Is uni affordable?

Adapting to a thrifty lifestyle is a valuable lesson for many students. Check out the experience of two current students on how they make their money go further.

The undergraduate with a side hustle

Nomqhele Mhlandhla, 19, a second-year business and management student at the University of York, budgets by bulk-buying, cooking ahead and earning a little bit of money through content creation, via her Instagram account, @nxmmiq.

“Getting out of university with debt is not something I look forward to,” she says. “You work so hard to make sure you get a good qualification, you put all your blood and sweat into a degree . . . It’s a feeling you try to run away from.

“My fees each year are £9,250, and that’s covered by a student loan. A year in industry is part of my course. I do still receive student finance when I’m on placement year, and I think the employer will pay money. I have parents who support me so I’m able to get by with good financial management and some guidance.”

Bulk-buying, making meals ahead of nights out and using an overdraft only in emergencies are among her tactics: “A maintenance loan can be £7,000 to £8,000 and your annual rent is £500 to £1,000 less. I live in university accommodation and living costs are £250 per month. One thing I’ve learnt is everything needs to be budgeted. If there’s a party, I budget that. You break down how much you’re getting each week.

“Before I started university, I was a content creator on Instagram, around fashion. I get contracts with companies and when I started, that’s what I did in my spare time. It allows me to spoil myself every now and then, if I want a cheeky takeaway or if me and my friends want to have a drink. It taught me to be financially disciplined.”

The undergraduate yellow-label hunter

Nicole Haddon, 20, lives in London after going to high school in Sri Lanka, and is in her third year at the University of West London, studying acting and theatre-making.

“The course is a standard price of £9,250, which is covered by student loans, and then you have your maintenance loan on top of that, which is catered to each student on family income,” she says.

“It’s scary to a certain extent. As soon as you step forwards you’ve got debt, however you only pay a student loan when you’re earning a significant amount. That sets my mind at ease.

“Living in London, I think rent was the most expensive factor: it costs £650 a month. We’re in north Ealing, in a four-bed house, we have bills of about £60 a month, food is about £50 a week, then entertainment. Transport is £20 to £30 a month for work, but I’m near campus. I’ve been working this summer but usually go out at weekends: now I’ve income coming in, I’m at ease with spending it. As a student, you have to balance what’s going in and going out.”

“In terms of food, don’t be afraid to go yellow label hunting, and there are great apps like Olio and Too Good to Go for free or extremely discounted food.

“There’s no point in coming to university if it’s not going to benefit your career. People do calculate this because of the sheer price of it, but university is definitely about more than getting a degree. The way in which you learn about the social side, making friends and networking certainly gives the academic side a good run for its money."

Check out more great articles like this on the The Times' Good University Guide.