How to handle a summer shortfall

Ruth Bushi

Ruth Bushi writes about student money and university life. She's the author of several editions of The Student Money Manual.

Practical things to try if Student Finance or other funding won’t stretch over the summer vacation.

When you’re at university, the long summer vacation can be a much-needed change of pace. For many students, though, it throws up a whole new set of challenges.

If you’re used to funding landing in your bank account once a term, you may find yourself having to stretch it twice as far to cover the summer break as well. The rising cost of living has also brought new challenges, with student budgets being squeezed.

Whether this leaves you with a double dose of bills and no extra income – or no money to unwind – it can be daunting making ends meet.

If that’s you or someone you know, there are things that can lighten the load.

See where you stand

If you’re unsure how to make your money last all summer, a budget is the best place to start.

This will help you see what money you have coming in and how you want to spend it. If you have a shortfall, it will also show you where to concentrate your efforts or get help.

Making a budget is also a chance to spot unnecessary costs or opportunities to downsize. That way, any effort you put into finding extra cash will benefit the stuff that’s most important to you.

Manage your worry about money

If you are experiencing money problems, worry can prevent you from taking positive action to improve your circumstances. Managing your emotions around finance can be an important step in taking control of your money.

You are not alone, many students face money problems during their university years. Take a look at our article around worrying about money and use support if necessary so you can begin taking control of your financial situation.

Managing worry about money

Find ways to make money

It’s not easy finding work at the best of times – and for some students, health or visa conditions will mean it’s not an option. However, if you’re able to work and don’t already have a job, it’s never too late to look.

  • A growing number of apps can connect users with temp work, from online admin to in-person retail or service roles. Check your phone’s app store to see what’s on offer.

  • Contact your university job centres or careers teams for advice and information around looking for jobs. It can be difficult, so asking for guidance and pointers in the right direction can help with finding work as a student.

  • Consider working for yourself by selling your skills and talents. Use freelancing sites, online jobs boards, local newsletters or social media to connect with customers.

  • Extra income doesn’t always have to come from a job (or extra shifts). Take stock of old clothes or clutter, then sell online through eBay, Vinted or Facebook Market, or at local car boot or yard sales.

Look for summer hardship funds

If you’re struggling to get during the long break, see if your uni has a summer hardship fund. Some universities keep a separate pot of money just for this, while others have a single, year-round hardship fund. You might also see it called a cost of living fund.

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Eligibility varies a lot so, in the first instance, contact your uni to see what’s on offer and how to apply.

If you’re eligible for Student Finance, most universities will expect you to apply for the full amount before asking for emergency funds, so look into that first.

If your faith means this isn’t possible, ask if your institution will make other arrangements. Alternatively, some faith-based organisations offer their own hardship funds, or signpost to those who do. Search online or ask your student money team for pointers.

Finally, review these extra sources of student funding, and apply for any you might have missed (or have since become eligible for).

Search for extra support

Most university students usually can’t claim state benefits, such as Universal Credit. However, you may become eligible once your course has finished. You might also be able to claim while studying if you don’t get parental support, have children or adult dependents, or have a qualifying disability.

Try this: visit the Turn2Us website and play with the Benefits and Grants calculators. It’s worth a look whatever your circumstances are.

I benefited massively from having a student bursary. There are many ways of funding to turn to for help, such as charity funds (including local churches), alumni groups and career-related bursaries. Keep an eye on their deadlines, but remember not to give up too easily!

Beware borrowing without a plan

It’s tempting to borrow from a bank or other lender to make ends meet, but weigh your options to be sure it’s right for you and (crucially) doesn’t end up causing you more stress.

A 0% student overdraft or 0% student credit card is usually a safer way of plugging small gaps. However, you should still stick carefully to your account’s rules, and plan ahead for paying it back.

Unless you have regular income of your own, such as a steady job, avoid products with steeper penalties, such as payday loans. Also be wary of over-using Buy Now, Pay Later at your favourite stores.

If you already have outstanding debts, or aren’t eligible for a student bank account, talk to your uni’s student money team before borrowing.

Tackle problem areas

Finding extra income is often only one side of money problems. Sometimes you might need more detailed advice, or to feel someone has your back. Your university money advice team can help. Alternatively, there are places to get expert help with housing, debt and more.

If money worries feel overwhelming, you can also reach out to your GP or find support at your university.

Remember, you don’t have to be perfect with money. Asking for help when you need it is often the quickest way to get back on track.

Page last reviewed: July 2024