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Lifestyle

How coronavirus will impact students

Coronavirus has well and truly turned our lives upside down. Will you still have to pay rent in self-isolation? Will you still get your Student Loan? Can you still buy pasta? So many questions...

It seems like only yesterday that the thought of self-isolating was a dystopian fantasy.

But it looks like coronavirus is here to stay for a while. Universities have closed their doors until September and people are being urged to stay at home to stop the virus from spreading.

Everything seems to have come to a bit of a halt (oh, social life, how we miss you) and there's a lot of confusion right now.

This guide will help you navigate renting, Student Finance and offer some tips if you're struggling financially to cover basic needs. Rest assured – we'll get through this together and come out stronger on the other side. 🙏

Paying rent and bills during the coronavirus pandemic

Some students have stayed in halls, some have gone back home to their parents' house. Here's what to do if you live at university or if you've moved back home:

Do you still have to pay rent if you've been affected by coronavirus?

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Unfortunately, yes you do still have to pay rent. If you're still living in your student accommodation, you're still expected to pay rent as you usually would even if your university is no longer doing face-to-face teaching.

However, some universities agreed to waive the fees of living in halls right now so it's worth getting in touch with your uni to see if this applies to you.

For those of you who have moved back home to go into quarantine, this does not mean that you're allowed to break your contract. You're still legally obliged to pay rent until your contract's end date.

These are unprecedented circumstances thought, and we understand that paying months of rent when you're not even living in your flat adds unnecessary strain at an already stressful time.

We advise you to get in touch with your landlord or accommodation provider to explain your situation and see whether they would be open to ending your tenancy agreement early.

Will you be evicted if you can't pay rent because of coronavirus?

The coronavirus pandemic has caused some businesses to go bust or left them unable to pay their employees' wages, which in turn has affected their ability to pay rent.

The Housing Secretary announced that new emergency legislation could potentially protect private tenants from being evicted from their homes, even if they had experienced a loss of income due to the COVID-19 pandemic and were no longer able to pay rent in full.

This is all yet to be confirmed and we're still waiting for the policy to emerge, but we'll keep you updated as soon as we know more.

If you are struggling to pay rent due to a loss of income linked to coronavirus, we suggest you get in touch with your landlord and explain your situation. You may be able to work out an affordable payment plan that works for both of you.

Do you still have to pay council tax during the pandemic?

council tax bill

Credit: Zoltan Fabian – Shutterstock

Students don't pay council tax anyway, remember!

Any sort of accommodation occupied exclusively by full-time students will qualify for a full council tax exemption.

If you're in a shared house with both full-time students and non-students, only non-student tenants will have to pay council tax.

Some local governments have introduced measures to relieve those affected by the virus from paying their full bill. If you're living with someone that does pay council tax, tell them to get in touch with your local council to find out more.

Do you still have to pay energy and water bills?

gas hob
Legally, yes, you do still have to pay your bills – but you won't have your electricity or water cut off if you're unable to pay them as a result of self-isolating.

Energy providers have recognised that their customers may find themselves in extremely precarious financial situations because of COVID-19. Emergency measures are currently being developed so that people don't find themselves without gas and electricity if they run out of money during the crisis.

If you're worried about not being able to pay your bills, get in touch with your energy provider using one of the numbers below and make them aware of your situation.

The same goes for your water bill.

Water companies are also introducing special measures such as lowering or capping tariffs and offering payment breaks. We've rounded up all their numbers below so get in touch if you think paying your water bill might be a problem for you at this time.

Help for prepaid meter customers

Energy providers have stepped up measures to help customers using pay-as-you-go meters who may have trouble physically making it to the shops to top up their gas and electricity during the pandemic.

These measures include posting cards with emergency credit to customers in self-isolation, adding credit to your meter for you over the phone and allowing you to nominate someone to top up your meter for you.

If you need assistance to top up your meter, get in touch with your energy supplier using one of the numbers below.

