Money Advice

Many students find that living on student funding alone is very difficult and it is widely accepted that some level of student debt is inevitable. However you need to ensure that any debt you do have is not only manageable, but it doesn’t affect your credit record.

Money Advice

Have questions about student finance? Find useful tips, tools and information about managing your money, dealing with debt problems, sorting out your student loan and much more.

Grants, Trusts and Bursaries
Household Budget
International Student Funding
Managing Your Money
Part-Time Work
Shopping and Spending
Student Finance

If you need advice regarding any financial issues you might be having, USW can help. You can contact the Student Money Advice Team (SMAT) in a number if ways:

General Enquiries Tel 01443 483778 – Available Monday to Friday from 9am to 12pm only
General Enquiries Email
Hardship Fund
Post Address Student Money Advice Team, Library and Student Centre, USW, Pontypridd, CF37 1DL
UniLife Page

Dealing With Debt

Many students find that living on student funding alone is very difficult and it is widely accepted that some level of student debt is inevitable. However you need to ensure that any debt you do have is not only manageable, but it doesn’t affect your credit record.

This section gives an overview of the different types of debts you may incur and information and advice on how to deal with it.

However if you are experiencing financial difficulties don’t ignore them. Come and speak to the Student Money Advice Team for further advice and information.

Student loans

The first thing to remember is that if you have taken a student loan, they are designed to leave you with a manageable debt that will not become payable until after you have left University and then only when you are earning above a certain amount of money. For that reason they are classed as separate to the other debts you may incur during your studies.

Other debts

Other debts that you may incur during your studies can be for rent, electricity, gas, food – and that’s without the social aspects of being a student. It’s your responsibility to make sure that your debt is kept to a manageable level and that your creditors (the people who you owe money to) are fully aware of your situation.

Debts can be split into two main categories of priority and non-priority debt. It’s important to distinguish between the two types as the actions that can result for non-payment are vastly different.

Priority debts

Priority debts are debts where a creditor can take action against you that will have a serious consequence such as eviction, cutting of services or imprisonment. Examples of priority debts and the ramifications of non-payment are:

  • Rent / Mortgage arrears – Can lead to you being evicted or having your house re-possessed
  • Service arrears (e.g. gas & electricity) – Your supply to these services may be disconnected if you fall into arrears
  • Council Tax arrears – Most students are exempt from this, however you need to make sure you have followed the guidance given in our Council Tax section. Failure to pay when you are not exempt can result in you being taken to court and fined. Ultimately, in extreme cases, you can be imprisoned.
  • Unpaid Court Fines – Failure to pay court fines can result in imprisonment

Non-priority debts

Non-priority debts are debts where a creditor can only take limited action to recover the debt. These debts still need to be repaid as failure to pay will often result in the company pursuing you for payment in the County Court. This can ultimately results in you being served with a County Court Judgement (CCJ) that will stay on your credit file for six years.

Examples of non-priority debts include:

  • Bank overdrafts
  • Credit card repayments
  • Unsecured personal loans
  • Catalogues
  • Gambling – Gambling is an activity that is easy to become absorbed in. There’s the temptation to attempt that first win over and over again or to re-invest your winnings on another gamble. You may become addicted to the art of gambling, which may lead to a breakdown in relationships with both friends and family. It may jeopardise your education and have serious financial implications. For more information please view our information on Gambling.

If you are experiencing difficulties in repaying non-priority debts, the first thing to do is to contact the company concerned and advise them that you are experiencing financial difficulties. The company will try to come to some arrangement suitable to both of you in order to repay the debt. However, if you are unable to come to an agreement and need further advice or information please contact the Student Money Advice Team.


Useful contacts

In addition to the Student Money Advice Team the following contacts are also of use if you are experiencing debt problems.

