Money Matters: How Some Students Manage Their Finances |
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Posted on 16 Feb '24

Money Matters: How Some Students Manage Their Finances

Worried about how you’ll manage costs during your studies? Whether you’re covering the costs of your studies on your own, have help in the form of funding or are working while you study, some planning and budgeting can go a long way in keeping you on track.

Money management is unique to each person and will depend hugely on your own circumstances, but hearing from other people might give you some inspiration. We have two postgraduate students in the UK tell you how they managed money during their studies. We’ve tried giving you different perspectives, but we want to highlight that these are based on personal experiences and the same might not necessarily work for you.

Izzy – Make sure to budget some money for fun things

Course: PhD in Microbiology

Status: Home student

Funding: Research Council studentship

“I’m really fortunate to be on a funded PhD programme that covers my key costs. These include the tuition fees to my university, a travel budget for training and conferences, a consumables budget for specialist equipment in the lab and a university owned laptop for data analysis. I use my monthly stipend to cover my costs of living and over a third is spent on rent. Another significant amount goes towards my weekly food shop. I go to university most days, so I end up spending about £40 a month for a student bus pass as well. I make sure to use some of my stipend on fun things too, like attending fitness classes (approximately £6-10), dinners out with course mates and trips away at the weekend to see my friends (with a railcard, approximately £20-30)."

However, Research Council studentships are highly competitive. If you don’t manage to get a fully funded PhD then you might be able to get partial funding such as a fee waiver. But if you end up self-funding, make sure to take advantage of everything you’re eligible for like the UK Government’s PhD loan, grants from charities and trusts and university scholarships.

Taru – Keep an emergency fund to get home

Course: MA Global Journalism (2021)

Status: International student

Funding: Self-funded

“Even though I would have liked to work, I was studying in the middle of a global pandemic which meant opportunities were few and far between. This didn’t mean covering costs was impossible but only that I was on a tighter budget. Full disclosure, I had the support of my family as well, but I pooled in the money I had saved with some family savings to give me a monthly budget. As an international student, my tuition fee and student accommodation costs were paid upfront before I travelled to the UK. When I was finally here there wasn’t really much to do between multiple lockdowns but my monthly groceries would come up to about £200 and I would give myself another £100 for little treats like takeout coffees and meals and the occasional online shopping spree. I also made sure I always had an emergency fund with just enough money for a flight home.”

Even though this is the story of a Masters student, it is also common for PhD students to go down the self-funding route. Often self-funded PhD students choose to work while they study if they can. You could work part-time, full-time or at your own university (for example as a research assistant). We have some tips on how to juggle work and study so you can make most effective use of your time.

We understand that self-funding as an international PhD student is a huge commitment and not possible for everyone. There are international scholarships, grants and funding available for you and can work while you study (capped at 20 hours a week).

However you choose to fund your PhD, we hope these stories have given you some insight into how other people did it and we’ve got some more budgeting tips for you as well!

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Last Updated: 16 February 2024