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Student loans: how to get by on a budget

calendar24 January 2018

Maisie Pollard's avatar Maisie Pollard

Student loans: how to get by on a budget

Finally, the moment you've been waiting for has arrived - your student loan has just reached your bank account. It’s an incredible feeling of relief if you’ve been waiting for the money to arrive so you can pay off your overdraft from the first term, or if you’ve generally just been short of cash for the past few weeks.

This is the reality for the majority of students living across the UK, and may be the case for you. The student finance site, Save The Student, found in their National Student Money Survey 2016 that 80% of students recorded that they ‘worry about having enough cash to get by’. Even with a lump sum of money like a student loan, it can be difficult to know how to save because you have rent, books, phone bills, travel expenses and the fun stuff to pay for. Let’s be honest, most students will having nothing left by their next payment in May.

So, how can you avoid this? Here’s one top tip every student can use to prevent going into that overdraft…

Create a budget!

This is so important. An easy way to do this is to make a spreadsheet for yourself and work out how much money you have each month until your next loan payout. For example, if you get a £2,000 loan in January, and your next loan is paid to you in May, this would leave you with £500 per month to live off. You can break this down further; take off your monthly spending on things like bus/train fare, rent and phone bills. You can then divide this total amount by the amount of weeks within the month, and it would leave you with your weekly spending on things like food and socialising.

This budgeting plan can be really helpful; you can still enjoy your newfound freedom with your friends and all that student life brings, while understanding how far your budget will stretch. UCAS reports that ‘budgeting can be key when it comes to keeping tabs on your money, so you know exactly what’s coming in and what’s going out’.

There are lots of great ways of saving whilst you study, these can include:

  • Buying second-hand textbooks instead of more expensive brand-new copies
  • Searching for cheaper deals on phone bills, food vouchers, and finding student discounts
  • Looking to see if your university has any deals or freebies that they’re giving away – universities value your opinion and your student’s union can often run discussion groups or surveys on how to make student life better, in exchange for vouchers
  • Choosing your student bank with a reward that would suit you; for example, Santander offers a 16-25 railcard, saving you a third on certain rail travel, which can be beneficial if you live at home and commute to your place of study, or if you live away and like to return to your home comforts
  • Finding a part-time job at university that would suit your timetable and schedule, whilst still leaving time for studying
  • Finding the cheapest place to buy your weekly food shop – you can go online and compare whether your food will cost less at an alternative supermarket
  • If you live away from home, find out whether accommodation is cheaper on the outskirts of your university town or city; it maybe cheaper to commute into lectures than to live in more expensive, centrally located accommodation

There is further support available for you with Christians Against Poverty. The CAP Money Course is free to join, you don’t have to be a Christian, and it gives you the skills to have a focused plan and weekly budget, preventing debt and using your overdraft. One in four students surveyed in the National Student’s Money Survey admitted that they’d ‘never budgeted before in their lives’ so this course is an essential tool. You can find your nearest course here.

Spending time studying, often living away from home for the first time, is an amazing opportunity. By keeping a careful watch on your budget, you can still have a great time and develop some great life skills for when you start to earn a salary. If you're worried that your debt is becoming unmanageable, don't keep it to yourself. Talk to your parents, your personal tutor or give CAP a call. We're here to help.

Help from unexpected places

calendar16 January 2018

Kiri Saunders's avatar Kiri Saunders

Help from unexpected places

Working together to change the finance industry

For many people receiving help from us, when it comes to some of the wider issues that affect their situation, their voice is not heard. The job of CAP’s External Affairs team is to speak up for the UK’s poorest, in government, to the credit industry, utilities companies and the enforcement sector, in order to influence change.

Since the External Affairs team has been in existence, CAP has built relationships with external organisations in order to speak on behalf of the people we help. Of note, the relationship between the enforcement industry and CAP has grown from strength to strength and has created many positive outcomes as a result. Despite the industry having many negative connotations, we recognise that enforcement agencies do not want to push people into further financial hardship. In fact, these agencies, like us, are in a privileged position to identify vulnerability because they too are entering people’s homes. 

There can be a powerful positive impact when organisations, such as enforcement agencies, work together with debt advisers, helping to secure the right outcome. When partnership is done well it catches those who may have fallen through the net, acting as the last opportunity to offer the help and support vulnerable people need.

