Guidance to help you make your money go further so you can focus on studying and making the most of your time at UCL.
Rising cost of living
UCL understands students may be facing financial difficulties because of the rising cost of living in the United Kingdom. Please visit our dedicated Cost of Living hub and our webpages on Financial support from UCL for information about additional funding which may be available.
Find a bank account that suits you
It’s worth shopping around to find the bank account which is best for you. Many student accounts come with 'freebies' like exclusive offers or travel discounts. But you need to look at everything the account can offer, for example if there is an interest free overdraft facility. Be careful that you don’t go over your overdraft limit as the charges can be very expensive. Our International Student pages have some guidance if you are setting up a UK bank account for the first time and Save the Student compares what different bank accounts have to offer
Create a budget, and stick to it!
Creating a budget is essential when it comes to understanding what income you have available and what you are spending. Start by looking at your income – this might include maintenance loans, bursaries, wages, personal savings or family funding.
Next, you should look at what you are spending. Your essential expenses will typically include things like rent, groceries & transport. If you are living in private housing you may also have utility bills for electricity, gas & water. Don't forget other bills such as mobile phone costs. Your non-essential expenses may include things like subscriptions, going out, clothes shopping and holidays among others.
There are plenty of tools out there to help with this. Lots of banks now offer budgeting apps and other ways to keep track of your spending. You can also use a separate tool like this budget calculator from the Money Advice Service. Whether you are using an in-built app or just a spreadsheet, check your statements regularly and make sure you're not overspending. If you are spending more than you have coming in, you'll need to make some changes. Below are some ideas for increasing your income or reducing your spending.
Increase your income
Check your core funding
There are various sources of funding for undergraduates, and students on postgraduate taught and postgraduate research courses. Make sure you are accessing everything you are entitled to receive. Some sources of funding, such as scholarships, are awarded to students at the point of admission. Others, such as government loans, may still be available after your course has started.
If you are a UK undergraduate, it's likely that your maintenance loan is based on your Household Income. If that has recently gone down by 15% or more, take a look at our Current Year Income assessment webpage to make sure you are getting the right level of Student Finance.
For UK UG students coming from middle to higher income households, your maintenance loan is lower because the Student Finance system assumes you'll be getting support from your family. It can be awkward discussing money with your parents, but there are some excellent resources at Money Saving Expert aimed at parents to explain how the system works.
Look for part-time work
Lots of students choose to work part-time alongside their studies to gain valuable work experience and some extra money. However, it's very important that you prioritise your studies. Be careful of assuming that you will be able to earn enough to make up your costs if you don't have enough funding from other sources (e.g. student loans, scholarships, stipends, savings, family contributions etc) to cover your essential costs.
The University recommends that full-time undergraduate students do not work for more than 15 to 20 hours a week during term time. International students should find advice on work restrictions and their student visa.
Where to look for part-time or holiday work:
- The UCLU job shop offers an easy-to-use online jobs list.
- The UCL Careers Service have several jobs boards that you can search for opportunities. They can also provide student support with job applications, interviews and writing a CV.
- You can also find work with UCL's Widening Participation team to support prospective or current students in mentor or ambassador roles.
Explore funding externally to UCL
There are lots of external sources of funding from prestigious international scholarships to small grants offered by businesses and charities. Some of these get advertised on our online noticeboard, and there are several funding aggregator tools online.
Postgraduate students can also contact the Student Funding Office for a PIN to access the Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding.
There are lots of other tips and suggestions online for ways to make extra money such as selling unwanted items, filling out surveys, participating in research projects and lots of others. The Scholarship Hub has some ideas to get you started. However, be wary of any money making opportunity that sounds too good to be true. Unfortunately scammers and fraudsters will target students who are desperate for a bit of extra cash. Take a look at our Fraud and Scams page which lists some common scams which are aimed at students.
There are various ways to pay less for where you live, including homesharing, property guardianship and becoming a residence adviser (postgraduate students only).
If you are living in halls of residence provided by UCL you automatically have a basic level of insurance with Cover4Insurance. This provides cover for a range of possessions within your accommodation such as laptop, electrical goods, clothes and sports equipment. If you find that you need more cover than is already arranged by UCL you can arrange top up cover.
Lots of London landmarks are often nearer than you think. TfL have walking maps outside many tube stations, and once you get to know your way around you’ll discover various shortcuts.
If you need to go further afield you could invest in a bike. There’s lots of bike parking around UCL.
You could also check out the Santander Cycles hire scheme from TfL; there are docking stations near UCL.
An 18+ Student Oyster Photocard will give you a 30% discount on Travelcard and Bus Pass season tickets, covering periods of a week to one year. It doesn’t offer a discount on pay as you go fares, although this is possible by linking your 16-25 railcard to your Oyster card.
A 16-25 railcard will get you a third off rail travel in the UK as well as some other discounts. It’s also available to full-time students over the age of 26. The Young Persons Coach Card offers the same benefits but on the coach network. You can also link this railcard to your Oyster card and save a third on all individual tube and bus journeys.