Helplines for energy providers

Energy supplierNumber
British Gas0333 202 9802
Bulb0300 303 0635
EDF0333 200 5110
EON Energy0345 052 0000
N Power0800 073 3000
Scottish Power0800 027 0072
SSE0345 026 2658

Helplines for water suppliers

Water supplierHelpline
Affinity Water0345 357 2402
Albion Water03300 242020
Anglian Water0345 791 9155
Bristol Water0345 702 3797
Cambridge Water01223 706050
Cholderton and District Water01980 629203
Dee Valley01978 833200
Essex and Suffolk Water0345 782 0111
Independent Water Networks02920 028 711
Northern Ireland Water03457 440088
Northumbrian Water0345 733 5566
Portsmouth Water023 9249 9666
Scottish Water0800 0778 778
Severn Trent Water03457 500 500
South East Water0333 000 0001
South West Water0344 346 2020
Southern Water0330 303 0368
Sutton and East Surrey Water 01737 772000
Thames Water0800 316 9800
United Utilities Water0345 672 2888
Welsh Water0800 052 0145
Wessex Water0345 600 3 600
Yorkshire Water0345 124 2424

What if you can't afford your phone contract or broadband?

person holding phone

Credit: sergey causelove – Shutterstock

As with energy bills, if you're struggling to pay for your broadband or phone contract due to a loss of income caused by coronavirus, get in contact with your service provider and explain your situation.

If you were previously in a one or two-year phone contract that you're no longer bound to, we recommend you switch to a SIM-only contract.

SIM-only contracts tend to come in cheaper and often don't ask for long-term commitments, so there's more room for manoeuver if you experience a sudden loss of income.

Some operators are offering extra data and free calls to help you keep in touch with your nearest and dearest during the pandemic:

  • Sky Mobile – Customers will get an extra 10GB data boost for free until April which will be added to your Piggybank.
  • Three Mobile – Three are reducing their International Saver Add-on price from £15.32 to £10 for 31 destinations around the world.
  • Virgin Mobile – Pay Monthly customers will get unlimited minutes to mobile and landline numbers, plus an extra 10GB data boost for free for one month.
  • Vodafone Free unlimited data for 30 days via VeryMe Rewards (automatically applied to customers flagged as particularly vulnerable).
Here are some quick and easy ways to make money if your bank balance could do with a top-up.

How will coronavirus affect Student Finance and going to university?

Most universities now won't be opening their doors again until September 2020. Here's what to do in the meantime.

Will your Student Loan still be available during coronavirus?

piggy bank with graduate cap

Good news: in terms of your Student Loan, it's basically business as usual.

You'll still receive the scheduled payment of your Maintenance Loan at the start of the summer term, regardless of whether or not your university has made alternative arrangements for teaching. Hooray!

Can students still apply for Student Finance during the pandemic?

Yes! If you're currently studying or if you'll be starting a new full-time undergraduate course after 1st August 2020, you can apply for Student Finance as normal.

Postgraduate and part-time undergraduate Student Finance for the upcoming academic year should be launched in June (but we'll keep you updated if this changes).

Do you have to repay your Student Loan if you can't work because of coronavirus?

The Student Loans Company only take repayments if you're earning over the repayment threshold for your repayment plan.

So following this logic, if you were to lose your job or part of your income due to coronavirus, you'd stop paying any money back as you'd no longer be earning enough to activate the repayments.

You won't be receiving an angry knock on the door if your situation changes, because the repayment system is designed to kick in once you are earning over a certain amount, not to kick you when you're down!

For more information on Student Finance and COVID-19, check out the Student Loans Company website.

Should you still do your coursework?

how to edit an essay

Credit: Atanas Bezov - Shutterstock

Yes! Universities have now suspended lectures and tutorials and have moved all teaching to their respective online platforms. It is currently expected that face-to-face teaching will resume in September.

Your university should be in touch with you to communicate what they expect from you in terms of coursework and whether any changes will be made to your workload.

So, if you've got coursework and a deadline, you're safe to assume it's business as usual unless your professors have told you otherwise!

Make a list of all the things you've got to do and give yourself a schedule if it all feels too overwhelming. The key is setting realistic goals and chipping away at it bit by bit, instead of seeing is one massive slog.

Do you still need to revise for exams?

apply for university USA

Credit: Cyblocker - Wikimedia

Again, it's up to your university to communicate to you whether exams will be going forward or whether they'll be postponed. Unless you've been told otherwise, our advice is to assume that your exams will still be going ahead.