One example of a working relationship is that which we’ve developed with enforcement agency Phoenix over recent years. It has helped ensure that their agents are trained to recognise and help those in poverty. One of Phoenix’s team, Jamie Upchurch, said:

‘The majority of those who can’t pay their debt genuinely want to and our relationships with organisations like CAP help facilitate vital assistance and solutions for those who are vulnerable. I recently visited a single mother, who had no assets inside her property and was struggling to feed her children. I managed to facilitate a three-way call with CAP who set an appointment for a centre manager to visit her property. I placed the case on hold until CAP contacted my office with an affordable offer of payment, which was accepted. The lady has never defaulted on her arrangement with us.’

We’ve also been able to set up a password process between enforcement agencies and CAP caseworkers. This password allows the enforcement agent to know that their customer is working with CAP and they will halt collection until CAP are able to create a repayment plan.

Another example of partnerships working well is CAP client Mark, who featured in last year’s Client report. Mark was visited by his mortgage provider’s field team, who found him in extreme poverty and his home in severe disrepair. The field team referred him to CAP, and with our help Mark was able to rebuild his life and resolve his debt situation. To read more about Mark’s story, take a look at our Client report.

We’re always looking at ways to build and develop partnerships, including with the enforcement sector, helping to provide clients with forbearance and space to sort out a situation. Throughout the industry there are many examples of partnerships creating good practice and better outcomes for clients, but there is always room for improvement. CAP has contributed to the Taking control report, which highlights the fundamental issues and rogue practices that still take place in the industry today, calling for more regulation in the sector. We’ve been able to provide a unique voice in discussions, speaking on behalf of our clients in order to get the best outcomes for the people we help.

Frying pans at the ready - it’s the Flipping Marvellous Pancake Party!

calendar11 January 2018

Gemma Pask's avatar Gemma Pask

Frying pans at the ready - it’s the Flipping Marvellous Pancake Party!

Well, isn’t this exciting? This year we want you to join us to put the ‘fun’ in ‘fundraising’ by hosting a Flipping Marvellous Pancake Party!

On Shrove Tuesday (that’s 13 February 2018) churches, home groups, families, friends and co-workers across the UK will be getting together to enjoy plates full of pancakes, tip top toppings and an all-round great time, all with the aim of raising money for CAP. Every pancake flipped and pound raised will help to free people from the crushing weight of poverty – that's what it's all about.

Fancy getting in the mix? Of course you do! Well, here’s the good news – hosting a pancake party is easy peasy lemon squeezy. First, sign up here to order your free, fun-filled resource pack, which includes everything you need to plan and pull off the perfect pancake party. There are posters and invitations to promote your event, stickers and photo props for you and your guests to enjoy, material to help you get those funds stacking up, a handy guidebook full of fun ideas and tips, plus more!

We recommend making the most of Shrove Tuesday, but feel free to choose a different day if it works better for you. You can also host your event wherever you think is best, whether that’s your church hall, at home, in your office… as long as there’s a kitchen, you’ll be cooking on gas.

We’re so excited to see how your event ‘pans’ out, so don’t forget to spread the word and share your pics on Facebook and Twitter. Just include #pancakeparty18 to join in the fun.

So grab your whisk, stock up on flour, eggs and milk, and together let’s go flat out to end UK poverty!

A special Christmas message to all our supporters

calendar21 December 2017

John Kirkby's avatar John Kirkby

A special Christmas message to all our supporters

Hey, CAP supporters - I have a very special Christmas message I'd like to share with you!

Inspired by one of my favourite Christmas films, I decided to head out onto your doorsteps with a big smile and a message filled with love.

Well, after a run-in with a large dog and setting off one too many security alarms, I gave up on that idea – but, thankfully, we did manage to capture one encounter on camera. So hit play to find out exactly what you’ve made happen in thousands of lives this year.


As you celebrate Jesus’ birth, all of us at CAP wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year. Thank you once again for all your support!

John’s highlights of 2017

calendar20 December 2017

John Kirkby's avatar John Kirkby

John’s highlights of 2017

Hey, where has this year gone? It seems like yesterday we were waving goodbye to 2016 and looking ahead to all the amazing things 2017 had in store for us. I’m happy to say it didn’t disappoint! The last twelve months have been jam-packed and I thought it’d be fun to take a look back at some of the great things that have gone on.

2017 got off to a great start when CAP was featured on BBC’s Songs of Praise in January. The episode, called ‘Escaping Debt’, featured Naomi and Perry, a couple from Kent whose lives had been turned around after taking control of their debts with CAP’s help. It’s always brilliant when CAP gets publicity like this – not because of fame or anything like that, but because it’s getting the word out to thousands of people who may not have heard about what we do before. It could be the difference between them continuing to struggle or getting the help they really need.

