London is an amazing city to live in, offering a multicultural and diverse environment with so much to do and see. However, for many students, a big concern is the cost of living here. Let’s face it: living in London can be expensive, and even more so if you are a student. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to try to make your living costs more manageable.
Tip 1: Check out bursaries, scholarships and student loans
Queen Mary offers a range of bursaries and scholarships for students to help fund their studies. You can visit the Scholarships page for further details.
If you are eligible for a student maintenance loan funded by the UK Student Finance body, you will automatically be entitled to receive a higher amount due to living in London, so make sure you check your Student Finance account and increase your loan amount if you need to.
Try not to go for private loans, as although the cash may be handy if it’s an emergency, you could end up paying back a lot more than you originally borrowed. The student loan is a safer option as you only need to pay when you are earning a regular income over a certain threshold. Should you be out of work, your repayments will be stopped.
Tip 2: Student bank accounts
Many banks offer exclusive accounts for students, with features such as a large interest-free overdraft as well as a free four-year railcard, which will give you a third off the price of train tickets. Make sure you do your research and pick a bank, which offers you the most useful incentives. On campus, we are lucky that we have our very own Santander branch, located in the Student Village, by the canal. There are also a number of other banks located down Mile End Road towards Whitechapel.
Tip 3: Council tax discounts or exemptions
If you live only with students in a household, you are entitled to a full council tax exemption. This will mean you do not have to pay any council tax. Check on your council’s website for information on claiming this. If you live with a non-student, you will not be entitled to a full exemption however, you will be able to receive a discount. Check your council’s website for more information.
If you need a letter to prove you are a student you can easily request one from the Student Enquiry Center, located in the Queens’ Building. (Note: if you are a Queen Mary student living in Queen Mary halls, you will automatically be exempt and will not have to take any action.)
Tip 4: Travel saving advice (16-25 Railcard and 18+ Student Oyster Card)
Did you know that you can link your 16-25 Railcard to your Oyster card to give you a third off the off-peak fares on the London Underground, London Overground, DLR and National Rail services in London? Just ask the staff at any London Underground station to do this for you. Off peak hours apply before 6.30am, between 9.30am and 4pm as well as after 7pm Monday to Friday and at all times during the weekend and bank holidays. So if you can travel outside the peak hours, it will save you a lot of money in the long run.
If you commute to university, often travel during the peak hours and get buses every day, it could be worthwhile applying for a 18+ Student Oyster Photocard (Most Queen Mary students will be eligible for one). This Oyster card will allow you to save a third on the price of weekly and monthly travel cards. A travel card will allow you to make unlimited Tube, Overground, and DLR journeys in the zones your card is valid in. As well as allowing, you unlimited travel on any TFL bus in London (all zones) at no extra cost.
Tip 5: Student discounts (Unidays/NUS Extra Card)
Many shops and restaurants offer discounts if you are a student. Sometimes it will not be advertised, but there is no harm in asking if they offer a student discount. Who knows? You might just get lucky!
Most of the time your Queen Mary or Barts Student ID card will be enough to prove you are a student. However, sometimes you might be asked for a NUS extra card, which you can order online from the NUS website. The card costs £12, but is valid for a year and may end up saving you a lot more than that! It also gives you a 10% discount in the Co-op supermarket, which is quite useful as we have two nearby the Queen Mary Mile End campus!
Also, sign up to the Unidays website. It’s free, quick and easy to validate your student status using the Queen Mary portal or your Queen Mary email address. It offers hundreds of in-store and online discounts! Check out the website: www.myunidays.com
Tip 6: Make the most of the Queen Mary and QMSU resources
As a Queen Mary student, you are entitled to five free installations of Microsoft Office through your QM Office 365 account. You may also be entitled to various specialist free or discounted software. Find out more on the IT Services website.
The Library holds a huge collection containing thousands of books and journals. So before you go out and buy all the books in your reading lists, first check if the Library has any copies of the book. For most books, you can loan them for three weeks, but you are able to renew them as many times as you like (as long as they are not required by another reader). Many books are available to view online as e-books now, too!
The Library also subscribes to many online journals and databases, so if you require access to one for your research, check the Library website first as you may already be able to access it. Most resources can be accessed anywhere in the world using your Queen Mary login details, but for some resources you may have to access them from a Queen Mary campus.
In our Students' Union Hub, there is also a free-to-use printer. The only catch is that a small advertisement will be printed on the page, but it is fine to use for rough work.
Tip 7: Consider a part-time job
There are many part-time, flexible job opportunities in and around campus. They are a great way to earn extra income and meet friends while enhancing your CV. For instance, the QTemps scheme run by the Careers and Enterprise service at Queen Mary allows you to find many temporary job opportunities. Visit the Queen Mary careers site for more info.
You can also apply to become a Student Ambassador within QMUL, which is what I currently work as.
Our Students’ Union, QMSU, is also a large recruiter on the campus. You could for example work as a Retail Assistant, Barista, Bartender, Sports Assistant or Photographer. The best thing about the jobs on campus (within both Queen Mary and QMSU) is that they all pay a minimum of the London Living Wage (currently £10.20 per hour) and they are also flexible around your studies. So if you have a big assignment coming up, they will understand that you may not be able to work as often.
So there you have it, my top seven tips on managing your finances at University. For any further advice on money matters, you can visit the Queen Mary Advice and Counselling Service, who are able to offer free specialist advice. Their website also contains a wealth of useful information and guides ranging from budgeting to student loans.