In the event that they do get cancelled last minute, you'll have revised loads anyway so you won't have to revise as much later on, and you'll get an awesome grade...

In light of the extremity of the disruptions COVID-19 has had on the academic year, there's a chance that some exams may be reformatted to other assignments.

Keep a close eye on both your student email address and your university's website for regular updates on any important changes made to your exam dates. Otherwise, get revising!

What happens if you lose your part-time job due to coronavirus?

starbucks barrista

Credit: Sorbis – Shutterstock

Coronavirus has caused a lot of people to lose their jobs, or forced them to take time off work to self-isolate. If this is you, here's what to do.

Are you entitled to sick pay?

Yes! If by some miracle you're a student with a part-time job that you're still able to do from home, but need to take time off work because you've contracted the virus, you'll be entitled to your usual sick pay.

You do need to be earning at least £118/week to qualify for statutory sick pay, which currently stands at £94.25/week.

What do you do if you lost your job because of coronavirus?

When COVID-19 first hit, lots of people lost their jobs because businesses were panic-sacking employees to cover the profits they were losing out on.

If you were laid off as a result of the pandemic, it's definitely worth getting back in touch with your former employer as they may be able to take you on through the government's Coronavirus Retention Scheme (which we'll explain in a second).

However, it's up to your employer whether or not they decide to make up for the wages you missed during the period of redundancy.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

The government is rolling out supportive measures known as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which aims to cover the wages of those who would otherwise have been laid off as a result of the pandemic.

Grants will be given to businesses so they can pay 80% of the wages of retained employees, to be capped at £2,500/month per employee. This system basically allows employers to put people's jobs on hold (or on 'furlough') and provide them with some income in the meantime.

So if, for example, you had a job as a barista at a coffee shop which has had to temporarily close its doors, your employer could be given a grant which is destined to cover your wages while you're on standby.

According to the Chancellor, the system is supposed to be set up before the end of April and wages will be paid retroactively from 1st March. As usual, we'll post updates here as soon as we get them.

People who have regular and recurring part-time work are eligible for this scheme. If you rely on more seasonal part-time work, for instance, you only work during the Christmas period or over the summer, you may not be able to claim furlough.

We encourage you to discuss this with your employer and look for alternative ways to make money should this scheme not be applicable to you.

Coronavirus Self-employment Income Scheme

If you do part-time freelance work or were working under a zero-hours contract, help is coming for you too.

The Coronavirus Self-employment Income Support Scheme has been rolled out to allow the self-employed to claim a taxable grant worth up to 80% of how much they were making before COVID-19 hijacked our day-to-day lives. This grant amounts to a maximum of £2,500/month for the next three months.

Eligibility criteria

You can apply for the scheme if you're self-employed and:

  • Have submitted your self-assessment tax return for the tax year 2018/19
  • Worked in the tax year 2019/20
  • Are working when you apply, or would be except for COVID-19
  • Intend to continue to work in the tax year 2020/21
  • Have lost work or income due to COVID-19.

Your earnings must also be less than £50,000, and more than half of your income should from self-employment in order to be eligible for this scheme.

HMRC will contact you if you are eligible for the scheme and invite you to apply online. They'll use data from tax returns submitted for the tax year 2018/2019 to identify those eligible and assess any late returns filed before the 23 April 2020 deadline, so make sure you get yours in

Can you get money back on cancelled events and subscriptions?

As public gatherings of more than two people who don't reside in the same household have been banned, most ticketed events will not be going ahead, nor will you be going to the gym for a while...

Can you get a refund for festival and concert tickets?

music gig

As summer is still a way off, not all festivals have been cancelled – but it's likely that the majority will be.

Glastonbury 2020 has officially been cancelled, and the organisers are offering two options for people who've already paid the deposit on their tickets: a complete refund, or the possibility of rolling over their deposit for next year, ensuring tickets for Glastonbury 2021.

If you've bought a ticket for a festival, concert, play or other event that has been cancelled, you should get a refund.

According to Ticketmaster's policy:

If an event is cancelled altogether, we'll usually just refund your tickets automatically. We refund the face value plus the service charge for each ticket – you'll see a credit onto your card within 15 days of us emailing you about the cancellation.

