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Help! I've run out of money!

It’s a horrible feeling when you look at your bank statement and realise you’re out of cash - but you can get out of it. Find out how...

Getting out of the hole
Stop spending
You can’t cut out all your spending - after all, you still need to eat - but if you want to stop the situation getting worse then you need to work out where the money’s going and how you can stop it. Think about things like:
  • How much you spend on going out
  • If you have any recurring costs, like a phone contract or gym membership, you could cut out
  • If you spend money on takeaways or eating out when you could cook for yourself
If you’re still not sure, try looking at your bank statement to see if anything stands out.

Check your overdraft
An overdraft is a way of borrowing money for a short period from your bank: put simply, the bank lets you take more money out of your account than you have.

You shouldn’t treat your overdraft like money you have to spend, but if you’re in danger of slipping into it you should check that you have it set up properly. Most student bank accounts don’t charge interest or fees for your overdraft unless you go over the limit, but if it hasn’t been set up you could be charged for an unauthorised overdraft.

Ask about hardship funds
Most universities have 'hardship funds', which are meant specifically for students who find themselves in financial trouble. You apply directly to your university, who will decide whether to pay out to you and how much you will get. You might be offered a grant, a loan, or a reduction in the cost of your accommodation.

Find out more about the hardship funds.

Should I borrow money?
You might find you have no choice but to borrow money. If that happens, remember you have more than one option:
  • Overdrafts, as mentioned above, can be a cheap and easy way to borrow until you get back on track
  • Borrowing from family or friends, especially your parents, can be an easy way to get money quickly and without worrying about high interest rates - but only if you’re comfortable asking and they have the cash to lend you
  • Credit cards and short-term loans are very expensive and usually a bad choice - you might end up making the problem worse.
Remember that anything you borrow will have to be paid back, so don’t borrow money for something unless you absolutely need it.

More advice on dealing with debt.
Making sure it doesn’t happen again
Now that you’ve experienced the panic that comes with running out of cash, you’re probably keen to make sure it never happens again. Luckily, there are a few simple things you can do to stay on track.
  • Make a budget: Budgeting is simply working out how much money you have coming in, and how much you need to spend. It sounds simple - and it is - but it can make all the difference. Read our guide to budgeting to find out more.
  • Keep an eye on your balance: It’s easy to burn through your bank balance if you’re not aware of how much money you have. Make a habit of checking your balance. If you have online access to your account, this is easy; alternatively, you can ask for a receipt when you get money out of a cash machine.
  • Record your spending: Writing down everything you spend makes it easier to work out where you can cut back, and can help you to think before you spend. You don’t have to make a complicated spreadsheet - just jot what you spend down in a notebook.
  • Make more money: If you can’t cut your spending enough, you might need to make more money. Take a look at our guide to part-time work, and read up on student finance to make sure you’re getting everything you’re entitled to.
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