“Being careful with money has always been a priority of mine. Since coming to uni, I’ve learnt to budget more effectively – now it’s my responsibility to ensure the fridge is well stocked! I tend to meal prep a lot (in other words, I eat a lot of leftovers) which saves me time and money.
I had a part-time job at Eurotunnel throughout my A-Levels and during the first part of the pandemic, and then was put on furlough, which meant I was able to save a bit for university, but I had to stop for term time. Because lockdown prevented the typical first year at uni I imagined (going out regularly), I’ve been treating myself to other things like clothes or décor for my room. Luckily, it didn’t stop me having fun on campus – there are often games nights or movie nights in my block which allow us to safely socialise and have fun as well as rooftop bars in the city centre to give us a night-out fix”.
Morning: Made breakfast then walked to the shop on campus to get some milk with my flatmate. Got back and made a start on revision for my summer exams – I re-watch the lectures, condense my notes, then make colourful posters with images and attention grabbers so I am more likely to remember them.
Afternoon: Ate some leftovers from the weekend for lunch and finished a topic from my psychology module. Gave myself a break and watched some Netflix (using my family’s account) as a reward.
Evening: Made a big pasta bake and put some portions in the freezer, then caught up with some friends who had just come back to campus. We often make our own food and then sit together to eat – it takes the pressure off making things everyone likes and having enough to feed everyone.
Rent: £190 – this comes out once a week.
Groceries: £1 – milk.
Remaining weekly budget: £54
Morning: Slept in and then had a fry-up with a flatmate made from a combination of our food – it feels like a treat and it’s fun, especially if you can split the cooking and ingredients. I then cleaned the kitchen (some of my flatmates tend to neglect this!).
Afternoon: Met some friends at the bus stop outside my accommodation. I left my car at home for first year, which means I don’t have to budget for petrol or parking, but I use the bus more often – it’s £3.30 for a student day rider, which is much cheaper than getting a single or return into the city centre. We got the bus in and then walked down to the city hall and lined up for a kilo sale (£1 entry) – a vintage clothes sale where you pay by the weight of your items. There was so much to look through we spent around two hours walking round and picking things out. I ended up getting a few tops and a vintage sports jacket which came to £7.
Evening: Got the bus back to campus and decided to do some washing. The laundry machines are so big that I tend to put in all of my bedding, towels and clothes in one machine (plus my new kilo sale finds). Each wash costs £2.80 and the tumble dryer is £1.80 (I had washing capsules from my last food shop). While that was on, I made some food from odd bits I had in, and then collected my washing.
Other: £12.60 – Kilo sale clothes and washing.
Remaining weekly budget: £38.10
Morning: Got up early to get a head start on some revision, then had a session with my one-to-one mentor. I get this extra help on account of my dyslexia – as part of my DSA (Disabled Students' Allowance) and independent learning plan set up by my university, I have access to a mentor who helps me with university work and revision once a week. As my course is very essay-based, I usually use this time to read over and plan my essays, making sure the structure is right and the spelling and grammar is correct.
Afternoon: I made some lunch from my store cupboard ingredients and then sat in on a webinar run by the university careers service about different opportunities. Today’s talk was by people in the prison service, and others I’ve watched have been from the police and civil service – they’re really interesting, and by attending I also gain employability points which means I can apply for internships/apprenticeships or jobs through the university.
Evening: Went into town for drinks (£12) with friends – one of them drove us in so we wouldn’t miss our reservation. Managed to catch the last bus back to campus (£3.30) and spent the rest of the night doing karaoke with my flatmates.
Remaining weekly budget: £22.80
Morning: Had a lie in, made some breakfast and decided to clean my room. I then organised the food I had in (the storage in the kitchen is small so I usually keep a box of dry food in my room to save space) then made a shopping list.
Afternoon: Made some lunch and then packed my bag to go out. The shop on campus is quite expensive and the mini supermarkets in town get really busy, so I like to walk to Lidl instead – it takes 40 minutes. The lower prices mean I can get lots of fresh fruit and veg as well as meat without spending too much – I filled up a trolley with over a week’s worth of food including snacks and treats (£20.80). I then walked to the bus stop as campus is at the top of a hill so I rarely walk back with a big shop (£3.30).
Evening: Went to see a friend and top up my laundry card (£5) – I tend to forget until I need to use it again. Then went back to my flat and made some dinner and some brownies – one of the perks of having two ovens in our kitchen. I was tired from the walk and carrying the shopping so decided to call it a night and watch some TV.
Other: £5 – topping up laundry card.
Remaining weekly budget: -£6.30
Morning: Got up early to meet a school friend who was visiting for the day. Got on the bus into the city centre (£3.30) where we went for lunch (£7) then took a walk around the cathedral grounds.
Afternoon: Decided to look around the shops and bought a top in the H&M sale which was marked as £10 but scanned in at £4 – love an extra surprise reduction! Got the bus back to campus after seeing my friend off and phoned home to show off my purchases.
Evening: Ate yesterday’s leftovers and then shared the remaining brownies with my flatmates over a glass of wine (bought in yesterday’s food shop).
Other: £11 – £7 for lunch and £4 for new top.
Remaining weekly budget: -£20.60
Saturday: My family came to visit, bringing a picnic for us to have on campus. It was lovely to see them, and we spent most of the day outside in the sun. After they went home, I went back to my flat and did a bit of tidying up in the kitchen. Decided to have a mini pamper night with a flatmate, so we did face masks and watched a film.
Sunday: Had a lazy start to the day watching some TV on my laptop. Summoned the energy to go for a walk around campus with a friend. When I got back, I made a plan of what I needed to do for the next week and signed up to some revision and stress management workshops run by my department in preparation for exams this term.
Remaining weekly budget: -£20.60
THIS WEEK'S ACTUAL SPEND
ACTUAL SPEND: £265.60
PREDICTED SPEND: £245
OVERSPEND OF WEEKLY BUDGET: £20.60
“It’s understandable that, after months of lockdowns – and what must have felt like a strange first year of university – you’re finding ways to treat yourself every now and again. That’s totally allowed, but consider challenging yourself to find ways of saving elsewhere when you do – for instance, if you’re going to buy lunch out and about, could you walk or cycle into town rather than getting the bus? You could also consider selling some old clothes online to make a bit of money back – why not try and have a ‘one in, one out’ policy that means whenever you want to buy something you first have to sell something you don’t use anymore?”
Think about where you shop and what you’re buying. Most students don’t have much experience of grocery shopping for one when they first get to uni, and some shops are a lot pricier than others. Some of my flatmates shop in M&S Food which makes their weekly spending much higher than mine!
I also tend to use a lot of student discounts both online and in-store. Most university cities and towns will have student nights which do amazing deals for food and drinks, and some of the best student deals in Canterbury are for bottomless brunches or drinks in bars which offer great value. It’s always worth asking if somewhere does a student discount.
Don’t be scared to treat yourself occasionally. For a long time, I resisted the urge to indulge, but now I actually feel better and more in control of my money. Knowing I can buy some extra clothes, or a cheeky takeaway, means I’m also more conscious of my ability to stay on track and in budget in other spending areas. This week I went over budget, but that means I’ll make sure I spend less next week so it balances out. I’m usually quite good at doing this and it makes it feel more of a treat when I do push the boat out.