Support with living costs

There has been a lot of news about the cost of living and rising inflation over the past few months. As the cost of living in the UK increases, many of us are worried about the impact it will have on our finances and wellbeing. Here we talk you through some practical changes and initiatives that can help you take control of your finances and the support that is available if you are struggling.  

Ways to save money

On-campus tips

There are a number of initiatives on campus that aim to reduce some of the cost-of-living burden for our students:

  • Study spaces - students can come to work on campus and make the most of free WIFI access, charging stations and central heating. If you want to be extra snugly and warm, you can borrow a blanket while studying in the Main Library. Find them on each level by the lifts. 
  • Free mobile charging lockers - coming soon to the Sports Centre, Ground Floor Teaching & Learning Building, Murray Learning Centre and University Centre.
  • We’re fighting food waste by teaming up with online platform ‘Too Good to Go’. This free app lets you buy food (i.e. Magic Bags) that would otherwise go to waste, at a great price. 
  • Grab lunch on campus for £4 at selected outlets through the Food Fellows Meal Deal, or a hot drink for £1.50.
  • Or why not bring a home-cooked meal to campus with you? There are free microwave stations across campus and you’re welcome to eat your own food in any of our social spaces and food areas. 
  • YoYo Wallet - use YoYo on campus to collect points for free drinks and money-off vouchers.
  • If you’re struggling to buy food, the Guild of Students' new Community Pantry is there to support you by providing a free one-off food parcel. 

Reduce, reuse, recycle

There are lots of things you can do to reduce your consumption and save costs in your everyday life.

Energy consumption

NUS Student Switch Off+ provides some great advice on understanding your energy bills and offer some tips about conserving energy and heat.

MoneySavingExpert regularly put out guides on how you can cut the cost of your energy and water bills.

As mentioned above, you can also save money on your energy bills by working on campus. There are Study Spaces located around campus as well as the Main Library. We will be installing new mobile charging lockers at some locations too soon.

Shopping

An effective and fun way to save money on food while at university is to cook meals with your housemates and friends. Cooking as a group will save costs and reduce waste. You should also consider batch cooking meals and freezing them, this will prevent food expiring and save you time and money. Many shops are removing best-before dates in an attempt to reduce waste. Whilst best-before dates only offer a guide on quality, you should still refer to the use-by dates to ensure food is safe to eat.

When food shopping, you should consider which supermarkets best suit your budget. Non-branded items are considerably cheaper than branded items, and you can often get food for cheaper by shopping in the evenings when food prices have been reduced.

Save The Student have put together an article on how you can save money when online food shopping and BBC Good Food is a great starting point for finding budget-friendly recipes.

When it comes to clothing and goods, there are lots of second-hand shops that you can visit near the University to find a pre-loved bargain. It's cheap and better for the planet. Hazaar is a zero waste marketplace for students that was set up by one of our own students

Health & Wellbeing

Students may be eligible for help with their healthcare costs by completing a HC1 form and applying to the NHS Low Income Scheme. This could include full or partial exemption from NHS prescription costs, or help with dental and optical care.

The university offers Student Membership at the Sport & Fitness Centre. You could also explore alternative exercise plans such as Couch to 5K, utilise exercise videos on YouTube or join a club or society here on campus.

Travel

The university has a rail station located right on campus (University) and is a quick and easy way to travel into the city. There are a number of Railcards available to purchase, with the majority offering 1/3 off UK rail fares. Our Student Train Travel Tips page has more information on other savings available. 

The university operates a bike hire scheme and there are West Midlands Cycle Hire stations around the outskirts of campus.

University staff and students, and NHS staff can travel by bus for just £1. 'The Hop!' £1 fare will be available from any stop between Selly Oak and the city centre, in either direction, for bus numbers X61, 63, X64 and 98. Remember to take your University ID card with you, as you will need to show it to the bus driver to receive the special fare.

If you don't live in the Hop zone, or want to travel somewhere other than the city centre, there are other savings and discounted fares available. Take a look at our Student Bus Travel Tips for more information. 

Course costs

Use the Library Services where possible and always see what books you can borrow before you start purchasing course materials. Buying textbooks second hand is a sustainable way of reducing course costs, especially if you’re only going to use it for one module. You could even sell it on again when you're finished with it. 

