Today I am going to be writing on a general student topic: Money.
I have very expensive hobbies, both cosplay and lolita amongst other things. In lolita especially you get a lot of spectators complaining they can't do it because of the money. I do it and I buy brand. I'm a student on loan with only odds of jobs during the summer, albeit its only barely doing it, but I still manage both hobbies. I was unable to get a job whilst at uni last year so I don't have any regular income to speak of. So, how is it possible to live essentially on just student loan and maintain these expensive pastimes on the side? Well here is my tips!
1. Have a weekly budget and stick to it. Including all your misc purchases that aren't relevant to essential living!! Even when I'm buying say a lolita brand item I will budget it into several weeks worth, say £10 a week off what I'd normally allow myself. This seriously stops me from overspending. I think the only exception I make to this rule is one off things like train tickets and one off events e.g. lolita meet ups and cons. Its through severe day to day budgeting that I have plentiful stocks of cash to do these things.
Normally I allow myself £40 a week (not including bills and rent) and that is plentiful! I worked out that figure by dividing the money I knew I'd have left over after housing and bills by the number of weeks until my next loan instalment to give how much I COULD spend per week, then halved that. I think initially I started off with £80, then I kept whittling it down as I cut out unnecessary spending. Keep a note book so you can track your expenses and see exactly where your money is going. You may find you can save somewhere.
2. Try to keep your food bills as low as possible. This actually isn't that hard. My top tip would be NEVER EAT INSTANT FOODS. I hardly ever eat anything instant, including things like sauces. (Exception being pesto and pizzas :P) My next tip would be to make local markets, Aldi, Lidl and Iceland your best friends. If university taught me anything, its that Tescos is really expensive when it comes for fresh fruit, veg and tins.
I remember once my Aunt saying that you can't live off Lidl. Total lie. I cook everything from scratch (because I enjoy it), so I only ever really buy tins of things and fresh veg and meat if its on offer. Lidl is a godsend for basics like this, I think if I'm being decadent with my food shopping I spend around £15 a week, if I'm watching my spending then I can easily do £10. Lidl does boxes of 3 pizzas for £3 and they are so goooooood!! This helps combat post night out hungers where you'd normally want a takeaway XD Avoid takeaway where you can, but it will be near impossible during exam period. Just because :/
3. Look at how much food costs per gram, not how much the packet costs as a whole. If you do this you will get the cheapest deals in general!! Tesco does 3kg bags of pasta for £3 which is amazing value and is good for making lunches to take in! (Don't buy uni canteen food, seriously overpriced!) They also do a 1kg bag of frozen chicken for around £5 too which is good. For meat, stalking the reduced section is really good in Tesco Express right before closing. Once I got packets for 41p each, still don't know how. Stock up on cheap things and freeze!!
4. Keep a base amount of money in the bank and NEVER let yourself fall below it. This acts as a really good overdraft deterrent and you then have a cash safety net should you need it.
5. Always ask yourself 'do I really need this?' 9/10 this will help stem spending!
6. Never take your card out with you on a night out. Take enough cash for club entry, a few drinks and a cab home. £10-£15 is normally enough for me, especially if your sharing cabs. However some cities may be more expensive or cheaper in terms of night life. e.g. places like London and Canterbury are expensive and places up north, especially Hull, are really cheap. (Also take advantage of pre drinks and lethal smelling value vodka and mixers! Students always pre drink for a reason!) This also means theres no chance of you loosing your card on a night out. I know people who have spent like £150 on a night out because they were merry and kept buying everyone rounds of drinks. Yhea.
Also know the clubs in your city and which ones have student nights and when!
7. Don't spend more than £10 on an item of clothing if you can help it. And again, budget into your weekly allowance. I know this sounds depressing but its not actually that bad, especially in sale season, just stock up your wardrobe! Punkyfish recently had a sale where everything in it was £5, I stocked up! Ebay charity shops, Primark, H&M!
8. Flash that student card where ever you can for student discount. Also get a rail card if your going to be getting trains too and from home, or just generally travelling about, it saves you tonnes of money. Also I found out that at Cineworld you can combine Orange Wednesdays and student discount. Mmmmm, super cheap cinema tickets :3
9. Keep change and collect it. Keep a pot or a bag or something where you put all your loose change. I recently changed a pencil case full of coppers and got £15 out of it!
10. For toiletries, stock up on basics like razors, shampoo, wax strips etc in places like Poundland and Savers. For things you'll probably want to spend a little more money on like moisturiser and face scrubs, stock up when drug stores have offers like 3 for 2!
11. Buy university text books second hand, and sell them on the next year! Also try and get your parents to buy text books for things like birthday and xmas. If you sell them on then your still going to gain money from them! Also avoid buying text books where you can and get them from the university library instead. They should have plentiful stocks for your core reading list. They may also have electronic copies available online.
Well, I think thats about all the really valuable advice I can give. Looking up it may seem really depressing but so long as you enforce some rules on yourself for a few months it becomes habit and you don't really notice it that much. Its good habits to get into for later life as well. I know some people that ran over the hill and fell into the pit of despair that is overdrafts with their spending and their parents had to bail them out. Not fun!
It may seem unnecessary lengths to go through to save money, but remember that every time you make unwise purchasing choices on a day to day basis, it really will add up. E.g. buying a cup of coffee every morning you go to uni could cost you around £250 or more over the course of the University year. That would sufficiently enough to buy a couple of lolita brand pieces second hand or take me to a comiccon AND make the cosplay for it!! (Or you could be sensible and save it :P)
Lastly, look for websites for students like http://www.studentbeans.com/ they always have offers and info where sometimes you can get free stuff! ;)
UPDATE: Here is part 2 that I wrote in 2nd year!