The Money Advice Service
The Money Advice Service are a not for profit government organisation created solely to help people with their finances. Their easy to use website includes a Web Chat function so you can chat with advisors instantly. 
Telephone: 0300 500 5000 (Lines are open Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm. Saturday, 9am to 1pm)

Citizens Advice Bureaux
The Citizens Advice Bureaux is available all over the UK. They provide free advice and guidance all financial situations. To find your local Citizens Advice Bureaux please use their office locator on their website.
Freephone: 03444 77 20 20

National Debt Line
Freephone: 0808 808 4000 (Line are open Monday to Friday 9am to 9pm and Saturday 9.30am to 1pm)

Step Change Debt Charity
Freephone: 0800 138 1111 (Lines are open Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm)

Credit Union
The Credit Union offer a range of financial services, to find your local Credit Union please view their google branch locator

Household Budgets

Having an effective and realistic budget is crucial to enjoying your time at University.

Uility Bills

One way of ensuring that you get the most out of your money, particularly with regards to utilities bills, is to 'shop around'. Be mindful of the fact that there are a number of utilities providers offering competitive rates and wide-ranging incentives, such as cash back and free gifts for signing up. Switching to monthly direct debits can offer savings of up to 10%. Where possible, try to ensure that you are not on pre-payment meters, as these will often result in you paying inflated charges for your utilities. To ensure you are not being over- or under-charged for your utilities usage, take monthly meter readings and compare them to your bills. Make sure that your rent is not inclusive of bill - you do not want to be paying double what you should be.

Shopping for Food and Household Products

Planning a budget is part of a wider strategy to gain control of your spending, and food and household shopping forms an integral part of this. As a shopper you are encouraged to purchase premium brand products with ever-increasing prices. As an exercise to see how much you could save, without compromising on quality, swap a premium-branded product for a standard or even value product. Not all brand swaps will be to everyone's taste, but you may be surprised at how much you can save and what little difference there is between premium and standard brands.

Another useful tip is to try planning your meals for the week in advance. This will give you a better idea of what you need to buy when you go shopping, rather than buying things that you might not get round to using, or making expensive, spur of the moment, purchases. Avoid ready-meals and fast food where you can. Home cooking is better for you, more nutritious and ultimately cheaper. You may even find that you have enough left over to take into lectures with you, and save yourself some money on meal deals.


An important part of your student experience at Cardiff will probably be socialising. However, this does not mean that you have to make it to every single social event. Remember: you're here for at least three years, so there's plenty of time to try everything. Don't cram everything into one semester and end up with no money for the next one, or worse, in debt.

Instead, make the most of mid-week student nights, where you'll find drinks offers and cheaper door prices. You might like to consider arranging to cook a meal with your friends, having a film night, or throwing a house party on the weekends, which will save you money on inflated weekend drink prices.

International Student Finance

As an international student, funding options can be quite limited. It is important that you have fully explored every funding prospect and potential scenario while still in your home country. If you are already a student at USW, it is likely that you have been through this process as fully as possible. Whether you have chosen to self-fund, have a scholarship or have sponsorship from your home government, you may still encounter financial difficulties. If this occurs, it's important that you come to speak to us at the union/student services as soon as you feel you may be encountering difficulties.

As well as there being a significant number of trusts and charities providing financial support to home students, there are also many organisations providing opportunities for additional funding to overseas students. These organisations vary greatly in terms of the level of financial support they can provide and who they will provide support to. Your eligibility can depend on your nationality, your level of study or what stage of your studies you are currently at, your age, your gender and your chosen course of study. For more detailed information on the various organisations offering financial support to please come and see us at student services/the union and we'll be happy to take you through your eligibility and help you through the process of applying for additional funding.

If you encounter unexpected expenses due to unforeseen personal circumstances, you may be eligible to apply for assistance in the form of a Hardship Loan from USW. However, you should be aware that these loans will only be made in the event of unexpected circumstances; for example, political upheaval in your home country, the death of a sponsor or close family member, or a natural disaster. This list does not cover every eventuality that may occur and is by no means exhaustive, but hopefully it gives you an idea of the sort of circumstances which will qualify you for assistance through the Hardship Fund. Application can be made by completing the USWy Hardship Fund application form, which is available via the university website.

