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Student finance - how much is enough to live on?

(72 Posts)
NamingOfParts Thu 20-Dec-12 13:06:30

I'm starting to look at how much we will need to fund DD at university in a year or so's time. I know I am a bit previous but I would like to start planning as my income is variable and unreliable.

Having looked at finances it looks like on this year's figures DD would get a maintenance loan of £5425 (away from home & outside London). Accomodation at one of the universities she is looking at would be £4705 leaving just £720/year or £20/week.

How much will we need to find for DD?

We dont want to be stupidly generous or stupidly mean. I would like DD to enjoy her time at university but I do think that part of the experience is learning to live on a tight budget.

Is £60/week (£20 loan & £40 parents) lots or a little?

Any thoughts gratefully received!

boomting Mon 24-Dec-12 21:04:25

I'm not sure about the idea of going for the more expensive halls on the basis that you will meet people from certain backgrounds which you wouldn't meet elsewhere. I was in my uni's rock bottom cheapest halls with an Old Etonian!

Furthermore, it's not like halls are the only place that you will meet people - I met some people who turned out to be from really rather wealthy backgrounds through both my course and society.

NamingOfParts Tue 25-Dec-12 13:10:37

I agree boomting, I suppose if you are planning a city career then perhaps being in the expensive hall making expensive friends is the thing but I'm not sure that the same applies in other situations. Any road up as DH said, the whole who you are in halls with is a lottery.

From what I can see most halls dont have a huge range of accommodation for undergraduates to choose from. As with all property decisions IMO location is the key. This is up to DD to decide what she wants.

Bossybritches22 Tue 25-Dec-12 13:30:17

We've been doing the schlepp around for DD1's Uni choices for next year OP.

One thing I have been impressed by is several of them have an arrangement where you can have a joint catering card. You can top it up weekly but it has a limit & is not useable in bars just for food etc so if they are careful they should have enough for a main meal plus one snacky meal per day. The catering manager said they often discounted hot meals ie lasagne & salad but not stuff like crisps & coke although thats still available.

With a lot of the halls you can choose a variety of packages, accomodation only,accomodation with self catering in flatlets within halls, or fully catered halls (usuall half board)

I reckon although it is more expensive initially to have the third option at least at the begining of term she will have a roof over her had & food to last the term so she won't starve, particularly in the first term whilst learning to budget. That will mostly be covered by grants we hope & then we can help with food shopping or whatever is needed.

One good bit (of the many bits ) of advice we got was NOT to splash out on course books until she starts. Many of the text books are the same year on year & are freely available in the extensive libraries or sold cheaply by previous students.

Also make sure they have enough cash saved up to tide them over the first few weeks. The grants are organised on paper but not released until they actually enrol on first day of term so funds for living on are not always available up front. Get your forms in asap after making the Uni offer choice . SFE are crap at getting things processed & I know from personal experience it can be a painful business. Whatever evidence they ask for send extra, proof of income, evidence of marital status, WTC statements Council tax billd. The buggers ALWAYS seem to ask for more when you've sent them all you think you can!!

Bossybritches22 Tue 25-Dec-12 13:46:00

Anyway it's Christmas Day - stop worrying about that just now...time enough for that in the New Year!!!


NamingOfParts Tue 25-Dec-12 15:08:43

Thank you Bossy, the tips really are much appreciated!

storynanny Tue 25-Dec-12 15:25:27

I think everyone's financial circumstances are different, even within a family with different children at university. My sons all took the maximum loan as I think it helps them to realise that money didnt grow on a tree and that they would have to repay what they spent. Having Said that it didn't cover everything. We paid phone contracts for all three throughout uni, travel home each time, did big (enormous) shops at the beginning of each term, also whenever we visited we took them to the Supermarket for another big food shop, bought bulk buys of toiletries etc. we decided that it was better that way than giving them Money as that would disappear on beer!!!!!!
One son went to uni in a costly city and we did have to pay £200 a month towards the rent for 2 out of the 3 years he was there. 2 sons out of 3 also got a part time job during term time, one decided to live on less and not go to work. So every situation is different, girls of course might want more cash for clothes, make up etc maybe.

