How to Overcome “Money Panic”

We all know what money panic is, or at least how it feels. It isn’t a recognised term, although you could argue it should be, but I can imagine it’s ringing bells for you right now. As students, a lot – if not all of us – are relying on a maintenance loan from Student Finance to make rent and pay for weekly shops (and it goes without saying that some of us even rely upon that same loan to afford a cheeky holiday).

BUT, on some days, whether it’s for only a moment or a prolonged length of time, it can feel like we are drowning in debt, like our overdraft can only last us so long and it’s just too much and you have a paragraph of fear cycling round and round in your head. Or, for those of you who have yet to dip into their overdraft (congrats), that dreading feeling of having to finally take a dive into the overdraft may feel totally overwhelming.

Fear no more, my fellow students. For I have pooled together some of my most glorious pieces of advice about how to overcome said “money panic”.

Before we begin, I must say, IT IS GOING TO BE OKAY. You have people, friends, family, and a nation surrounding you and willing to give you a helping hand, some will even be happy to help you because, yanno what? You’re probably very special to them.

So, that being said, let’s begin.

Firstly, Prioritise:

Make a list of what’s most important. It might go a bit like this:

  1. Rent payment
  2. Daily food
  3. Travel home
  4. Bathroom essentials (now, essential may be a subjective term, so one must consider what is actually needed and what is a luxury)
  5. Social Dos
  6. Alcohol
  7. Eating/Drinking out

What this helps me to do is consider what is necessary for me to have money for, obviously number one being a roof over my head, closely followed by food in the belly (happy belly, happy life, right?). The next step would be to literally set money aside for the most important things, so paying rent may take between £300 and £500 out of your bank each month (!!! Ahhhhh! Life was so much easier living with parents), food may be £15 a week, and so on… Ensure that each money you have enough money for the top of the list and set aside the rest for “extra luxuries” which may come second best to, say, having 3 meals a day.

You may have to sacrifice expensive foods, cut down on costly meats and go for beans instead, make full use of the freezer so not to waste anything. Besides, YouTube and the internet is plentiful with resources for you to become a pretty wicked chef, so there’s no excuses there.

Secondly, Lay It All Out:

Log in to your bank account and see how much money you have available.

Look at how much your rent costs. Look at how much student finance you receive.

Do the math (i.e. get a calculator) and figure out if your student finance covers your rent, figure out how much money you have left over from that. The number probably is between £0 and £700, depending on how much your rent is and how much you receive from the government… Divide that by months or weeks to estimate how much you have to spend a week for the second top priorities on your list. 

Note: if your maintenance loan does not cover even the top things on your list, I think I’m justified in saying: get a job. Many universities have catalogues of jobs, check out your student guild or university websites, or you can find Tutoring online, or alternatively write articles for money about your student experience (… how meta).

There is something grounding about laying everything out on the table and knowing what you can be in control of.

Get cash out. It’s reassuring to see the physical money. Weekly, or every few weeks, withdraw a designated amount of money – sort of like a ration. I find that seeing the money I can spend helps guide me in making smarter decisions; I am reminded of the small amount I have when I get too excited about another meal out, or how much I have saved in the week when I really want to treat myself. It’s like a reality check (or, reality cheque, shall we say?) in your purse or wallet. Also, make sure you collect your spare change – you’d be surprised how much it adds up to sometimes! 


By rationalise, I don’t mean ration. I mean, be realistic with the panic. The panic might feel overwhelming but remind yourself the reality of the situation…

My dad has always told me not to ask this question to someone who’s panicking, but what is the worst that could happen? You could literally not be able to pay rent, which means your guarantor would have to pay, and then when your student loan comes in you can pay them back. You might have to get a part time job (this is not a tragedy, and can actually restore a reassuring feeling of routine), or cut down on the luxuries in your life. You are not going to end up homeless, there are people around you who will support you, and even our universities have systems in place for helping us out. Or, you may just have to dip into that overdraft. But do you know what? It is going to be okay.

If the above has not cleared your panic, then call the people you need to pay.

This might be paying someone back or your letting agency, but most people are understanding and kind. You may be able to postpone payments or find a job where you least expected it. Alternatively, you can call your bank and speak to an advisor. These people are employed to give money advice, after all it’s in the name, is it not?

Finally, don’t be ashamed to ask for help.

Money panic is something that all of us experience, although everyone may experience it differently. It is totally okay to feel unsteady and “not okay”. There are lovely and reassuring people in the world, especially those who have had to reach out for help at another time in their life.

I don’t necessarily mean borrowing money, but if it is for that purpose, ensure you will actually be able to pay them back and give them a rough date to avoid injecting panic into their life. 

If you’re reading this article, you’re on the right lines to overcoming your money panic as you’ve clearly reached out for some sort of help. So, well done you.

Post by Lucy Barka

Lucy is a student at the University of Birmingham