Cost of living during MA / graduate student?

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Anonymous #1
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Would anyone mind sharing their experience budgeting for grad school/ MA fashion?

is it worth it to pay higher rent and live closer to campus? What are you finding on average are monthly costs?
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tinyperson
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Always have a meal plan.
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Feastful
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Remember that as long as you are within a short walking distance of a good tube connection that lands you near campus, then you don't near to live that close to campus to enjoy a short commute.

----- Motivation, cost of living, life expenses -----

I would (overal) recommend that you make your commute as short as possible (IMHO, it is worth paying the extra buck in rent for reasonable commute) as a shorter commute will help you balance your work/life balance much easier (it is hard to turn up early to campus if you're also staying up late studying or partying and then having to commute a long time back and forth from uni every day; a lot of potential work, chill and sleep time can get eaten up by commutes!). Be realistic not just about your life and limits, but what you will remain realistically stay motivated to keep up with not just for a few months, but a whole year or more.

Before uni, I used to commute 2.5 hours total per day for college, but this level of commute is NOT for the faint hearted! I endured very little sleep during those years and it was easy to get caught up in rail strikes and traffic jams (one time it took 2.5 hours just to get home). In 1st year of uni, my commute was "only" 1.5 hours total per day which at the time, seemed like a significant upgrade (and it was). But years of long commutes can wear you down (and a 1.5 hours of daily commute is still a lot by anyones standards) and over the course of that year, I ended up feeling glad that a lot of that year was spent in lockdown because although the commute would have helped contribute towards me staying in shape, I think that it would have eventually worn me down (I really needed a respite from long commutes).

In the 2nd year I moved to a location much closer to campus - only 15 minutes walk away - in exchange for a higher rent, and this had a lot of advantages in that I got more sleep, more work time and better energy levels, but as the cost of living rose the higher rent (which I still got at lockdown prices) did cause some stress because you have to pay for SO MUCH at uni (its not just about meal plans- all your materials, all your transport, from your pens, paper, scissors and more, to every tube ride you take to a gallery or some other such things, all needs to be paid for by YOU). The UAL does give out some financial aid to those in need, but I really wouldn't depend on it to make much of a significant impact on your overall costs (its also handed out to an extent on a first come first served basis). And I didn't factor in how expensive life was going to be, so there were increasing amount of nights where I glumly tried to not think about how much life was costing me and tried to just focus instead on falling asleep and doing work the next day.

If you've never done uni or had to pay bills in a city before, I'd give a serious think about what your cost of living is going to be like, because if you choose a rent that's on the upper end of your capabilities to pay, you could end up struggling to afford it not only as life throws you unexpected bills (and everything in life always ends up being more expensive that you initially expect it to be!), but if you do end up struggling to afford food & rent (especially as the cost of living continues to rise), you'll certainly struggle to afford to pay for things that you might want or need on your course. And while its good to learn how to work around adversities, it does suck if you start to struggle to realize project ambitions at uni not because of a lack of drive, planning or ability, but because your finances are strained (and whats the point in living closer if it puts you at a disadvantage this way? It will nullify any gains you might otherwise have enjoyed in the shorter commute).

Only you can know what kind of commute you will be motivated enough to endure for the next year or 2 at uni. Only you can also figure out what your life expenses are going to be like (PS: the rise in fuel prices will be way worse than what any politicians are stating right now), as well as your expectations of life in the city (there's a lot of fun things to do in London and whilst many of them are free, a lot of them also cost a lot of money to keep up with or enjoy). I'd strongly recommend creating and factoring in some kind of budget for your course, as you'll certainly end up needing it.

I'll be doing my 3rd (& final) year next year and for it, I'm looking to go back to doing a longer commute (I'll be needing to move flat soon and am generally looking at areas that will put me in a 40 minute commute range). I don't mind doing a 40 minute commute because its something that I know through experience that I'm more than capable of (and as it currently stands, feel very motivated to endure) and I'm looking forward to living in a slightly cheaper part of London where not only do you get more bang for your buck rent-wise, but the cost of living is also cheaper too (there's a cheap food market and useful cheap shops near where I'm next hoping to live). So I guess I've found my middle ground, my decent compromise, which for me, is a 40 minute walking distance (I'm not anti taking the tube or bus, but I'd rather not have to rely on either due to all the strikes, costs and Covid etc).

Think about your course and costs, factor in wisely, calculate your compromises and you'll find the right answer for you
Last edited by Feastful; 1 month ago
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