The Money Taboo


by Head of Young People Programmes, Bushara Awan

It is that time of year again. The time when mums and dads, up and down the country, will be getting ready to wave goodbye to their little un’s as they fly the nest, off to start their new adventure.

Yes, I am talking uni.

Proud of them as they will be, most parents will also worry about how their child will cope with their new-found freedom – especially when it comes to managing the purse strings.

And rightfully so. Our research found that;

  • A single, self-catered room cost on average £3,411, or £5,232 in London. For catered accommodation, this jumps to £4,521 and £5,985 in London.
  • Students at many universities face paying 50% or more of their student finance support on accommodation, even if they receive the maximum possible in loans and grant;
  • Some universities have no accommodation costing less than two-thirds of the maximum support, leaving students from the to pay all of their food, course, and social costs from as little as £40 a week;
  • Parents may have to fork out between £346 – 750 a month to support their child at university. See full report here.

What is even more shocking, is that most students (or parents for that matter), aren’t aware of any of this, until a few months into uni, when their new-found financial freedoms begin to turn sour.

So what can we do to change this? Well, we have just launched the Student Money Manual for 2014/15 – an annual publication which provides students with all the information they need to stay on top of their money at uni.

It includes information on student loans, grants and bursaries, as well as how to budget, save and make money while you are uni. As well as our insights, the manual includes tips and hits from students themselves, as well as inviting young people to do their own homework.

This year, we have teamed up with NUS to help distribute 250,000 copies of the Money Manual via student unions. Students will start to receive copies in their fresher’s goodie bags and via hall drops.

We see this as the first of an important step of not only getting students to think about money, but of breaking the taboo, that we can’t talk about money. Money remains one of the few things we still feel uncomfortable about talking about. I mean, we can talk about the ‘birds and bees’ with our young ones, but we don’t want to talk about how to be financially safe or savvy. But if we don’t – how will lessons be learnt?

It is vital that students understand the importance of budgeting before starting university. With their student loans in the bank, the first pot of money that has ever been ‘theirs’, it is all too easy for students to begin university feeling financially indestructible – but the feeling can be short-lived.

Students will undoubtedly need extra support on top of their student finance allowances and so they will need to talk to parents about how they might plug that gap. That might be part-time work at a bar or local shop, or it could be their guardians helping out.

Whatever way you look at it, uni will help shape many young people’s relationship with money, so talking about it beforehand will help make planning easier. It could also help students avoid huge debts and overdrafts.

People often say that university doesn’t prepare young people for the ‘real world’. We can help change that by helping students build the skills, knowledge and confidence to manage their money well and uni, and later on in life.

Yes, it is that time of year again – let’s hope this time around, we start talking money.

The 2014/15 Student Money Manual is now available to download or order.