Discounts and freebies

  • Look for student discounts and don’t forget to use your Totum card wherever possible.
  • Apps such as UNiDAYS offer discounts at a variety of retailers and online subscriptions.
  • Always ask if somewhere does student discount, such as at the hairdressers.
  • Some banks offer student extras so shop around for the best account for you.
  • Organise free fun activities with friends, such as visiting free attractions and museums, staying in to watch a movie, playing boardgames or going for walks.
  • There are a number of places owned by the university, such as the Lapworth Museum of Geology and Winterbourne House and Garden which offers free entry to students with a valid ID.

Managing your money

One of the most important things that you’ll learn as a student is how to manage your money. Knowing that your finances are under control means that you can concentrate on your studies and fully enjoy your time here at Birmingham.

Plan for your living costs

It's important for you to know how much you will need in order to meet your living costs when planning your student finances. Here we have compiled some average living costs, though please note that these will vary greatly depending on your lifestyle. 

If you are an international student, you should ensure you have enough funds to cover your tuition fees and living costs for the duration of your course before applying for a visa. If you cannot provide an official letter from a sponsor stating they will cover all of your fees and living costs, you must be able to prove you have access to sufficient funds yourself. For more information, please visit the UKCISA website.

Average costs

The table below shows a breakdown of weekly essential costs. These will vary depending on individual circumstances. Other variable costs that aren't included in the table, but that you might want to consider include: travel, socialising, dining out and clothing. 

Undergraduate students should calculate their academic year costs over a 42 week period. Postgraduate students should calculate their total expenditure over approximately 52 weeks.

Table of average living costs
 DescriptionPrivate houseSelf-catered HallsMeal Plan Halls
 Rent  £108  £170  £219
 Bills  £40  Included  Included
 Food  £50  £50  Included
Personal care (e.g. toiletries)  £15  £15  £15
Internet/Mobile  £10  £8  £8
Course costs £18 - £30   £18 - £30   £18 - £30 
Weekly total £241 - £253  £261 - £273 £260 - £272

Accommodation forms a large proportion of your budget. The University provides a variety of accommodation to meet the needs of our students. More information about the facilities and services included within University-owned accommodation can be found on Living's offer pack information page.

With a Food Fellows Dining Plan, you’ll have £58.50 to spend each week at food outlets on campus. You’ll also get a discount of 10% off all food and drink (excluding alcohol).

Full-time registered students are exempt from paying Council Tax.

Extra costs

In addition to any costs associated with your course or programme of study, there are other costs that you are likely to incur as a student. This is not an exhaustive list, but it gives an indication of the types of things you may have to pay for.

  • Printing and binding – in the majority of cases, coursework and assessments can be submitted online but some students may be required to submit work in a printed format. 
  • Photocopying - try to reduce this as much as you can. 
  • Books – a wide range of resources, including most core texts, are available in the Library. However, you may be required to or prefer to buy your own copy of key textbooks.
  • PCs and laptops – PCs and laptops are available on campus in IT clusters. However, you may find it useful to have your own PC, laptop or tablet that you can use around campus and at home.
  • Stationery. 
  • Graduation – there are costs associated with hiring your gown for your Degree Congregation, if you wish to attend your ceremony.
  • If you want to watch TV while at university, you might need to get a TV license, which costs £159 per year. 

Set a budget 

It is crucial to remember that most students receive their funding in fairly large instalments, normally at the start of every term. So once a payment has been received, it usually has to last quite a while (typically until the start of the following term) before another payment comes through. This is why budgeting is so important. 

First you need to establish the total income that is available to you. This might be a combination of your student loan, any scholarships that you receive, contributions from family members or sponsors and wages from part-time work. You can learn more about all of these sources of income through our funding pages

Once you know how much you have coming in, you will need to work out how much money you are likely to have left over after you've covered the essentials like rent, utilities and food. This will give you an idea of how much you can put aside for socialising and life's little luxuries. We have produced a budget planner to help you do this (PDF - 1,413KB). For an accessible, non-PDF version please use the Word document of the front section of the planner (Word - 70KB), in conjunction with our calculations spreadsheet (Excel - 21KB).

Our top tips:

  1. Establish your total income available (from loans, scholarships, part-time work, etc.)
  2. Work out your essential outgoings, such as rent, bills and food.
  3. Factor in non-essential items that are important to you and one-off costs for special occasions.
  4. Be honest about your spending habits. Do you get a lot of takeaways, is going out important to you, do you spend a lot on clothes? Are these behaviours ones you can change or do you need to budget for them?
  5. Track and scrutinise your spending patterns. What can you cut or find cheaper? Can you earn some extra cash?
  6. Create a budget and stick to it. Don’t be dispirited if you go over budget – recognise how you can get back on track.

