According to a recent study conducted by the website Vouchercodes.co.uk, the average student will have used up their first term’s loan within six weeks – at Leeds, that’s by 20th November. However, one in six will fritter away the borrowed money within only 28 days of term. Students are notorious for being perpetually ‘skint’ and it’s somewhat of an urban myth that they subsist on a diet of beans on toast. The reality of the financial state of students, of course, is not always this stereotypical, but one thing is apparent: either students spend their money too quickly or they do not get enough of it.
Unsurprisingly, the survey found that alcohol was the second-biggest area of expenditure. Supermarket shopping was discovered to be the biggest drain of money. However, this is somewhat contentious given the huge prevalence of ‘nights out’ within the student lifestyle. Although some may prioritise their diet over inebriation, it would not be audacious to claim that some students’ finances are largely spent on alcohol. I spoke to a second-year student, George Wright, about how his loan quickly diminished towards the end of last year’s second semester. He told me what most of his money contributed towards: “I went to a lot of gigs and spent a lot of money on alcohol there and before I knew it, it all added up. I could barely afford food and then couldn’t afford to pay two months of rent over the summer. I ended up getting a job in a chicken kiev factory, where I’d either be boxing up kievs for 4 consecutive hours or putting large sacks of powder coating into a machine. As you can imagine, it wasn’t exactly fun.”
It has inevitably been suggested that such monetary dilemmas are due to the recent increase in fees. Studentbeans.com recently carried out research that revealed that 51% of students have risked walking home alone after a night out in a desperate ploy to save money. This may seem a trivial sacrifice but it was also found that students have in fact risked their own health: 20% of students have at some point opted to forgo hot water, and 39% have gone without food in order to extend their budget. Although the rise in fees will have financial repercussions, students’ frivolity with money is an issue that is known to be omnipresent.
Third-year Law student, Jack Hedley, used up the majority of his loan well before 20th November. He told me exactly where he went wrong: “Basically I got into my third year and decided I wanted to do the things I’d meant to do for two years but hadn’t. So I signed up to The Edge gym and also a bunch of different societies. This came to more than I anticipated. And then there were some more random endeavours, like a portable steam inhaler, and an ill-advised Robin outfit, complete with cape and tights. In the end it all added up, and as I got into late October I realised I hadn’t so much stretched my budget as just torn it to shreds. My food shop now consists of six tins of beans and sausages, a loaf of bread, and some instant noodles…”
Unfortunate but comical tales like this are an indicator of the financial mishaps that students get themselves into, not necessarily by any fault of a lack of student loan or fee increase. To use the fee increase as a scapegoat is irrational, especially considering that it is an extremely new change and so the consequences cannot be seen just yet. It is evident that students unaffected by the increase still suffer from money woes. The aforementioned surveys took place before the fee increase and so it is impossible to relate the statistics with the increase. Over the next couple of years, the repercussions will become more apparent and perhaps we will eventually be able to pinpoint blame on a particular and inexorable factor.
Studentbeans found that nearly one in three students suffer from insomnia due to worrying over their finances whilst at university and on an even more serious note, these worries have triggered depression for 20 per cent of students. The fact that fees are a lot higher now automatically creates more stress for students and it has been a concern that the fees (a maximum £9000 per year) will deter students from applying for university.
Words: Steph Muldoon
Photo: Becki Bateman