Hi! I’m Katy and I’m currently doing an MA in English Literary Studies. I have had ups and downs regarding my finances over the last year. COVID-19 has definitely affected me financially, but I would like to share some basic tips on postgraduate fees, funding and finance. Life was a bit different before COVID-19; but hopefully this blog post is still relevant and useful!
My financial situation
Once I knew I wanted to do an MA, I did try to plan ahead. I applied for a student loan which basically covered my tuition fees. I thought I would have enough money from a part-time job alongside, but as I was a full-time student, it was more difficult than I imagined and I couldn’t work as much as I wanted. Plus, I had drained any extra money I had saved over summer and the end of my Bachelors degree. I had hobbies I spent money on. When it came to the beginning of the first term, I set up a budget, and to my dismay, realised I didn’t have enough money.
My top tips for managing your finances
Now, I have never been the best at managing money. Fortunately, my family supported me. But I knew that I had not planned enough. I hope no one else ends up in the situation I was in, so here are the four main things I have learned.
1. Create a budget
Even if you’re not someone who keeps a budget, creating a budget for just living costs and postgraduate fees is very important and the least you can do. I updated this when my money had come in and gone out. I set reminders on my phone and in my diary so I would know when I needed to pay the University and my student lettings agency. I used Excel for this, which was fine, but there are apps out there that could help you. You can change your payment of tuition fees to be split into thirds at the Finance Office at York. This is useful as it coincides with the student loan better.
2. Get a part-time job
I got two part-time jobs that paid well. I was a Student Ambassador for the University, which I loved doing. As a Postgraduate (PG) Ambassador there are different shifts you will be needed for as well as Undergraduate Ambassadors. I did campus tours, Open Days, school visits and more. I really enjoyed this work, and it was very convenient as most of it was on campus and I got to chat with people about York. Another positive is that the shifts are very flexible and can work around your course’s timetable.
I also managed to secure a job as a data proof-reader. There are lots of part-time work opportunities in York: cafes, bars, restaurants, and shops are always hiring. Assuming things resume to normal relatively soon, I would recommend getting a part-time job in town or at the University if you’re living in York. Everything in York is relatively easy to get to; the city is a thirty-minute walk from Campus West and it’s pretty compact; not like Manchester or London for example!
3. It might be worth taking a year out
One thing I regret is being out of pocket at the beginning of the year. I evidently didn’t plan enough or work full-time over the summer. The student loan is not as big for a MA student as it is for a UG student. You need to be able to afford rent and living expenses off your own back. Taking a year out gives you a chance to save and have a break from academia. The alternative is doing the course part-time. Trying to work two jobs, do an intense course, and still pursue my hobbies and interests was hard!
4. Don’t waste money!
If you are returning to university after some time away, your financial situation may be more secure. But as a student who just stayed on, I carried on my savvy low-budget ways. I bought stuff like washing up liquid in bulk. I got an NUS card (really recommend) and then bought toiletries from Superdrug where you get student discount. I tried not to buy things unnecessarily. I went out to bars, pubs, and clubs less. I bought a railcard. I had a bike, so I didn’t have to ride the bus or get a taxi. York is bike-friendly and because everything is close, I found it to be the most effective (and healthy) way to travel.
Overall, I have really enjoyed my MA; but I hope for anyone reading this, you do not have to worry about money as much as I did. If you plan and save, you will be better prepared for postgraduate fees and finances, and able to enjoy your time in York.
Read more blogs on managing your finances.