International Student: Funding Accommodation and Living Expenses in the UK
Last week, we looked at how to write a winning scholarship essay. While some students will get scholarships covering all their tuition, accommodation and living expenses, others will have to find ways to fund accommodation and living expenses and probably, part of the tuition.
As at December 2020, when applying for your visa for a Masters in the UK, you are required to show proof of available funds for your maintenance, estimated at £1,023 per month (£1,334 for London residents) plus any outstanding tuition fees. As such, you are expected to show evidence of possessing £9,207 (or £12,006 for London) maintenance fees in your account prior to your visa application. You must hold this amount in your account for 28 consecutive days, the date of the closing balance being within 31 days of your visa application.
Finding this amount of money could prove difficult for many non-sponsored students. Some people borrow money to show proof of funds and have to pay it back before the start of the programme. This means that they still have to figure out how to survive in the UK. Let me show you how.
10 Ways to fund your accommodation and living expenses in the UK:
- Work while studying. A masters degree programme in the UK is intensive but you can find time to work. The Tier 4 (student) visa allows students to work for a maximum of 20 hrs a week during term time and full-time during holidays. Common student jobs include caterers, open day volunteers, student callers, etc. There are off-campus jobs like mail sorters, carers and factory workers (e.g. in food production companies). From my experience, it is wise to have your living expenses for at least the first semester available before coming to the UK because the time runs so fast. Also, since you are still adjusting to the new environment, you do not want to be distracted and get poor grades. In addition, you have to apply for a National Insurance number before you can begin to work and this can take a few weeks.
- Bring your spouse along. Your spouse can support your study expenses by taking up a job. They have no limit to the number of hours they can work. Minimum wage is currently at £8.72/hr. If your spouse is able to work 40 hrs a week on minimum wage, they would earn about £1,395 per month. This goes a long way. Remember that you have to show proof of funds for any dependent you are bringing along.
- Keep your home country job. If your job is the type that allows you to work remotely, you could ask for a study break while you continue to work part time. Check the exchange rate of your country's currency to see if this is worth it as your expenses will be in Pounds.
- Get a loan. 20 hrs a week work might not be enough to meet your need especially if you have outstanding tuition to pay. You might need to obtain a loan to offset that. International students do not qualify for UK government loan. You could search for student loans from banks in your country or ask family or close friends. Alternatively, there are private loan companies that offer loans to international students. But be careful with this option as you are not certain where you would be after your studies.
- Reduce expenses by living in shared flat/house or with family. If you have family in the UK, you could take advantage of that. If not, you could live in a shared house/flat with fellow students. You would not have to pay for council tax if all residents are full time students. University halls of residence usually are more expensive than the off-campus houses by private landlords.
- Make good use of student discounts and coupons. Many stores (including clothing shops, cinemas and restaurants) have student discounts. Always go with your identity card and ask at the counter if there are student discounts.
- Make your own coffee. There is a huge coffee culture in the UK. You will be presented with several coffee breaks during your study. There is a temptation to buy coffee from the café every day, especially during the cold seasons and that could cost you up to £5 a day. Alternatively, there will usually be a student's kitchen around with a kettle or microwave and fridge. So you can easily make your own coffee. By doing this, you can save some money towards your accommodation and more important expenses.
- Call home through WhatsApp. Phone calls to your home country, especially if in Africa, can be quite expensive. To save this cost, make good use of Wifi for WhatsApp calls.
- Buy stuff from discount stores. Patronize the discount supermarkets and stores around you like Aldi, Lidl, Poundland, Poundstretcher, OneBelow, etc. Avoid convenience stores except when absolutely necessary. Buy in bulk.
- Wait for clothing sales. Do not be tempted to buy all your clothing as soon as you arrive. Many shops have end of year sales. So if you start in September, you can take advantage of December sales. Why buy a pair of shoes for £80 when you can get it on sale for £10?