How to Pay and Save for Living Expenses at University

Tuition fees in the UK famously and controversially rose in 2010 from a cap of £3,225 to one of £9,000. This sparked protests around the country but to no avail as a judicial review against the raised fees failed in 2012 and those starting university that September faced the new fee system.

 There are various loans available to cover these fees but what is spoken about less often is the living expenses of students and how to pay for them. In this guide we will look at both the finance you can receive and ways to budget to make money go further.  


Maintenance Loans 

The government offers student finance, which you can find a full guide to here*. Within this is something called a Maintenance Loan for living costs. This is paid directly into your bank account at the start of each term and you may have to give details of your household income to receive it. You will eventually have to pay this loan back. 


Supposing you are a full-time student, the amount you receive will vary depending on certain factors. These include whether or not you live at home, whether your university is inside or outside London and whether you choose to study abroad for a year. You can find the full breakdown of these amounts here*. 


Extra help and Income Support 

You can also apply for various grants depending on your circumstances. The government website has a calculator* to help you find out whether you qualify for either Income Support or extra help. Income Support* is more specific and usually only applies to students who are severely disabled. Extra help*, however, is broader and can include: 

  • a student with children, especially single parents 
  • a mature student with existing financial commitments 
  • from a low-income family 
  • disabled 
  • a student that was previously in care (a ‘care leaver’) 
  • homeless or living in a foyer 

This money is usually in the form of a grant that does not need to be paid back but can sometimes be in loan form. 


Bursaries, scholarships and awards 

These do not have to be paid back and students in higher education can apply for money directly from their university or college on top of any other student finance. The qualifications for these bursaries, scholarships and awards are unique to each university and are allotted at their discretion. 


However, if you have been in local authority care, you can apply for either a one-off bursary of £2,000 from your local authority or bursary from your university or college. 



Save the Student’s annual National Student Money Survey* shows that the average student spends £770 per month – an expenditure that exceeds the average monthly Maintenance Loan sum of £600. This gap of £170 is often shored up by parents but there are other ways. Recently, 76% of students have turned to part-time work to make up the deficit, something that not only provides income but can also give students good real-world experience. 


The survey showed that the highest outgoing was rent. This is unavoidable in most cases, however with food and socialising coming in second and third respectively, there are definitely areas in which most students can probably cut back on. Limiting drinking and going out to twice a week and cooking at home can both help. Refer to our guide for teaching financial responsibility for further tips on saving.  

*Please be advised by clicking this link you are leaving the gpfm financial planners page.

If you would like to speak to an adviser about your finances, please get in touch by calling 01992 500261 or emailing us at 

 This article is for information only and must not be considered as financial advice. We always recommend that you seek independent financial advice before making any financial decisions. Investments can go down as well as up and you may get back less than you invested.

 About gpfm 

gpfm are an independent financial planning company dedicated to the provision of personal, professional and objective-driven advice for our clients. We have been awarded the Chartered Financial Planners title by the Chartered Insurance Institute for offering high quality, independent and informed advice that meets the needs of our clients.