I was startled to realise this week that many aspiring midwives are concerned about their finances above all else.
I shouldn't be surprised. Money causes huge anxiety for many of us and especially if you have children or you're about to take on a loan, of course this factors into what you think about your career, however much you want to be a midwife.
(I grew up in a family without much money. I’ve also been a student, and have lived on chickpeas and rice while building up my business so, believe me, I know how terrifying not being able to make ends meet is.)
It's just seeing all the comments brought it home to me.
I suppose I was also surprised that this was such a worry because under the new system, the day to day life of being a student midwife has got a little easier.
This is, of course, dependent on your situation and you have to trust your own judgement. In this post, I'll summarise what's going on and offer some tips on managing money.
In short, your midwifery degree could now cost around £55,000.
This is because the NHS bursary and tuition fees for midwives have been cut.
However, due to student loans and maintenance grants from Student Finance England, student midwives will get 25% more money during the course.
But you do have to pay this back.
The amount you get in terms of a loan will depend on where you are in the country (Wales and Scotland will still have the bursary and tuition fees available), childcare, disability allowance and other bits and pieces.
Most people will be living on £7,000-10,000 a year when they're training as a midwife.
This isn't amazing but it is definitely doable.
You only have to start paying back when you're earning £21,000/year. So if you're being paid £26,000/year (which you'll get when you move from the initial 'Band 5' when you first qualify to 'Band 6' when you've got some experience and proven competencies) you'll pay about £40 a month.
If you don't pay everything back within 30 years the loan will be written off.
The whole situation is outrageous for sure. I think it shows poor priorities in the UK, surely the care of women and families is the keystone of good health and good economy and therefore investing in midwives is the sensible thing to do...
However, midwifery is still a privileged career with a steady wage and increasing earning prospects.
To me, the situation can be summarised like this: training as a midwife is still manageable and you'll actually have access to more money while training.
But midwives are the last people who should have to shoulder the mistakes of the financial system which is why I marched and protested.
I do have a few tips from the trenches in terms of managing money on the course that you might like:
Tips From The Trenches
1. Have a budget and stick with it. Money Dashboard or another such bit of software can show you where your money is being spent. What is measured can be improved.
2. Get sensible about food. Think about cheap sources of protein like eggs, sardines (you can get a can of pilchards for 49p even at Waitrose if you're a fan of little oily fishies like me!), base your diet around vegetables from a local market and don't forget low cost, easy ingredients like frozen spinach, wholewheat pasta, tinned tomatoes, lentils, and so on. Most of the food I threw together as a student midwife took less than 15 minutes to cook. Jack Monroe is the master of cooking cheaply and healthily.
3. Consider cycling as a form of transport. Yes, you can claim back for transport fees but it's amazing how much time you can claim back into your day by using your commute as your exercise too, you can sometimes find you don't need your expensive gym membership. Plus it's good for the planet, think of the polar bears!
4. Don't feel you have to buy loads of books. One or two can be great (The Secret Community For Midwives In The Making often have second-hand book sales posted) but Google books offer lots of bits of textbooks for free, you'll have access to up to date journals online and of course you'll have the library.
If you're going to conferences, make sure you car share and ask the conference organisers if you can get a discount if you're going en masse. 'Splitting' train tickets is also legal and can be a lot cheaper.
5. Last tip: I would break the rules occasionally. You can be amazing at low-cost food options, cycle everywhere, spend almost nothing refreshing your wardrobe etc. etc. but sometimes you will find a statistics lecture is making you want to put the fork from your homemade lunch into your eye - in these cases, a flapjack and hot drink from the campus coffee shop is not going to push you under the poverty line and like all things in life, it's better to be flexible but move in the general direction of being frugal, than be militant. You do have to live!
I hope this helps!
Do leave me a comment letting me know, are you still going to apply for midwifery despite the changes?
If you're a student already or a midwife how do you think the profession will change based on this new system?
p.s. If you're on my email list you know I asked for some advice re a project I'm just putting the finishing touches on. It's for aspiring midwives and to celebrate it I'll be putting out some free email coaching on midwifery applications.
Thank you so much if you responded, my inbox is overflowing so I can't email back everyone but I've read them all and your input is greatly appreciated!
Looking forward to letting you know more soon (if you'd like to be updated, make sure you subscribe to Midwife Diaries, and you'll also get my weekly email newsletter where I share thoughts that don't make it here onto the blog.)