Xenia Tue 25-Dec-12 16:36:26

My comment about expensive halls buyin you good contacts was tongue in cheek really, but it's true that of the Etonians she made friends with in year 1 one had a father who bought him a £600k lovely house for years 2 and 3 and she got to share that and those boys remain good friends. Also children like that tend to pick sensibleinteresting high paid careers. Mix with those who are not too well off and they may encourage you into very low careers, teaching etc.

Anyway at least in a sense it's easier now. My son had to pay £3jk a year fees. Now none of the fees has to be paid - it is only repayable if and only if you ever earn over the threshold. In some ways the new system is cheaper not more expensive particularly for all the potential housewives out there who will onlh work 2 years then marry and never really work in any meaningful way again and never up to the dizzy heights of the £20k or whatever it is level at which you have to pay back the student loan.

fussychica Tue 25-Dec-12 17:50:43

xenia would that be a very low career which helped your kids get to and through Uni?

NamingOfParts Tue 25-Dec-12 18:26:39

I have read many of your posts, Xenia, you seem to use money as the only measure of success.

DD looks to be heading towards a science career. This is not one where I can buy her success by buying her some nice friends. DD is going to have to earn the success herself.

Xenia Tue 25-Dec-12 20:29:24

We need people in all kinds of jobs in the UK BUT most of us for our children want them not to be on mumsnet credit crunch threads in 20 years time asking how they can save £20 at Lidl. Let someone else's children pursue careers which may keep them relatively badly off. I don't think there's much wrong with a parent saying that surely? If you want your child on ery low pay you should be encouraging them to leave school without taking any GCSEs.

Anyway what helps children pick fulfilling and well paid careers is a mixture of things and certainly often includes a good degree at the right place but also guidance from friends and family and the all important peer group with which they study.

Some of the brightest people whose businesses I advise are scientists. It can be a great career -particularyl if you own the business rather than be a hired hand on a pittance.

boomting Tue 25-Dec-12 22:56:59

"Very low careers, teaching etc"

I can't work out if you're trolling, or if you're actually that deluded. Teaching has great career prospects, and many people find it a fulfilling career. I would much rather than my child was a happy teacher on £30k (bearing in mind that Heads can earn up to £112k) than an unhappy business owner on £300k.

And as for clipping coupons and shopping at Lidl, I have some well off relatives who take great delight in shopping at Lidl and buying reduced food (one was famous for it, along with eating out of date food). In many cases, people who are well off are (in part) well off because they are frugal in certain areas.

NamingOfParts Wed 26-Dec-12 11:34:57

Xenia, sorry but I am going to have to pick you up on your comments about science careers being good if you own your own business. Really exciting science is being done in places like CERN which are huge international organisations. There are Physicists who would give a kidney and live in a cardboard box to have the chance to work there.

Having a science degree then running a business is not a science career. That is a management career. If that is what DD wants to do then I will be happy to advise her (I'm an accountant). If DD wants to have a science career then the advice will come from people like my brothers who are scientists and know what they are talking about.

Not everyone wants to have their own business. If DD wants to do research then she is going to be working for someone else. If she stays in the UK then it is unlikely to be stunningly well paid but it will be fulfilling.

Xenia Wed 26-Dec-12 17:08:48

Dyson. Lots of others. I work with inventors of all kinds in large and small businesses. However I agree that most scientists are not business owners and most don't earn much and most couldn't care less and love their work. I always liked the quote from Rausing who invented the Tetrapak milk carton (and moved to the UK from Sweden for our then low tax rates... those were the days...) who was proudest he said most of the 100 patents or some such number he had and not the many millions he made.

NamingOfParts Wed 26-Dec-12 17:38:40

Being picky, Dyson and Wallenberg (Rausing founded the company not developed the product) are/were both designers not scientists.

Having looked further at finances an Erasmus year as well as being excellent experience would also make financial sense (currently no fees and a modest grant).

Notreadyquiteyet Wed 26-Dec-12 17:48:40


A while since my degree, 10 yrs shock but i did study Chemistry at Cardiff, i was one of only 4 girls on the course by graduation!!

I would have found it impossible to work a proper part time job while at uni, with Lab hours and lectures, Mon, Tues, Thurs and Fri i was in uni from 9-4 either in lectures or Labs (weds morning as well)

But that said i did work though the summer earning £1500 each summer and frugally saving it for the next year.

I look back on the lessons i learnt at uni about finance and they were valuable!

