.org.

“Arguably, students who are used to a more lavish lifestyle would be keen to carry this on at university. The way a person views borrowing money can also have an affect but, even the most sensible of students sometimes can’t resist the urge to spend when their loan hits their account. We all love to spend a little from time to time.”

For Michelle, a final year student at Lancaster University it seems boredom is one of the contributing factors to her spending. “My spending is usually down to studying procrastination – online shopping is my getaway!”

Like most girls, Michelle often finds herself on online clothes shops, “One afternoon I was going to buy a few things for my boyfriend’s birthday but I ended up getting more things for me than him! I did two shops from Abercrombie and Fitch and one from Hollister with each costing around £60 to £100”

But is she worried about her spending? “No not really, although I do avoid checking my bank balance for most of the term! I don’t think I’m really struggling for money and it doesn’t worry me much because I’ll be moving back home after university so I won’t be needing much of it!”

For others money and their spending can be a real worry like for Aaron whose spending binge in Fresher’s week means he has to watch his every move when it comes to money. “After my ridiculous spending in Fresher’s week and the few weeks after I now find my overdraft is maxed out every month although I have a job so I have definitely changed my spending completely since then!”

Aaron says he has had to cut back on things like going out with friends as well as sweet treats like chocolate and fizzy drinks. “There are still basic things I need to pay for though such as food, rent and a housing deposit for next year so it’s proving difficult to live comfortably”.

4 out of 5 of students constantly worry about money with the negative effects of spending spanning further than living off 20p noodles – money worries can cause lack of sleep and even depression.  46% of students say their money worries are affecting their studies and 2% (that’s 46,000 students) are even turning to payday loan companies for help.

So where can you turn if you’re struggling with money? Universities often have an advice service who can work out what your options are or are there if you just need someone to talk to. “A lot of students are unaware that they can apply for hardship loans from their university if they are unable to afford the basics such as their rent, food or bills” says James Felton from studentmoneysaver.co.uk.

“These are lump sums or instalments that will be paid to you from your university, and often you will not have to pay them back”.

There are also plenty of online resources available from money saving websites to budget calculators. In the mean time if you need some help managing your money, here are some tips and tricks:

1) Get budgeting!

1 in 3 students have never budgeted according to savethestudent.org -“it’s a bit boring but a budget is the basis of any financial savvyness” says Jake. First add up your income whether this is from your loan, job or savings. Then work out any essential costs you may have such as bills or rent. Finally, plan how much you can spend on other things such as nights out. Find a way to track your spending that works best for you, whether it’s writing it down or using a spreadsheet.

Costa and Starbucks Cups2) Cut out that habit

Always buying lunch at the café or grabbing a coffee for your 9am lecture? That £3 at Starbucks or Costa now and then soon adds up bring packed lunches or a flask of coffee instead and see the difference in your balance.

 3) Keep updated on the best deals.

There are plenty of websites to let you know the best deals whether its restaurant offers, freebies or travel discounts. Studentmoneysaver.co.uk and myvouchercodes.co.uk are great and use other sites like savethestudent.org for more money related advice and tips. They even have a free ebook you can download to clue yourself up in terms of money and save yourself a ton!

4) Stick to cash on nights out.

Besides potentially losing your card, you’ll be more tempted to spend when the alcohol is flowing. Take out cash only so when that’s gone, you won’t be able to spend anymore. This also reduces any chance of any crazy drunken purchases!

5)  Play your cards right

Oyster and NUS cardsAn NUS extra card gives you discounts such as 10% off at ASOS and up to 40%
off at Pizza Express plus it only costs £12 per year. Also for those of you that travel by train, the team at myvouchercodes.co.uk recommend student railcards such as the 16-25 Travel Card and the Oyster Student Travel Card in order to save up to 1/3 on your day to day travel.

And what’s the biggest tip when it comes to money? “Just think about it!” says Aaron. “You learn the hard way and there is nothing wrong with having fun but if you take time to keep a log of your spending then you’ll know how much you have free to use. It’s definitely better to think about your spending and then be able to enjoy yourself!”

What’s your biggest or craziest purchase you’ve made as a student? Let us know  on Twitter –@9grndndcounting

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