Cost of living support for students

by Suffolk Mind Team | 20 Jan 2023
A group of students are gathered at a desk


The phrase “cost of living crisis” tends to focus on the idea of families struggling to feed their children and keep them warm this winter. However, there is another demographic which doesn’t often get mentioned, despite half of them already being forced to cut back on food spending: students.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), over three-quarters of students are “concerned” that rising costs may affect how well they do in their studies. Black students, students aged over 25, and students from lower socio-economic backgrounds are likely to be hardest hit by rising costs of food, transport, rent, and energy. In the Student Money Survey 2022, one in 10 students said they had used a foodbank in the past academic year. Almost half (47%) admitted “money worries” had negatively affected their diets. Similar results were found by the ONS in its Student Cost of Living Insights Study, which found 62% of students polled said they were spending less on food shopping and essentials in response to rising costs.

The costs students are having to face are high, both emotionally and economically. So, what support is there, and what can students do to look after their wellbeing?

We know that meeting our Emotional Needs helps us to enjoy positive wellbeing, and that stress is the tipping point on the Mental Health Continuum between better and poorer mental health. According to our research, for students in Suffolk, the cost of living crisis is most often cited as a barrier to people meeting their needs for Security, Control, and Food and Drink.

Here are some ways to help meet your needs, despite the cost-of-living crisis

  1. Keep yourself healthyIt may be dangerous for people with health conditions, especially respiratory conditions. to live in accommodation that’s very cold. So, before you turn your heating down dramatically – think about your physical health, and that of those you live with. There may be other ways you can save money. Studies show that it can negatively affect our mental health to live in very cold housing conditions, so think twice before turning off any heating.
  2. Speak to your school, college, apprentice employer or university about hardship fund

    Have a chat with the HR team or student welfare team and see whether there is any funding available to help you. This could help you meet your need for Control.
  3. Ask for a pay rise at your part-time job
    One of the difficulties of the cost-of-living crisis is that people’s earnings aren’t generally increasing enough to keep up with inflation. So, if you’ve got a part-time job and haven’t yet had a pay rise this year (or if you have, but only by a small amount), ask your employer if your earnings could increase in line with inflation. Also, make sure that you are definitely getting paid the minimum wage for your age. If there are any hours you spend working that aren’t accounted for in your pay (such as time spent preparing for an event), talk to your employer about this. They legally need to pay you minimum wage for the hours you work. If you haven’t yet got a part-time job, think about whether one might work for you, around your studies. This could help you meet your need for Security.
  4. ‘Heat the human, not the home’
    Money Saving Expert provide a number of tips on how to ‘Heat the human not the home’, including:
    – Using a heated blanket or gilet to keep you warm during the day, as well as the night
    – Slippers are also a must. The boot style is best for keeping your feet and ankles warm
    – Eat warm foods. Tea, soup, porridge and toast are all warm foods which can insulate you from the inside, fuelling you and making you feel cosier.Warning: turning off central heating can cause its own issues. Not heating your home properly can contribute to damp issues and frozen pipes if the weather’s cold, which can result in hundreds of pounds of damage. This could help you meet your need for Security.
  5. Struggling to afford food? There is help
    Sadly, some students are struggling to afford both food and energy right now. But there is help out there. Speak to your council – you don’t usually need to be on benefits to ask for support. Contact your local authority to see if you’re eligible (it may also be able to point you to other help). Check if you live near a social supermarket or community shop. These are social enterprises that are aimed at those on low incomes, selling surplus from major supermarkets at heavily discounted prices. You could also think about bulk-buying food with your flatmates – this can be much cheaper than buying just for one. Or you could try using website and apps that sell reduced food at the end of the day, such as Olio or Too Good to Go. Try your local foodbank. Foodbanks give out free parcels that should provide at least three days’ worth of in-date, non-perishable food. This could help you meet your need for Food and Drink.
  6. Look into scholarships, grants and bursaries
    Alongside Student Finance, see if you’re eligible for extra funding in the forms of scholarships, bursaries and grants. One example is Disabled Students’ Allowances, which can help students who have a disability, learning difficulty or health problem. This includes mental, as well as physical, health issues. There are also many scholarships for students from ethnic minorities.This could help you meet your need for Security, Control and Achievement.
  7. Sell things you no longer need
    Do you have any old clothes that you no longer need or want? You could try selling them to earn a bit of extra cash. Online marketplaces like Vinted allow you to sell clothes for no fee, and you can buy heavily discounted second-hand clothes for just a few pounds. Remember to keep an eye on how you set up your sales. Select the right postage rate, as this can be the difference between making profit and just covering your postage costs. This could help you meet your need for Security.
  8. Get financial advice
    Whilst inflation is high, there are a number of bank savings accounts which are now offering better rates of saving than they have in years. If you do have any money to save, then this could be a good way to make it work for you. For more information on finance, you can visit sites like MoneySavingExpert. Another great way to get support with your finances is to speak to either your college or university student support service, or to your local Citizens Advice team. They have staff and volunteers who are trained to give financial advice, and who can help with debt, finances, benefits and maximizing income. You can search online for services local to you. This could help you meet your need for Security.
  9. Set a budget for your spending
    It’s so easy to just tap and pay now, but sometimes we can get carried away with spending. One way you could manage this is to set yourself a limit on your spending, after working out what you can afford to spend each week. You could formalise this by moving money from your current bank account into savings, leaving only what you can afford to spend in the account – that means every time you tap, you know you can’t go over budget. For detailed financial advice, always speak to a qualified advisor, such as someone at your bank or building society. This could help you meet your need for Control.
  10. Save money on travel
    If you need to commute to college, school or university, make sure you’re accessing the discounts available. Train companies often offer railcards on their websites which give great discounts. Or, you can but split tickets to destinations which can reduce the journey cost. Some providers also offer flexible tickets, which can be really useful if you have occasionally days onsite. Bus companies often offer similar discounts. You can even get travel cards through some student bank accounts. If you are driving, or need a lift, see whether you can car share with other students. This could help you meet your need for Control and Community.

Suffolk Mind has lots of resources that can help you. And we’re always happy to chat about ways in which we can help.  We even have lots of free resources available. Find out more in our separate article on free support for you in 2023.

by Suffolk Mind Team
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