I lived on £7000 a year (not just term time, as i didn't come home in the summer)

Made up of £3000 loan, £3000 parents, £1500 own savings

This worked as the only debt i had when i left was my student loan.

Hope this helps at all

Xenia Wed 26-Dec-12 17:57:06

Also have worked with biotech and pharma people who are scientists and started businesses but it's certainly true that most scientists don't end up owning a company and many don't want to.

NamingOfParts Wed 26-Dec-12 17:59:07

Thanks Notready, I do agree that part of the learning is about living on a tight budget (possibly more important for those embarking on a science career!).

I dont want DD to become one of the party girls to the detriment of studies, finances and health!

Scary how male dominated Chemistry seems to be!

MrsJREwing Wed 26-Dec-12 18:05:58

Xenia, has interesting views and isn't afraid to post them on mn.

Xenia Wed 26-Dec-12 20:22:53

I certainly think whatever your income level it is helpful to ensure students have experience of money being short (which of course is relative in different families) and that is part of being a student.

I remember being terribly surprised about the Halls point. She had to make a special application for the one she wanted and set out what she could add to the Hall - I remember reading her comments - she talked about choirs (I think they had a choir at the hall) and things like that - it was like a mini application. I certainly had no idea before she applied that that was something that mattered and with her younger siblings we just picked the ones which seemed most expensive with the best food and most provided but that was because funding their univesrity year was no more expensive than their school fees so not an issue and they are used to quite a comfortable home anyway and did not want university to be too much of a shock.

NamingOfParts Wed 26-Dec-12 20:52:58

My DD is quite independent so cant imagine her being thrilled to find that mummy has chosen her hall for her. She wants to be self-catered as she is a competent cook and finds cooking relaxing.

MrsJREwing Wed 26-Dec-12 21:02:49


IShallWearMidnight Wed 26-Dec-12 21:48:42

DD had to pay her hall fees a week or so before her loan would have arrived if SFE hadn't pratted around - fortunately that year we were in a position to pay her first term's fees (which she repaid when her loan finally turned up), but had it been the previous year, she, and we, would have been stuck.

So get the loan application in as soon as possible, don't assume that if you've applied online that they've actually accepted the form (DD hit send, we assumed all was OK until her friends started getting confirmations, but not her, then we discovered that somehow their IT had gone bonkers, and had frozen the application somewhere between us submitting it, and them accepting it, which stopped us from accessing it to edit, so we had to start again doing it all on paper). But because it hadn't actually reached them, they didn't tell us what paperwork they needed, as we hadn't officially applied. [sigh] Ring them a few days later and check you're in the system. And check the dates that hall fees need to be paid.

Also don't be self-employed. They can't handle current year assessment, and freaked this year when we tried to sort out confirmation of last year's income, to re-use for this year's application. Win win in the end though, as she got her last year's application reassessed as it turned out we'd over-estimated profits, and she got a nice non-repayable bonus for last year, at the beginning of this past term grin. She has more money than I do shock.

Bossybritches22 Thu 27-Dec-12 00:17:58

oh bollocks ....I'm self employed sad

Xenia Thu 27-Dec-12 07:45:17

NOP I had no involvement in her picking a hall at all. She just showed me the application form to check it (she has slight dyslexia) and we had a chat about what they seemed to be looking for in those who applied. The other two also picked their own halls. I am one of the least involved parents in the UK I sometimes think. Never went to a university open day. Never even views a piece of GCSE coursework. Daughters no interest in my advice or views except on a minimal level.

I don't want to over egg the point. That was only 1 of the 3 children where the Hall did seem to work out rather well. It seemed almost like the hardest and most expensive ones to ge tinto are the best just like univerisites and jobs I usppose, just like life. However where you happen to sleep is not a major thing which affects you at university compared with how you spend your time and if you pass the exams well etc etc.

exoticfruits Thu 27-Dec-12 08:04:02

My DSs just chose their own, so cost was a big issue to them. They met perfectly nice people- I can't see why it is an advantage to meet those who don't have to worry about bills and lifestyle because the 'bank of mum and dad' will take care of it. Once they had chosen, they had questionnaires to fill in about whether they could work with background noise or whether they liked silence, whether they were 'night owls' or not etc and that seemed to work, in that it placed them with similar types.

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