If you've incurred any other losses as a result of an event being cancelled (e.g. you've booked a hotel which you'll no longer be staying in), get in touch with the company directly to see whether they'll give you a refund or allow you to rebook at a later date.

Don't forget to check your travel insurance if you've had to cancel any transport you had booked to get to your concert or festival!

Can you get a refund for your gym membership?

man on treadmill

Now we're all living that working/studying from home life, going to the gym is (temporarily) a thing of the past.

PureGym, Nuffield and The Gym Group are freezing their customers' memberships while freedom of movement is restricted, during which time they won't be charged.

Check your gym's webpage to find out what their response has been to COVID-19, and don't hesitate to get in touch with them if you feel that you may have been wrongly charged for services you won't be able to use.

There are loads of ways to stay fit and healthy without going to the gym anyhoo!

Can you get a refund for your Sky Sports subscription?

football team warm up

Credit: wonker - Flickr

Eek, there's less live sport to stream, so can you get a refund on your Sky Sports subscription?

Unfortunately, Sky Sports won't let you end your contract without paying a fee, but it is allowing you to pause your subscription so you won't be charged for the time being. To do this, go to the Pause Sky Sports page.

Your subscription payment will be paused until things resume as normal, and all 11 Sky Sports channels plus your recordings will still be available.

As soon as the live action returns, Sky will reinstate your subscription so you won't have to lift a finger.

Virgin customers with Sky Sports should be able to pause their subscriptions shortly, although plans haven't been fully put into place yet. Fill in your details here to find out when this will be.

BT have told their BT Sport customers that they can get a bill credit for one month of their service, which will cover both the basic subscription and any HD add-ons. Click here to claim your credit.

If you're feeling generous, you can also donate your credit to the NHS Charities Together COVID-19 Urgent Appeal.

Getting money back for travel that has been cancelled due to coronavirus

train ticket held by GWR train

Credit: Ceri Breeze – Shutterstock

Can you get a refund for train tickets?

To avoid the train companies going bust, the government has temporarily taken charge of the rail operators. A lot of services have been reduced, but you can get a refund for most train tickets, even for tickets that are usually non-refundable.

Advance, Off-peak, Super off-peak and Anytime tickets

Train companies have agreed to refund Advance tickets bought before and valid for travel from 7am on 23rd March, and have waived the usual £10 admin fee you'd usually pay to be refunded.

You should also be entitled to a refund for any partially used tickets (i.e. when only one of the journeys has been completed), also with no admin fee.

There are some cases where Advance tickets won't be eligible for a fee-free refund, so we suggest you double-check with your operator before going ahead.

Season tickets

You can get a refund on your Season ticket if:

  • Your weekly Season ticket has three or more days validity remaining
  • Your monthly Season ticket has seven or more days remaining on it
  • Your annual Season ticket has eight or more weeks remaining or six weeks remaining for TfL Travelcards.

However, the government has confirmed that the £10 admin fee will still be charged on all Season ticket refunds.

Transport for London

TfL will refund any travelcards which have been loaded onto your Oystercard and will wave its £5 admin fee. Some tube stations have been closed and there is a reduced service on most lines and no night tubes.

Buses will continue to run but at a reduced capacity and night buses are still running to support those having to complete essential travel to work night shifts.

Can you get a refund on coach tickets?

national express coach

Credit: Michaelpuche – Shutterstock

Coach companies are reducing or completely suspending their services.

National Express

National Express coaches will be fully suspended from 11.59pm on 5 April. All travel booked after that date can be postponed to any time over the next 12 months free of charge, or you can request a full refund.

Ticket amendments»

Ticket refunds»

Megabus

Megabus are also suspending all services in England and Wales from 5 April, in line with government guidance on non-essential travel. Services in Scotland will continue to run in partnership with local bus services.

Megabus have said that customers with travel booked on services in England and Wales after 5 April will receive an email and be refunded.

If you had a trip booked with Megabus but haven't received an email with your refund, the company has advised that you get in touch with their Customer Services Team by emailing [email protected].

Stagecoach

Essential routes will be maintained where possible and temporary timetables have been put in place so we advise you to check the status of your trip online. There is no blanket policy about refunds at this time, so customers are encouraged to get in touch with the Customer Services team if they are no longer able to travel.

