Students turn to ‘sugar daddy’ websites to cope with rising living costs

Nearly a third of students have sold their belongings to cover costs, new research finds.

Catherine Lough
Monday 04 April 2022 12:49
University students are resorting to selling their possessions to fund their studies (Chris Ison/PA)
University students are resorting to selling their possessions to fund their studies (Chris Ison/PA)

Students are resorting to selling their possessions or signing up to “sugar daddy” websites to make money, as new research reveals more than a third of parents are struggling to support children financially at university due to rising living costs.

In a poll of more than 1,000 undergraduate students and 1,000 parents and guardians in March, 73% of parents and 66% of students said they were “extremely worried” by increased living costs, with students turning to cryptocurrency investments, paid clinical trials and sex work to make ends meet.

I’m not comfortable relying on my family for financial support, despite the cost-of-living increases having a big impact on me – particularly when it comes to petrol and food

Ashlea Davies, student

Nearly a third of students – 32% – said they were selling belongings to cover costs, while 8% said they had signed up for scientific or clinical trials.

One in 10 had set up cryptocurrency accounts, while 9% had turned to gambling, and 8% were trying to become social media influencers. A minority – 4% – said they had signed up to a “sugar daddy” or “mummy” dating site to make money.

In total, 36% of parents said they were struggling to support children studying at university, while over half – 54% – of respondents said they believed increased costs of living were putting a strain on family life.

Nearly three in 10 – 29% – students said they actively hid debts from friends and family, and 50% said that money worries were affecting their mental health.

The polling commissioned by student accommodation provider Unite Students found that parents gave children at university £249.02 per month on average to help them cover living costs.

Over half of parents surveyed – 55% – said they were worried that rising living costs would impact their ability to financially support their children while they were studying.

Some students were very aware of their families’ money troubles, with two-fifths (43%) saying they were worried about how their studies were putting their families under financial strain.

Students are turning to their parents to help pay for food and fuel (Joe Giddens/PA)

Over half of students (52%) said they would ask for financial support from their parents once a month or more, but nearly a third (32%) said they had taken on more paid work outside their studies to cover costs.

Marianne Amos, 57, a self-employed dance teacher in Kent, whose youngest daughter, Christianna, 18, is studying politics and international relations at the University of East Anglia, said that while she and her husband were both self-employed and “extremely sensible” with money, she was worried about the impact the financial crisis would have on her daughter while she studied.

“Christianna’s just started a new job to help raise additional cash,” she said.

“I didn’t go to university myself, but I firmly believe that the whole student experience, and learning to budget to pay for gas, shopping and electricity bills, for example, are really important life skills.”

“Being self-employed, I have a good degree of control over my income and can simply adjust my teaching hours to increase my income. In many ways, I’m very lucky. Unfortunately, not everyone is in that position – there needs to be more to support students and families who are struggling.”

I’m aware of needing to work, but I’ve had to significantly reduce my hours because juggling work and my studies was becoming unmanageable

Ashlea Davies

Ashlea Davies, 20, a third-year criminology and sociology student at Liverpool John Moores University, said: “I’m not comfortable relying on my family for financial support, despite the cost-of-living increases having a big impact on me – particularly when it comes to petrol and food.

“I’m very aware of needing to work if I want to be able to buy things, but I’ve had to significantly reduce my hours because juggling work and my studies was becoming unmanageable. At the end of the day, it was my choice to go to university, and despite the amount of debt I’ll be in when I finish my degree, I wouldn’t do anything differently if given the opportunity.”

Karan Khanna, chief customer officer at Unite Students, said: “As the leading provider of affordable student accommodation in the UK, we are very aware of the cost-of-living pressures faced by students and their parents.”

“We look to provide advice and support as students navigate money management and the transition to the world of work. Unlike most traditional house-shares where landlord costs are increasing, our students will not have to pay more for their heating, electricity, water, or high-speed Wi-Fi connection. Hopefully this offers additional reassurance to parents who are most likely feeling the strain of managing their own household bills.”

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