7 ways to cope with a cash crisis

For some students, a lack of cash means skipping meals or missing classes while, for others, it’s overwhelming anxiety. “I became paranoid, and refused to talk to lecturers,” second-year Terrie revealed. “Friends would be continually knocking at my door to see if I was alright … but all I was waiting for were the bailiffs.”

A cash crisis isn’t just about being on the brink of bankruptcy, though. Anoushka Bonwick at mental health charity Student Minds says clues you’re struggling include, “if money is praying on your mind constantly or making you feel overwhelmed”, or if your everyday spending seems unmanageable.

Whether you’re trying to get by on a shoestring, or money problems seem insurmountable, you’re not alone: here are some of the folk who can help you get back on your feet.

  1. Put your uni in the picture

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    Students gave us mixed reports on getting assistance from uni sources, but there are good reasons for keeping them in the loop. For Terrie that included “a lecturer from a different course [who] helped me set up plans for my work, and also helped me plan out weeks ahead”.

    Have a word with a tutor or your department – they may be able to cut you some slack, speak up for you if your grades suffer, and advise you about taking leave.

  2. See a student money adviser

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    Your uni or SU welfare team can offer you money and moral support – but don’t expect a magic wand. You’ll need to provide paperwork, including your budget and details about your family income (which could mean that, even though you’re struggling, you may not be entitled to hardship funds).

    Don’t let that put you off: advice will be specific to your situation, plus they’ll be able to suggest emergency funds you may not know about. See the National Association of Student Money Advisers to find out who you can talk to at your uni.

  3. Find extra cash

    The Turn2us grants calculator can pinpoint niche cash you may be eligible for, such as grants for your region, age, health, gender, faith, or any other criteria. Worth a look.

    If you’re able to plan ahead, it’s also worth scouring scholarship sources: there may be awards that help you continue your studies (and take the pressure off) next year.

    For disability funding advice, try Disability Rights UK.

  1. Tackle debt

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    For Harry, debt is a constant source of dread: “[it’s] the most dreadful feeling ever knowing you’re borrowing money that isn’t yours and that if the bank ever decided to demand it to be repaid, you’d be stuck.” It’s important to get expert and impartial advice if you’re struggling to cope with debt – and especially before taking out private loans.

    There are several charities that can talk you through your options: try StepChange (0800 138 1111) or National Debtline (0808 808 4000). There’s also Rethink, who provide money advice for those affected by mental health problems.

    Don’t forget to talk to your bank, too. Let them know how things stand and ask what support they can give you, such as an extended interest-free overdraft, fee-waiving or advice. Banks are never going to be cuddly benefactors, so don’t get emotionally invested if you can help it – keep calm if you get prissy letters, keep a record of your communications, and know your rights!

  2. Know your rights

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    Housing charity Shelter can help if you’re worried about eviction, and can give advice by email, phone and web chat, as well as face-to-face where available. There’s a wide range of guidance for everything else at Citizens Advice. If you’ve got specific cash queries, try your student money adviser, too.

  3. Talk it through

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    Counselling won’t magic up any cash, but it can help you cope when your health suffers. Your university will likely offer free counselling, or your GP can refer you for NHS counselling – but expect waiting lists for either. The Mix offers free telephone counselling to under 25s, and aim to get things moving within a week.

    Terrie adds, “I found regular help from the Samaritans, calling them in times of panic or emailing them when I wanted to vent my frustration.” You can phone them on 116 123 (free, anonymous and 24/7), or try your university’s listening service.

  4. Manage your mental health online

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    Big White Wall (Android, Apple) is an anonymous Facebook for feelings: you can post updates, use self-assessment tools, or connect with other users. The site is monitored by professionally trained members.

    Sleepio, a sleep improvement programme based on cognitive behavioural therapy, is well rated and available free in some NHS regions (otherwise from £7.99/week).

How to help yourself

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Check out our complete guide to looking after your mental health at university for loads more advice, resources and support!