Eleanor Lee | Contributing Writer | Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Jo Johnson Thinks Students Should Be \'Living Frugally\', But What About The Ones Who Already Are?

Jo Johnson Thinks Students Should Be 'Living Frugally', But What About The Ones Who Already Are?

The Debrief: Yet another example that perfectly displays how out of touch our government are when it comes to the cost of student living

As a current second year undergrad, I’m glad that the student loan system was a huge talking point at the recent Tory conference. University minister Jo Johnson, brother of Boris, advised struggling students that the way to solve their money issues was by ‘living frugally’. Now, in a sense, I can almost see where he is coming from. During my first year of uni, I experienced many people who simply couldn’t look after their money. Continuous nights out were followed by expensive takeaways or lavish shopping sprees, and when they ran out of money they either dipped further into that huge overdraft or went crying to the bank of mum and dad. I’m not trying to bash those that choose to blow all their cash on their three years at university, they probably enjoy the experience a lot more than I do, it’s just a lifestyle that I couldn’t really afford to participate in.


Although I understand Johnson in a sense, I also believe that he’s wildly out of touch with modern students. He added that 'students living frugally won't need help from their parents'. I hate to break it to you Johnson but I spent my first year at uni ‘living frugally’ and still found myself worrying about the cost of living whilst occasionally relying on my family for money. 


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I’m very lucky in comparison to a lot of students, in that my parents and grandparents are more than happy to help me where they can. My parents aren’t by any means rich, but they are in a somewhat comfortable financial position, which means I receive a very small maintenance loan. When I say very small, I mean I still had to make up over £2500 just to cover my first-year accommodation which consisted of a cupboard size room and en-suite. Although slightly better off than some, my family were in no position to pluck £2500+ out of thin air, which is one of the reasons I had to take a gap year, another suggestion of Jo Johnson's. With simple halls of residence costing this much, the student loan system has to be revised. 


I used my gap year wisely by getting a new job that paid better in order to save more and, luckily, the same company kept me on a zero-hour contract so that I can work when I’m back home from uni. I know that I wouldn’t have been able to afford life at university if I hadn’t taken a year out to save money. Has it got to a point where we have to delay our education in order to pay for it, or is that simply the way life goes? 



Despite saving money through my gap year, I still live a very frugal lifestyle at uni. I refuse to dip into my overdraft and will quite often miss out on nights out just so I can have an extra bit of cash. In my mind, £30 on a night out that I probably won’t remember is better off spent elsewhere. Although my parents are quite often willing to help me out with money, I never really speak up and ask for it. I find it embarrassing and know that they’d offer me cash even when they can’t afford to. My question to Jo Johnson is, what do you suggest for suffering students who are already living frugally?


I don’t often discuss my thoughts on the student loan system. As I’ve come to learn, many people believe that those on a small maintenance loan must be fine as their parents must be ‘rich enough’ to help them out. I believe that the student loan system is out of touch with everyone, whatever their background. It seems absurd that some students can use their loan to book holidays and others can't even cover their accommodation. I'm not moaning because I feel our government should fund my summer - if I want a holiday I will put in the extra work and budget hard in order to afford one - I just feel that the system is a complete and utter mess. 


For Jo Johnson to suggest we start living frugally is quite frankly, embarrassing. I feel as if I’m being told off for not doing enough despite spending a gap year saving and working two jobs. I was contemplating a third job but the thought of it impacting my studies put me off, as I really do enjoy my course. I would appreciate if Mr Johnson could perhaps expand on his idea of living frugally by giving us an insight into how he spent his time budgeting and saving money at Eton College.  


I completely understand that university is an experience that many believe shape you into an ‘adult’, whatever that may really be. I’m learning how to live independently, budget money and be responsible however I also feel like I’m being punished for choosing the uni route. Despite my parents having worked their entire lives to ensure I receive the best possible upbringing, the system doesn’t seem to want to help them either. 


This isn’t an argument as to which set of students are worse off, more an argument that we’re all in this ridiculously difficult situation together. It’s positive news that our government are beginning to discuss the loan system and its flaws, but with a university minister that’s insinuating we’re lazy and waste money, we have a long way to go. 

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 3 Policies From Labour Party Conference You Need To Know About 

Tuition Fees Continue To Be The Problem No Politician Knows What To Do About 

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