There are also a number of other University-administered trusts. If you'd like to discuss these further please come and see us at the union/student services.

Managing Your Money

As a student, managing your day-to-day budget and living expenses can be a daunting task. Many students coming to University will have little experience of managing a budget, particularly on a limited income that is paid in instalments. This can be a shock to the system, especially if this is the first time you have lived away from home, although managing a budget can be as difficult for a third year student as it is for a fresher. It's important that you manage your money effectively in order that your financial situation does not impact on your studies or your wellbeing.

Once you have established that you are in receipt of all the student finance and funding you are entitled to, it is time to plan your budget for the semester. Try and plan your budget as close to the start of the semester as you can. It's easy to get caught up in all of the events going on during the first few weeks of semester, but you'll probably find that you enjoy them that much more if you know what you are able to spend and that you won't be running out of money before your next loan instalment. At the Student Services centre help can be given so that you may work out your budget and successfully plan ahead, so please get in touch, no matter what stage your financial problems are at.

When you are planning your budget, it is important that you are realistic. It's no good trying to force yourself to live off £20 per week if you know you can't. In the long run it will be demoralising and won't help you. An honest and realistic budget will be of much greater benefit than setting an unnecessarily stringent amount to live off each week.

When you receive your loan instalment, don't get carried away and overspend at the start of semester. As a student there are going to be financial commitments you must meet throughout the year and it's highly unlikely that 'I spent too much of my loan' is going to be an acceptable reason for not paying something.

To start your budget, make a detailed list of all of your financial commitments. These could be anything ranging from your rent and bills through to any credit card repayments or outstanding loans or debts. Once you know the payments you have to make, you can begin to work out what money is left for your day-to-day living. Work out exactly how much money you will have until your next loan instalment is paid to you, then deduct the cost of all of the financial commitments you have established. Divide the figure that is left after these deductions by the number of weeks until your next student finance instalment. This will give you an approximate idea of how much you will have to spend on a week-by-week basis. It is also a good idea to factor in a certain amount of money for any unforeseen circumstances that may arise; a good amount to set aside is the cost of a train ticket or travel home.

A budgeting planner can be as simple as a piece of paper on which you keep your weekly expenditures and total budget, or something as detailed as a full spreadsheet where you can document and categorise every expenditure. It's largely a matter of personal preference and whichever version you go for, the most important thing is that you are in control of your spending. For advice on setting up a budgeting sheet, or for some budget templates, please feel free to drop in to the student services centre in your region where any of our advisers will be happy to help.

Student Finance

Student Finance can be confusing, whether you're new to University life or a continuing student.

It's really important to ensure that you're getting everything you're entitled to and know how any changes you make to your study may affect you and any future studies you may like to undertake.

As an undergraduate, the student finance you can apply for will depend on a number of factors:

  • when you started your course
  • where you are from
  • previous study
  • parental income

Extra funding may be available for students who are care leavers, students with children or partners, and students with a disability.

Undergraduate funding may be a combination of grants (non-repayable) and loans (repayable - but only after your course has finished and you are earning over a certain threshold.) Applications are made to the funding authority for the area you lived in prior to coming to USW, e.g. Student Finance England; Student Finance Wales.

Some healthcare and nursing courses (including some years of medicine and dentistry) are funding differently.

To clarify whether you are receiving your full entitlement, please get in touch with an advisor at the University.

If you are thinking of withdrawing from your course or changing your course, please speak to an adviser before you make a final decision. Student finance will stop all future payments as soon as confirmation of your withdrawal is receive and may try to reclaim some of the money you have already received. Also, fees may be payable for a term (or more) even if you are only at University for a short amount of time. When considering withdrawing, you should be aware also that any funding you have already received can have an impact on the funding you can receive in the future. To make sure that you are fully aware of what these implications are, and to ensure that you are paying/repaying what you are required to, please speak to an advisor at the University.

Funding entitlement is different for EU, international and postgraduate students.