Students Considering Shoplifting to Support Them Through Cost of Living Crisis
StudentBeans conducted a survey in September 2022 with 1,321 students to find out how the Cost of Living crisis is affecting the student body and found that the impact is much worse than expected.
Students often get overlooked when it comes to the effects of financial worries because the majority do not have children or mortgages, but we feel it just as badly as everyone else. When you look at the average UK adult’s income and expenditures compared to a student’s, the results are shocking:
|Average UK Adult||Minimum Wage||Student|
Even while people on minimum wage have a small margin, with only £32.73 available in disposable income, students do not have any. Even worse than having none, some are so far in the red, it seems impossible to get out of.
60% of students, regardless of financial background, have had to take on part-time work alongside their studies. Despite getting additional work to ease their burden, they are more likely to have money worries affect their studies and mental health.
Let’s be honest, part-time does not really stay as part-time after a while; survival instincts kick in and students will work more and more to keep their heads above water. The irony is that even though the stress of not having money might disappear once you are earning, a whole new stress comes in the form of becoming overworked and burnt out.
StudentBeans worked out that to earn that deficit of £570 back, “student would need to work 20 hours per week in a minimum wage job, or 50 hours if they wanted £200 of disposable income to play with each month” .
Students are recommended to not work more than 16 hours per week whilst in term time to allow for 35 hours of contact learning hours and independent study. If a student was to work 20 hours a week and do 35 hours of study, that is already 55 hours of work a week. That’s before making time for socialising, hobbies, wellness and exercise – things that actually remind us that we are human.
Money is always something that can have a deep effect on personal relationships, and clearly students are feeling the emotional strain. Students have seen negative effects occur on “their friendships (38%), family ties (33%), dating life (24%), and sex life (10%)”. These relationships are getting seriously impacted because they cannot afford additional expenditures like dates, birthday meals or a random night out. Spontaneous nights of fun become highly calculated expenditures and instead of letting loose, the grip on your wallet gets tighter and tighter throughout the night.
The biggest effects are seen on people from low-income backgrounds. They are twice as likely to consider dropping out of university (51%) because of their financial struggles. For some people from low-income backgrounds, including myself, they could be the first person in their family to go to university so that they can have a more financially sustainable future than their parents. Instead, their past is dictating their future and this crisis is making it harder for young people to break the cycle of poverty.
Some students admit to even considering more extreme feats in order to earn more money. They vary in severity, but all are still acts that can have detrimental effects on their futures. Some may be using additional bank loans to cover big costs (7%) or using credit cards (14%). These can have detrimental effects on credit scores, the ability to get mortgages or cars on finance.
Others have considered criminal acts to survive. 9% of students have considered shoplifting with 3% following through, and 4% considered selling drugs. All acts that could strongly affect their future should they be caught, but how can you think about your future when you are cold and hungry today?
The most frustrating part of this crisis is that students are not considered as a financially vulnerable group. Is this because we get student maintenance loans, so effectively have money ‘handed’ to us? Money that covers rent and leaves you with £422.50 a month, when your expenses are more than double that.
Coming from a low-income family, money has always been a large source of stress. Now, as an adult, I am in a constant state of fear about how long my next paycheck is going to last me, or whether I can afford to put the heating on in these long winter nights. My relationships are affected because I can’t afford to go out anymore and I am so stressed that I don’t want to. These are supposed to be the best years of my life but instead, I am wishing them away because I don’t want to keep struggling without support.
We have created our own survey to collect data on how the cost of living is affecting our student body. It takes one minute to complete and would provide vital information to show to our university how much us students are struggling to survive: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/C3T3HNQ
 StudentBeans Blog (2022) The Student Beans Cost of Living Money Report. Available at: https://www.studentbeans.com/blog/uk/student-beans-cost-of-living-money-report/?_thumbnail_id=15780
Sophie is a second-year student studying BA Media and Communication from Birmingham. Her biggest areas of interest in media and journalism are breaking down stigmas surrounding feminism, mental health issues and sex positivity. Find her on Instagram: @soph_mouzakitis and on her blog, The Periodical: https://sophalexandram.wixsite.com/theperiodical