Gather round, young ones. You need to know this before you go out into the world. The link between money and mental health is something that’s been explored for a long time. But the focus always seems to be general and only relevant if you’re already adulting. What about if you’re living hand to mouth in a student house, battling towards a degree? Well, let’s talk about it.
Money and mental health at university
The whole world seems to be talking about young people and mental health more and more. Naturally, money is a big part of that. Financial capability, or the effectiveness of the way you handle your money, is super important when you’re at university.
It’s hard enough squeezing the juice out of your maintenance loan with your rent, bills, food and sesh budget to consider. But if, like 78% of students you experience a mental health problem at university, it gets even trickier.
Last week, the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute published a report showing the result of a survey of 5,500 people with different mental health problems. They found that pretty much all of them have trouble spending within their means or saving for their futures.
Because oftentimes, you just need a clear headspace to deal with heavy, above-the-shoulders stuff like finance. The study found that various mental problems can be agitated by the little intricacies involved in dealing with your personal expenses. For instance:
- A lack of motivation to tackle money issues for people with depression. Or actively avoiding them all together if you have anxiety
- ADHD sufferers with problems concentrating on complex financial tasks, like constructing a budget
- People with bipolar disorder having trouble comparing prices for services due to reduced problem-solving capacity
- People with PTSD having trouble remembering PIN numbers and bill payments due to severe memory problems
The report also found that that your average spend increases in periods of poor mental health, so might wanna watch out for that. We’re all for treating yourself but spending £30 a day on comfort takeaways could make your mental situation worse when you eventually look at your overdraft.
Managing your money and mental health
So what can you do to help yourself out? Here’s a few quick finance tips from us:
- Stick to your budget, but don’t live and die by it. It’s pretty much unavoidable. The most helpful way to manage your money is create a budget. UCAS has a great tool for it if you have trouble. It may take you a while to get used to sticking to it and you will make mistakes. Don’t beat yourself up though – these things take time and you can always make economies for any splurges the next month.
- Use cash. I went to great lengths to avoid looking at my bank balance whilst at uni. I actually learnt how to use cashpoints and do my internet banking with my eyes closed. Anything to be wilfully ignorant of my spending.
It’s even easier to do so whilst tapping away with a contactless card. If you struggle with plastic restraint, try getting out all your disposable income for the week (so not your rent or bills) and separating it by what you need to spend it on. One pile for food, one pile for entertainment etc. That way you always know exactly what you have left.Don’t want to do that or your room’s not safe enough for you to leave money around? Try using a prepaid solution like Loot or Monzo for your day-to-day expenses.
- Ask your bank for help. Banks have already tried to make banking accessible for the wheelchair bound and the blind. Ask what they can do for you. Some offer voice recognition to get around remembering security details, as well as budgeting tool and spending controls which can also help.
- Talk to your friends. If you’re blessed to have housemates you have a good relationship with, be honest with them.Don’t feel obliged to go out with them if you’re strapped for cash. Organise a house contribution kitty for all the little communal things that everyone needs, e.g. kitchen roll and washing powder, so you can share the cost. Instead of ducking the person who organises the bill payments, have a conversation with them. They’re all going through it and would be happy to help.
Learning to manage your finances is a big part of nailing university life, but it’s a unique form of self-care too. It’s important to know what you’re up against and dedicate the proper time to getting it right. Good luck!