Join Rosie, one of our current MSc Speech and Language Therapy students, to hear her tips on managing your money.
"Hello from our sunny Wivenhoe Campus!
I'm enjoying a quiet moment on a picnic blanket by the lakes. It's a simple pleasure that I am sure you will come to appreciate once you start at Essex. If I were in any way artistic I would be tempted to paint the summer scene in front of me, but the world has enough stick drawings so I’ll refrain for the time being! Instead, I will share a few financial tips that I have gleaned from my first year on the MSc.
As we all know, the cost of living has risen sharply in recent months and there have been many knock-on effects for students, especially with regards to placement costs. Here are some recommendations that may be helpful to consider in the run up to starting your course.
Choose an app, a pen and paper or a bank statement and some highlighters; find a way that works for you. Keeping on top of your money from the outset - and accounting for every purchase - is the key to staying afloat so you can focus your time and energy on your studies and enjoying student life.
The SU have plenty of signposting and practical support available for students to help with sourcing funding and managing money, all of which are available in an inclusive and supportive environment.
As an aside, the SU Hardship Loans (of up to £100 usually) are interest-free and accessible for all, with no bearing on credit score. It can be helpful to familiarise yourself with the support available at the start of the year but the services are open and available all year round.
If you can, it is helpful to supplement your loans/grants with part-time work, especially if it involves transferable knowledge or skills from your course. I work as bank staff in a children’s nursery which has given me not only some financial flexibility but also a great deal of observational experience regarding speech and language development in the early years. Discussions with Early Years Practitioners have also been invaluable. Mapping skills and knowledge that are integral to your course and then looking for jobs that meet those requirements can be a good place to start.
Additionally, if you have a part-time job that is not exclusively weekend-based, it may be helpful to discuss moving to bank staff or a zero-hour/flexi contract with your employer. This year we have encountered some teaching changes at late notice that are beyond departmental control and the timetable can change on a weekly basis depending on the modules studied. For ease and convenience, I have found it helpful to send a weekly screenshot of my Pocket Essex App timetable to my employer.
I would like to believe I am fairly careful (but not stingy!) with money. However, it is easy to be caught by surprise with unforeseen costs that come out of nowhere and bite you on the proverbial backside. (At this point I will acknowledge my awe and respect for students who are also parents; managing a family on a student budget is a formidable feat of financial planning).
As for me, I was recently taken by surprise with a sudden and unexpected emergency dental bill of multiple hundreds of pounds that I had to ‘find’, quite literally, overnight. So, when considering larger purchases like holidays, it might be worth assessing the impact on any contingency budget you may have and how quickly you can replace it through work or your loan. Other culprits of surprise (and often eye-watering) expenses can include vets fees, car repairs, opticians appointments/new glasses, emergency home repairs and family/friends events such as new arrivals, weddings or funerals. If you can, building up a financial safety net of a few hundred pounds is well worth it.
This year, the MSc Speech and Language Therapy year one students have undertaken three placements. Two of these consisted of 8 days split across 4 weeks and the third was a 5 week block placement. Whilst the department try to consider geographical limitations when placing students, it is not uncommon to be travelling 90 minutes+ each way or to require accommodation.
The NHSBSA LSF will reimburse some of these costs for students that qualify for support (see the website for a full explanation) but these payments can take weeks (and weeks!) to come through. As a result, it is helpful to start a ‘placement costs fund’ by putting money aside, either from your loan or your part-time work, right from the start of your course. Even putting away £10 per week can make ‘finding’ money for costly commutes or overnight stays more manageable.
I hope these insights have given you some food for thought prior to starting your studies. Money matters can seem stressful, especially given our current economic climate, and it can seem difficult to know where to start. However, with a little bit of planning, the bumps can be smoothed along the way.
As a final thought, consider following Martin Lewis and Money Saving Expert on social media – a gem of a resource for anyone on a budget!"