How much does it cost to be a student?

You'll be paying for more than just beer and baked beans. We explain what you'll need money for as a student.

Learn how to become a student money saver

It’s hard to come up with an estimate for average student living costs per week because student life varies so much from town to town, and from college to college. Buying a pint outside your student union if you live in London, for example, will cost approximately £8,000.

But back in the safety of the aforementioned student union, you should be able to get advice specific to your area, and the housing office can give you more information about what you can expect to pay in rent.

There are always certain expenses for which you have to plan ahead and budget, so make sure you’re aware of the following outgoings. Find out more about making a budget here.

Tuition fees

If you do have to cough up for tuition fees, you face a bill of up to £9,250 a year for those starting a degree in England in 2021, usually payable in two or more installments. Fortunately, you can get a student loan to cover your tuition fee and some of your living costs too.

If you’re Scottish and going to university in Scotland you don’t need to worry about your fees – find out more at Student Awards Agency for Scotland.

Rent

The biggie. Student halls might charge an all-in fee that includes rent, electricity, cleaning, and food. Or you could be in a self-catered flat, where you do your own grub and everything is metered.

If you don’t have a washing machine, factor in some extra money for launderette prices, and if you’ll be using a TV don’t forget about the TV licence fee (they will catch up with you sooner or later, apparently).

Bills

If you’re in a student house you may have meters for electricity and gas, or quarterly bills, as well as your own stuff like mobile phone bills. Organise a system so that everyone pays their fair share. The best way to be an effective student money saver is to pay for everything online.

Food and other groceries

This should cover everything from cooking at home, to eating out, snacks, coffees, toiletries and cleaning products. Sharing things like bread, butter, milk and condiments can help reduce everyone’s average student living costs per week.

Books and equipment

You don’t have to buy every book on the reading list, but you will need to get a few useful books, and whatever else is on your equipment list. Some stuff can be bought cheaper second-hand.

A good money saving measure is to check out your student website to see if anyone in the year above happens to be selling the books you need. Wait until the course has started before buying. That way you can work out what you really need, and use the library as much as possible to keep costs down.

Stationery and photocopying

Computer programmes, paper, folders, photocopies of research papers and chapters in books you don’t want to buy. It all adds up. Your university department may offer free or subsidised photocopying and equipment, so find out.

Going out

This might not constitute financial advice as such, but don’t forget your social life, as well as paying for sports, clubs and other interests. Otherwise, you’ll end up bored and lonely, which is not the point of going away to uni.

Travel costs

This covers bus fares, petrol, train tickets, late-night taxis and more. Get hold of discount cards and season passes as early as possible. Book fares in advance to get the best deals.

Clothes

Many stores offer a 10% discount when you can prove you’re a student. And remember the golden rule: if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Not all shops advertise their discounts, but once you flash your student ID their generous sides might get the better of them.

Phone and internet bills

Keeping in touch can be costly, whether it’s paying off your ISP or topping up the credit on your mobile. Shop around for the best deals and use VOIP instead of cellular where possible.

Insurance

This is well worth having, especially if it’s a student deal. Think about how much it would cost to replace everything you own. Endsleigh offers insurance specifically for students, but shop around for the best deal. Read more in our ‘do I need insurance’ article here.

Interest and fines

It is better to take things back to the library, and avoid upsetting the bank manager by going over your overdraft limit unexpectedly, but sometimes it can’t be helped. So, if you’re absent minded, or cavalier when it comes to cash machine withdrawals, it might be best to allow a little bit extra for emergencies and personal error!

For further help with budgeting and money:

Next Steps

  • Use the Money Advice Service's budget planner to take charge of your finances.
  • Citizens Advice offer free help with housing, money and legal problems. Find your local centre.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

By Holly Turner

Updated on 01-Aug-2021

Photo of calculator by volunteer photographer Helen Smith