Can you get a refund for cancelled flights and holidays?

Sex on the beach

So, we're all supposed to stay at home. But what about that upcoming trip to Ibiza you had planned with the lads?

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is advising British nationals against all but essential international travel. This means that it is advisable to cancel any holidays and other non-essential trips abroad you had planned (including your sesh in Ibiza, soz).

Can you get flights refunded if you cancel because of coronavirus?

If you booked flights but have had to cancel your trip, even if you booked with a low-cost airline who have a no-refund policy, it's worth getting in touch with the company.

Airlines are introducing new policies for customers cancelling their trips as a result of the pandemic. These involve either waiving admin fees on any amendments made to bookings, giving customers a voucher towards their next trip or providing a full refund.

If you booked your flight through a third-party flight search engine like Skyscanner or Momondo, check the travel company your deal was secured with (their name should be on your reservation email) before getting in touch with the airline.

travel insurance contract

Credit: 279 Photo Studio - Shutterstock

As their phone lines are extremely busy at this time, their Customer Services teams might prioritise only the most imminent departures (i.e. flights booked for within the next seven days, like Opodo is doing) and may very well tell you to get in touch with the airline directly. That said, it's still worth giving their webpage a gander.

At this point, we'd like to remind you that, according to EU air passengers' rights rules (yes, they still apply to us for now), you are entitled to a refund as opposed to just a voucher.

If you're 100% sure that you'll be making the trip, rebook away to your heart's delight. But know that if the airline goes bust and you opted for the voucher, the likelihood of you getting your money back is close to zilch.

According to EU rules, you have 12 months to make the claim, so choose wisely.

Here's what the most popular airlines in the UK are doing as a response to COVID-19:

Airline policies for coronavirus cancellations

AirlinePolicy Website
Aer LingusNo fees for changes made to flights departing before or on 31 May or cancel and receive voucher.
Visit »
British AirwaysNo fees for changes made to flights departing before or on 31 May or cancel and receive voucher.Visit »
EasyJetNo fees for changes made to postpone flights.Visit »
Jet2Full refund or change to booking free of charge only if flight has been cancelled.Visit »
RyanairNo fees for changes made to flights until 30 April.Visit »
Scandinavian AirlinesFull refund, free booking amendments or voucher towards next trip.Visit »
Virgin AtlanticNo fees for changes made to flights departing before or on 31 December.Visit »

Unfortunately, it has been reported that some airlines are making it increasingly difficult to obtain a refund even if flights have been cancelled (and refunding customers for cancelled flights was part of their original policy, angryface) by forcing customers to call in during this particularly busy period.

If you're currently in this situation, there are a few different things you could try, one of them being using an alternative number to the one that has been sign-posted for COVID-19 related cancellations.

This website provides alternative free numbers for some of the UK's biggest service providers to increase your chances of interaction with an actual human being. Result!

You might also want to try an online refund request form if the airline provides one somewhere else on their website. Again, we know this is far from ideal, but couldn't do any harm right?

credit cards

Lastly, your debit/credit card may also be able to help you out.

Credit card providers have to ensure purchases of over £100 under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. If you bought a flight worth over £100 using your credit card, legally your credit card provider has to give you the money back as you cannot owe credit for a service you didn't receive.

Debit cards benefit from something called chargeback protection. This means that if you don't receive the goods or services you paid for, you may be able to claim your money back.

Bad news though, chargeback isn't a legal protection that banks have to provide the way Section 75 is, so you'll have to check if this is a service your bank provides. If it is, give your bank a bell and ask them to start the process.

Airbnb coronavirus cancellation policy

Airbnb has two separate coronavirus cancellation policies: one for reservations made on or before 14th March, and another for reservations made after 14th March. Your check-in date will also affect your right to a refund.

Reservations for stays or Airbnb Experiences made on or before 14th March, with a check-in date between 14th March and 14th April, may be cancelled before check-in and are covered by the company's COVID-19 extenuating circumstances policy.

Guests who cancel will receive a full refund and Airbnb will refund all service charges.

Reservations for stays and Airbnb Experiences made on or before 14th March, with a check-in date after 14th April, are not currently covered by Airbnb's COVID-19 policy. In this instance, the host’s cancellation policy will apply as usual.

