What to do if you have money problems

Ruth Bushi

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

It’s normal to have a few money blips at university. But with coronavirus causing disruption, many students now face more challenges. Here’s how to approach them.

The Coronavirus pandemic has disrupted many aspects of student life, including opportunities to earn money, which can create additional worries. So, what should you do if your finances are at breaking point? Read on to see what steps you can take to tackle the biggest money problems students face.

Accommodation costs

Rent is usually the biggest cost students have to cope with. This can be tough at the best of times, and overwhelming right now.

If you’re struggling with housing costs because of coronavirus or other unexpected hardship, you may be able to get <emergency funds> from your university. That may take the pressure off a little.

It’s trickier if you’ve paid in advance or signed a contract. The best advice is contact your landlord to discuss options as soon as possible. Some (including universities and private halls) are open to rebates, cancelling contracts, or cutting rent.

Sadly, not all landlords are this flexible. But don’t just stop paying rent (i.e., rent strike) without proper advice. Talk to your students’ union about this first. Housing charity Shelter can also help. You can also contact them if you’re struggling to pay, want to know your rights, or are worried about homelessness.

Trusted resource

Shelter

Shelter has comprehensive, reliable advice if you’re facing issues with housing or homelessness

Bills

If you are falling behind or struggling to pay your bills, don’t be tempted to avoid thinking about it. Taking action quickly can have a much more positive impact and help to reduce your worries. What to do about it depends on what stage you’re at.

Use your budget to identify services you don’t need or can pause. And look for rolling payments you’ve forgotten about, such as in-app or streaming services.

Search and switch to better deals. Even if on a contract, some suppliers may consider moving you to a cheaper package to avoid problems.

If you need it, ask your university for advice or look for extra funding. Or chat to Citizens Advice about your rights and next steps.

Debt worries

Whether you’ve missed payments or worry about falling behind, it’s always the right time to talk about debt. Getting things into the open means less chance of late payment fees now or credit score damage later on.

Try to avoid new borrowing, and cut back on non-essential spending. Tell bill providers you’re struggling – they may be able to be flexible or support you. Talk to your university’s student money team, too. They may be able to help you boost your budget, look after your wellbeing, and take practical steps to deal with debt.

You can also contact StepChange Debt Charity for free, expert advice.

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Stepchange

Stepchange has more than 25 years’ experience providing free, expert debt advice, and offers the widest range of practical debt solutions of any provider in the UK.

Less money coming in

You might have had a job fall through entirely, or seen your earnings plummet. And if your parents, partner or other family are earning less, too, that might affect other support you were relying on.

While there’s no quick fix for job upheaval, there is financial help for students. Some of this funding is new or less known. You may also be due more support now if your circumstances have changed – so it’s worth a look.

At the same time, try to find ways to make your cash go further. Shop around, compare prices and use your student discount for starters.

This is also a good time to think of skills or hobbies you can make money from remotely. For example, selling things you’ve made, or offering video lessons. Earning some money like this can feel like a step forward, plus it can be fun to just have a go.

Don’t be too quick to ditch books or other uni gear, though. Student life may feel very different just now, but don’t rush into decisions about your course, university or future. Give yourself time to adjust.

Wellbeing

It’s OK to feel stressed by everything that’s going on. What’s happening is completely new and difficult for most people. Having to cope with student life and money on top of that is a big thing.

The suggestions on this page offer practical ways to get help or feel more hopeful. Give them a go. But take things as easy as you need to. If it would help to talk, get in touch with support at your university or via our services.

Get free, confidential, one-to-one support by phone, web chat, text message or email.