For clients like Naomi and Perry, who went through a Debt Relief Order, becoming debt free only took a few months, so it’s amazing to think that somebody who first heard about us on Songs of Praise in January could now be free from debt, or at the very least working towards it.

In February we were thrilled to sign a referral partnership with the UK’s largest provider of foodbanks, The Trussell Trust. We're always up for working together, especially if it means people who are struggling can find a faster and smoother route to sorting out the causes of their poverty. Now many foodbanks around the country regularly signpost hungry people to our helps for debt, unemployment, addiction or life skills courses. Brilliant!

CAP joined six other charities to call for reform in enforcement agent (bailiff) practice in March. It was part of a campaign called ‘Taking Control’. Dan Kelly from our External Affairs team went along to BBC Breakfast to talk about this on national telly. We’ll continue to see the impact of this campaign into 2018 so watch this space!

April was another landmark month for CAP as we officially launched our newest service, CAP Life Skills. After piloting the initiative over 2016, we knew we’d hit on something good, and I’ve loved watching it blossom since the launch. We’ve now got 93 life skills centres across the UK teaching people new ways to manage on a low income and prevent the poverty associated with it. You can find out more about CAP Life Skills and search for centres in your area here.

Our first ‘crowdfunding for a Discovery Break’ campaign was a big success. I was blown away (yet again) by the generosity of CAP’s supporters. What a heart you have for our clients and to bless them with a break from their daily struggles. The break took place at Pilgrim Hall in East Sussex at the end of May and because of this generosity we were able to take over 100 families away for a well deserved rest.

June was full to bursting! Andrew Bailey, CEO of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) visited CAP HQ and we received authorisation from the body. This really is testament to all of the staff involved in the lengthy process, and it means we can take a leap forward in helping UK families find a solution to their debt and truly transform their lives.

June was also the month we launched our annual client report, which revealed a really concerning stat: one in ten clients didn’t have a bed to sleep on before getting help with their debt. This was the inspiration behind our summer campaign, which featured the incredible testimony of client Chris, who once spent months sleeping on bin bags, along with his two young children, because of debt. The campaign raised a fantastic amount of funds so that we can help to make sure no one is left with this level of need.

In my hometown of Bradford, a brand new centre opened in July at Gateway Christian Centre. Not only that, it was almost immediately fully booked for months in advance. The reason I started CAP back in 1996 was because of the deprivation I saw in and around Bradford, so it’s fantastic to know that a whole load more people in the area (and across the country) will now be getting the help and support they need as they set off on their journey to becoming debt free.

August was the month that saw 100 clients become debt free in the space of a week for the first time ever! I remember a time when we’d be delighted if we reached 100 debt frees in a year, and now we’re seeing so many lives transformed on a weekly basis – it’s just stunning.

September was the month that saw the 1,000th client make a decision for Jesus in 2017! It put the total number of lives transformed through Jesus since the charity began at a staggering 7,000. Wow!

In October we launched our ‘life sentence’ appeal, which aimed to raise the fees for 500 clients to go through a Debt Relief Order (DRO) and become debt free before Christmas. These were clients whose debt was so high it would take them over 600 years to repay it on average. I’m thrilled to say we smashed our target thanks yet again to the generosity of our supporters.

Another highlight for October came from our Public Relations team, who managed to get CAP featured on national telly eight times – more than ever before in the space of a month! Again, more publicity equals more people hearing about CAP and getting the help they need. That’s what it’s all about.

Hey, the highlights didn’t stop there. In November we hosted our biggest fundraising dinner of the year (and ever) at Old Billingsgate in London. It was a fantastic evening, with over 1,000 CAP supporters gathering together to celebrate and sow into the future of this charity. On the night we raised a staggering £1,000,000! This money will go towards opening more UK centres and making sure every person who needs our help can access it, as well as continuing to give the very best service to our clients.

Finally, thanks to our Christmas hamper appeal, our local centres were able to deliver hampers to hundreds of clients in December. After a year of working hard to get out of debt and poverty, these hampers bring such joy and hope to people at Christmas.

Hey, fancy one more hurrah to round off a pretty stunning year? Go on then. This year we’ve seen a record breaking number of families become debt free – more than any year before! To anyone who has helped make this and the rest of this amazing year possible, I have a very special thank you message here. Thank you, thank you, thank you! And here’s to an even better 2018, yeah?

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