Reservations for stays and Airbnb Experiences made after 14th March will also not be covered by Airbnb's COVID-19 policy, unless the guest falls ill with coronavirus. If this isn't the case, the host’s cancellation policy will apply as usual if the guest wishes to cancel.

Coronavirus and travel insurance

If you bought travel insurance to cover your trip, well done!

A lot of countries have closed their borders or are seriously restricting incoming travel. Most insurance companies will cover cancelled trips if there's an FCO advisory in place, which there is at the moment.

So yes, if you have an imminent upcoming trip for which you've shelled out on non-refundable flights (and the airline's policy isn't very forthcoming), accommodation reservations, tours or other add-ons, you should be able to claim your expenses back from your insurer.

When the FCO advisory lifts, however, it may be a different story. Insurers tend to make the decision to pay out or not based on the Foreign Office's travel advice so keep your eyes peeled.

What to do if the insurer turns down your claim

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Credit: BlueSkyImage – Shutterstock

If the insurer turns down your claim and you think you have may have been treated unfairly, you can make a complaint.

Financial service providers such as insurers must deal with complaints within eight weeks, so make sure you put 'Complaint' in the subject line to ensure your email is prioritised.

Include all essential information, such as dates, names of people you spoke to, flight numbers and bookings. Also state how you would like your complaint to be resolved (i.e. compensation for your cancelled hols).

Make sure you write down people's names if you speak to anyone over the phone, and try and get any phone conversations summarised in an email.

If no response is given within these eight weeks, you can go to the Financial Ombudsman (for free) to take your complaint further.

Cancelling holidays booked for later on this year

Thinking about cancelling that trip to Barcelona you'd booked for October? Yeah, us too. But getting a refund for trips happening later on in 2020 may be trickier.

If you decide you no longer want to go on a flight you'd booked which hasn't yet been cancelled and is outside the key periods mentioned in the table above, you're not legally entitled to a refund.

For those of you with travel insurance, remember that each insurer has its own policy regarding how far in advance they'll accept claims and getting a refund in these circumstances is unchartered territory.

There's still so much uncertainty around how long the pandemic will last, so you'll have to get in touch with your insurer if you're thinking of asking for your money back.

Should you book a holiday now?

As tempting as it may be when the prices are so low, we'd advise against booking any holidays now.

The FCO will likely extend its advice against all but essential travel, and travel insurance that covers you for coronavirus-related cancellations is nigh on impossible to find (as this is a highly likely scenario which would force insurers to pay out thousands of pounds).

You risk losing out on a fair bit of cash, and either way, most of the tourist attractions will probably be shut for social distancing purposes. It's a lose-lose situation!

Coronavirus supermarket restrictions and buying food

canned food supermarket shelves

Credit: Amnesiac86 - Wikimedia

In response to mass panic buying which has left supermarkets absolutely ransacked (angryface), limits have been imposed on the quantities of certain products that you can buy at once.

Most supermarket chains (not all) are restricting customers to purchasing a limited number of the same item, and have placed additional restrictions on in-demand items such as pasta, loo roll and hand sanitiser.

Here's a table containing the rations imposed by the UK's biggest supermarkets:

Supermarket food rationing restrictions

Supermarket
Number of same itemsNumber of same in-demand items*
Aldi
4N/A
Asda
32
Co-op
N/A2
Iceland
N/AN/A
Lidl
4N/A
Morrisons
N/A2
Sainsbury's
32
Tesco
32
Waitrose
32

*In-demand items vary from supermarket to supermarket and may include but are not limited to toilet roll, pasta, hand sanitiser, soap, paracetamol, tinned goods and UHT milk.

Remember, only buy what you really need at the supermarket – that extra tin of baked beans could really make the difference to someone who hasn't had a hot meal in days.

If you're more of an online food shopper, your order may take a little longer to arrive than usual due to the spike of people staying at home (delivery slots are getting booked up weeks in advance).

Look at the food you've currently got, work out how long it'll last you and try and plan your order accordingly.

It goes without saying that now really is the time to make the most of the food you've already got at home.

Make sure your food is properly stored so it'll last you as long as possible. If you think you won't get to something before it goes off, most (but not all) foods can be frozen.