What can I do if I have gone over budget? 

  • Reflect on your spending - try and identify patterns in your spending that may have contributed to you going over budget. Did you impulsively buy things unnecessarily or that you could have gotten cheaper?
  • Reflect on your budget - you may need to adjust your budget. Often, people start out with a budget that is too restrictive. Try and be as realistic as possible.
  • Get back on track in the immediate future - it may be that you have to slightly underspend in the next week or month to accommodate for going over budget previously. As long as you’re aware of this, you can find ways to get back on track!
  • Get back on track in the long term - if you have assessed your spending and cannot cut down anything else, you may need to think about additional sources of income. You may also want to think about creating an Emergency Fund in which you save a little each week or month. This will act as a safety net for periods where you find you have slightly overspent.

Other budgeting resources

There are lots of free budgeting apps that may be able to help, including:

  • mint - a comprehensive budget that categorises your spending showing where cutting back might be possible
  • goodbudget - includes a 'share budgets' feature - useful if you're in a house share
  • Money Lover - brilliant for those who like charts, statistics and graphs

Save the Student provides some handy tips for saving money, together with a broad range of useful online tools and calculators to help you make the most of your finances. 

Part-time work

A part-time job can supplement your income and help you to gain valuable work experience. The University recommends that full-time students do not work more than 15 hours a week during term time. A lot of students find jobs on-campus, tutoring or via freelance work.

The national minimum wage for ages 18-20 is £6.83 per hour; for those aged 21-22 it is £9.18; and for 23+ it is £9.50*. 

International students who wish to know if they can work in the UK under their student visa can get advice and guidance from the UKCISA working during your studies in the UK website.

*Figures for 2022. Consultations are ongoing regarding potential rate changes for April 2023.

WorkLink

If you are looking for work that can fit around your studies, WorkLink provide students with on-campus casual work opportunities.

Guild of Students

You can find and apply for job opportunities at the Guild of Students. The Guild of Students recruit student staff to be Student Mentors, Hall Reps and Community Wardens.

Help and support

You are not in this alone. When you study at Birmingham we want to make sure that you feel supported. The University offers a range of financial support and guidance for you while you are studying with us, and and you can always contact someone if you need help.

Financial support 

Guild of Students

The Guild of Students is the Students' Union for the University of Birmingham. If you’re a student at the University of Birmingham, then you’re automatically a member of the Guild of Students. Depending on your circumstances, they may be able to offer you short-term support such as food vouchers.

  • Community Pantry - the brand new Community Pantry supports those in crisis by providing a free one off food parcel to those who need to access this service.
  • Guild Advice - a free, impartial and confidential advice service for students at the University of Birmingham. Keep an eye out for key updates and advice about the cost of living crisis. They have already put together advice on energy bill support.
  • Student Mentor Scheme - a peer-to-peer support service for students in UoB & partner accommodation. They offer support with budgeting, looking for part-time work and signposting to other services.
  • The Guild Hardship Fund - the Hardship Fund is available to students who are experiencing a short-term, unexpected financial difficulty. The University has worked with the Guild to provide an additional £10,000 for emergency financial support, recognising the current economic conditions.  

Student Services

Funding, Graduation & Awards (FGA) provides information and advice about financial support available to students. We have an undergraduate funding database and postgraduate funding database that contain details of funding opportunities available to support your studies. You can filter for opportunities relevant for your level of study, subject and country of domicile. Eligibility and application processes will vary depending on the particular scholarship or award, so please read the full award details carefully before you make your application. 

We also administer the Student Support Fund, which is provided by the University to help students who have genuine and unavoidable financial difficulties. 

Wellbeing support

If at any point you feel overwhelmed, anxious, or down, about the cost of living, we want you to know that you don’t struggle on your own. If financial worry has started to negatively impact your everyday life, please reach out for wellbeing support.

  • Wellbeing Officers - each School has their own Wellbeing Officer(s) who are able to provide practical and emotional support.
  • UB Heard - a 24/7 confidential listening and support service for all registered students.
  • Pause @UoB - drop-in sessions for you to talk about feelings and real life.

Further resources, information and advice

  • Blackbullion - provides guides and learning resources to help students manage their finances.
  • Save The Student - gives money saving tips and highlights where to find the best deals.
  • National Debtline - offers support to avoid and manage debt.
  • The Money Charity - publishes articles and runs workshops on understanding your money.
  • Money Saving Expert - contains great information about how to save and maximise your finances. 

 

Colleges

Professional Services