Summer Spending

Student spending is like no other demographic in the UK today. We know from our research that students receive a combined total of £20.9 billion per year – and collectively, they spend £12.7 billion of it.

We know that because of their unique student lifestyle, they spend about 39% on essentials – leaving 61% in disposable income. And we know that university students have long summers – so naturally, when university ends, their spending goes up.

Do you expect to work during the summer holidays in 2022?

  • 26% Yes, I plan to work full time
  • 47% Yes, I plan to work part time
  • 9% I’ll look for a paid internship
  • 5% I plan to volunteer (unpaid)
  • 13% No

Source: Student Beans user survey, December 2021

50% of students say that they start saving for the summer period at least a few months before.

This is true of Ed – a 18-year-old History and Politics student at Sheffield university. For the minute, I’ve got three pots for three different festivals that I’m yet to buy tickets for”, he revealed when we spoke to him in December. “Some of that money will go towards the ticket, and then the rest of that will go towards just general weekend expenses to get there.

“I’ve got three Monzo pots for three different festivals that I’m yet to buy tickets for. Some of that money will go towards the ticket, and then the rest of that will go towards just general weekend expenses to get there.”

Ed, 18 History and Politics student, Sheffield

This isn’t to say that summer is all big-ticket fun and games. Like the rest of the UK, students will face the challenge of inflation and rising energy costs this summer. Given that rent and bills comprise 19% of their total expenditure, it’s naive to think that students won’t feel the pinch of this. They’ll appreciate discounts and deals on their festival and holiday tickets as well as some variety in how they pay for these larger purchases.

How confident are you about managing your finances during the summer holidays?

  • 18% Very confident
  • 54% Fairly confident
  • 23% Not so confident
  • 5% Not at all confident

Source: Student Beans user survey, December 2021

How far in advance do you start saving for summer holiday items and activities?

A few months before
2-3 weeks before
A month before
I don’t save for the summer holidays

The main thing that sets students apart from the rest of the UK’s earning population is their loan drops. Because they are centralised and government-controlled, UK student loans are a widely normalised part of going to university. According to the UK government, £20 billion is loaned to around 1.5 million students in England each year. This is split into tuition fees, which go direct to the university, and maintenance loans – which are paid into students’ bank accounts.

Loan drops carry an intensity that wages do not – they
are paid in three near-equal lump sums that can be up
to thousands of pounds, depending on the individual’s background. For students who are new to financial independence, this can be a double-edged sword.

Students receive their loans to correspond with the start of each term – one in September, one in January, and the final drop of the academic year in April. This April loan drop is the most significant for summer spending – it will see students through the entire summer period, until the next loan drop in September.

Of course, loans aren’t the only way that students get money. 63% say that their income is supplemented by family at least once a year, and 51% have a part-time job. In summer, the number of students looking for paid opportunities rises – 47% plan to work part-time, 26% seek full-time opportunities, and 9% look for a paid internship.

Summer spending: a summary

For UK students, summer spending is a delicate balancing act. It’s a time where they’re likely to have more money in their bank than they’ve ever had before – combined with months of downtime from university.

It’s best for brands to create a “little and often” approach to capture the attention of this demographic – market to the duration of the summer break, not just the loan drops. Students will spend across different verticals at different times – “I think a lot of my summer spending actually happens towards the end of summer”, explains Ed. Discounts, subscriptions and sustained media rather than one blowout campaign are perfect ways to generate long-term loyalty from this demographic.

“I do search for discounts because I’m trying to spend as little money as I can. I’m in sixth form, so I don’t have the opportunity to work, so I have to ask my parents for money. So I usually try to limit the amount of times I have to ask them or just try and manage the amount of money that they give to me. So I usually check for discounts before I buy anything online or in-person.”

Fathiat, 18

Future medical student, Essex UK

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