Food and Drink
The cost of eating out and getting take-aways can really stack up. Cooking for yourself or with your housemates is cheaper and healthier, with the added benefit of bringing everyone together. There are lots of free recipes online and if you cook with your housemates it will lower the cost even more.
Plan a menu for the week and make a shopping list before heading to the shops. This will make sure you only buy what you need and less food will go to waste.
Take a packed lunch and bring coffee, tea or water in a flask. You can get free hot water at all the Student Union cafes to make up soup, noodles or drinks. Bringing your own food is usually cheaper than buying everything on campus, but check our the deals at the Student Union cafes.
Shop around for your food. Mysupermarketcompare helps find the best deals from across major supermarket chains.
Don’t be afraid to try the value brands. They are much more economical and studies have shown that consumers can prefer the cheaper brand. Swap one item a week for the value version and if you like it, stick with it.
Some supermarkets do Meal Ticket Cards for students where a parent or guardian can put money on the card and the student can spend the money on their food shop. Currently Asda and Sainsbury's have schemes, ask at your local branch.
Many supermarkets reduce items in the hour before they close. Visit at this time to get vastly reduced prices on food.
Use an app like Olio to pick up food that shops in your area are giving away.
When on campus don't waste money on buying water – fill up at one of UCL's water fountains.
Take advantage of the UCL libraries – they are free, comprehensive collection of print and online books and other resources. Search the library’s collections.
You can also find key course materials on ReadingLists@UCL, including links to items held in the libraries and digitised chapters for your modules.
If UCL Libraries do not hold a book that you need then you can recommend a book for the libraries to buy.
If you need an item urgently then you may be able to find it in a nearby library (such as Senate House or the British Library) or access it via an Inter Library loan more quickly. Contact the Library Help Team for more advice.
If you do need or want to buy a book, research before you buy. Book Finder searches several online websites and can help you find cheaper books. Sites like Book Shop, Amazon or eBay may have the books you need at a lower price. Abebooks sells second hand books.
It’s worth checking in local second hand shops around UCL to see if a student in a year above you, or who has graduated, has donate books they don’t need anymore. Skoob books near the Brunswick Centre and Oxfam Books on Bloomsbury Street are good.
Take advantage of loyalty card schemes at bookshops, like the one at Waterstones.
Undergraduate students who have a household income below £42,875 per year and in receipt of the UCL Undergraduate Bursary can apply to borrow a laptop from the university for the entire duration of their programme of study.
You can also borrow laptops on a short term basis from UCL Libraries.
The NHS Low Income Scheme helps people from low-income backgrounds cover health related costs on the NHS such as travel, prescriptions, dental and optician’s bills. The certificate lasts for a year. To apply, download the HC1 form, complete it and return to the NHS address stated on page 2.
There are lots of other suggestions for how to stay healthy for less on the Student Support and Wellbeing blog.
Lifestyle and shopping
The NUS Totum gets you discounts at many restaurants, shops and other venues.
Students can also get discounts to many cultural sites and activities in London. Check out the UCLU website for deals on the theatre, ballet and opera.
Sign up to a site like Freecycle where local people list items they are giving away, or things they want. All you have to do is go and collect it. Freecycle has everything from desks to books.
Shop around for the best deals. There are a lot of comparison websites providing information on the best value deals for lots of different items such as mobile phones. SIM-only contracts or pay as you go are much cheaper than a contract which includes the cost of a new handset. Also don't over-pay for data over the mobile network. As a student you can access WiFi for free across all UCL sites, and lots of other locations as well.
Cheap and free activities in London
We all know London is an expensive place, but there are lots of affordable ways to have fun in the city too.
Why not check out a film for £3 at Genesis Cinema, Whitchapel? On Thursdays you can see any film at Genesis for just three quid, whether it's a new blockbuster, an arthouse movie, or a golden oldie.
See some theatre at Shakespeare's Globe, just like they would've done in the 1600s - £5 standing tickets or 'groundlings'.
Escape into nature at the Barbican's conservatory, free and open to the public on Sundays.
From beautiful views in Hampstead Heath, to Richmond Park's famous free-roaming deer, to Holland Park's Japanese Gardens, London has some truly beautiful green spaces to offer. All completely free entry, why not take a picnic if the weather's good or explore a potential new outdoor study space. Check out a list of London's top parks.
Museums and Galleries
Whether you want to discover natural history, modern art and design or classical painting, London has a huge range of free museums and galleries to stroll around and enjoy. Whilst you might have to pay for exhibitions, entry to most of the museums and galleries in London is free of charge. As well as UCL's own museums, check out the Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Tate Modern, Saatchi Gallery or the Serpantine for a modern art fix. Historians can visit the Natural History Museum, The British Museum or The Victoria and Albert for some fashion history. Check out a list of London's 10 best museums and galleries.