Cooking can quickly get boring when you're in self-isolation and have to cook for yourself twice a day. Check out our student meal plan for recipes that are easy to make and will keep you going for over a month!

What to do if you run out of money for food

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If you're running low on money for food and borrowing money from your parents isn't an option, get in touch with your university's support services.

Student unions at some universities have been setting up food banks to support students whose Maintenance Loan isn't making ends meet at this time. If this includes you, get in touch with your university's student union and make your situation known to them.

You're not alone in this – there are more students in this position to you than you might think. Some supermarkets are also setting up emergency care boxes for the most vulnerable, so it's worth checking their social media and webpages to see if this is happening at one near you.

Whatever you do and however easy it may seem, don't turn to private loan providers. We've got loads of alternatives to those here.

When you do make it out to the supermarket, make sure you're getting your money's worth and don't be fooled by these tricks.

Contactless spending

Good news! The limit on contactless spending is going up from £30 to £45 to make it safer to pay in shops and supermarkets by reducing the spread of the virus through physical contact.

This new measure will be rolled out in shops from 1st April, though it may not be available in all shops from that date as processes are slower than normal at the moment.

If you'd prefer to avoid touching keypads all together, you can use contactless payments like Apple Pay on your iPhone, or Google Pay if you have an Android phone.

There is currently no spending limit on either of these but some retailers may apply the same limit as contactless payments.

Retailers are extending their returns policies

colourful shopping bags

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Shops selling non-essential goods (i.e. your faves Primark, H&M, Topshop, etc.) have been ordered to close during the coronavirus outbreak. But fret not, online shopping is still on the cards!

However, this does making returning items that don't fit/are faulty a bit more challenging than usual.

Luckily, most retailers have announced that they'll extend the timeframe on their returns policy during the pandemic and lots are offering free delivery.

  • ASOS – extended its returns policy to 90 days (check out our guide on ASOS hacks to save you money).
  • Boohoo – extended its returns policy to 28 days.
  • Burton/Dorothy Perkins – extended their returns policies to 45 days and free delivery on all purchases.
  • H&M – extended its returns policy to 100 days and is offering free delivery on all purchases.
  • Hollister – offering flexible return dates as stores reopen and is offering free delivery on purchases worth £25 and over.
  • & Other Stories – extended its returns policy to 100 days and is offering free delivery on all purchases.
  • New Look – extended its returns policy to 90 days and is offering free delivery on purchases worth over £25.
  • Missguided – extended its returns policy to 28 days.
  • Miss Selfridge extended its returns policy to 45 days and is offering free delivery on all purchases.
  • NastyGal – extended its returns policy to 28 days.
  • TK Maxx – offering an extension of 30 days to return all items once stores reopen.
  • Topshop/Topman – extended their returns policies to 45 days and are offering free delivery on all purchases.

What are banks doing to help their customers?

debit cards bank accounts

Credit: Chermen Otaraev – Shutterstock

Banks are also taking measures to help their customers through this period. Here are the most noteworthy changes taking place:

Interest-free overdrafts

Lloyds, Halifax, HSBC and Bank of Scotland are giving customers a £300 interest-free overdraft buffer. This means that if you have an arranged overdraft with any of these banks, you won't be charged any interest on the first £300 of your overdraft.

HSBC is waiving all interest on overdrafts for the next three months and Lloyds, Halifax and the Bank of Scotland are doing the same for all current account customers with an arranged overdraft until 6th July which will be automatically applied (so no need to phone in).

Barclays is waiving all overdraft interest until the end of April which will automatically apply to all customers with an arranged overdraft.

Credit card rates

Credit card rates won't change much as their interest rate is much higher than the average interest rate anyway. Some banks are allowing emergency credit limit increases, repayment holidays and are waiving fees for missed credit payments.

If you have a student credit card, we advise you to get in touch with your bank if you think you might need a little room for manoeuver over the next few months.

We'll be keeping this guide up to date with any major changes that may affect you as they come in.

So there we have it. If your university has put in special measures to help students through this time, tag us on Twitter and we'll share it to spread the word. From all of us here at Save the Student, stay safe!

Looking after your mental health at this time is essential if you're spending a lot of time alone. 💕

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