How to not be broke at University: My Experience


MONEY SMARTI wanted to talk about money today with you all. As much as we hate to admit it, money makes the world go round. When we’re in short supply or worse still, with no supply, it has a massive impact on our state of mind. It can even lead to depression in extreme cases. When it comes to university, majority of students are skint broke at one point in their 3 or 4 years as an undergraduate student. I understand the struggle.

Before university, many of us din’t have money of our own: mummy and daddy paid all the bills, bought all the food and maybe gave us money when we wanted to go out with our mates. When you go to uni, the whole game changes. Fair enough your parents or the government may pay for your rent, and give you some spending money. So some people may think, “Well, if you’re getting all this student finance from the government or your parents, why are you so broke?”. I would like to address this question by telling you my own experiences with being broke at uni, and sharing with you some of the things that I have learnt in my one and half years at uni so far.

Currently, I am classed as an international student. I would like to say that my family is by no means rich, and I don’t have a lot of money to use thoughtlessly. When I first started uni, my money situation was okay. I had worked during my gap year and saved up a bit of money. On top of that, I was staying with my aunty for the first three months, so life was good. I only paid for my transport. Combined with the money my parents gave me, I was in a good situation. The first mistake I did was blow all my money on mindless eating out with friends and of course shopping.Lots, and lots of shopping. I wasn’t really keeping tabs on the money leaving my account, and when you’re spending money like I was, you will go broke. And that’s what happen. By mid December (started uni in September), I’d spent all the money I had saved in my gap year and was relying on the little money from my family.

In January, I moved out and started living alone. That’s when things got real. I was paying for gas and electric, food, transport, phone bill and all the basics that you can think of. I was getting less than 180 pounds a month, and anyone living in London will tell you thats enough to just get by. And of course, there’s always miscalleanous things that come up that require money. Like taking the train because your friends are, going out to eat with friends e.t.c. (Mostly social spending, obviously). So for a long time things were like this, but I adapted. Now the thing that I’ve noticed is, when you’re broke, you think a lot more about every penny you spend and you make better money choices. Thing’s change when you actually have more money than you need.

My money struggle ended when I finally got a job in the summer that was paying quite well. But unfortunately, the more money you have, the more you spend. I think I was so used to being broke that when I finally had some cash flow, I spent it like there was no tomorrow. If I calculated the amount of money that went to material stuff, I think i would cry. Despite the spending, from 4 months of working full time in the summer, I had saved up a lot by October 2014. In around November, I had started recording my spending and being a tiny bit more cautious…a tiny. My recording strategy was working because it made me conscious of where my money was going, even though I was spending way more than I should have been. However, all my efforts fell apart when the sales started and I had to buy Christmas presents. I blew away almost all my money. I was spending without recording and checking my bank balance. Shortly after christmas I checked my balance and nearly fainted. I had 2 pounds left, and I had to use some of the little savings I had, to just get by.

Right now, I’ve changed a lot. Before December I had developed some good spending habits, but I wasn’t vigilant enough with my recording regime and I paid for it dearly. I am currently on a saving journey, which is doing well for now. I haven’t had to touch my savings since January, and i’m grateful for that. My current account is looking healthy, and I don’t have to constantly worry about money now. I should also mention that with my job right now, my hours aren’t guaranteed. I have a 0 hour contract and I am only called when needed. This week for example, I am without work. So I can’t afford to spend unnecessarily. It also helped that my mom was staying with me since November till January this year, so I din’t have to pay for food at the time. I’d also like to clarify, that since I got my job in July last year, my parents are no longer sending me money. This is why it is even more important that I save.

Now that I’ve told you my not so short story, I would like to share with you some of my tips for not being broke at while at university, that I have learnt through the above experiences:

1. Most importantly, keep a diary, and record your money flow every single day, without fail. What you’ve spent, what you’ve been paid, everything. And don’t wait for the next day to record it! Do it before you go to bed. Make it a habit, and do it as you would breathing.

2. Use online banking. It will help with your recording.

3. Budget yourself. When you get you monthly money or weekly or whatever, write down what needs to go on essentials for that month. Essentials are the things that MUST be paid for, like food and transport. Once you have a budget for the necessities, make sure to stick to it, and resist to spend that money on other things you don’t need  like eating out.

For example, I know I need 55 pounds on bus travel a month, and around 10 pounds extra for when i need to use to the train (there’s a bus strike this month). I also put 10 pounds for food per week (This includes my pack lunch, and all meals), equalling 40 quid a month. I also need 17 pounds for my phone bill and 20 pounds for gas an electric. The rest i spend wisely and put some in my savings for emergencies.

4. Eat at home as much as possible. The amount you’ll spend at a restaurant on one occasion can provide food for a week if you cook at home. Fast food restaurants may be tempting when your lazy but they’re still expensive compared to home cooked food AND unhealthy, so that’s a no no.

5. Lunch at universityBRING YOUR OWN FOOD. I like sandwiches because they’re easy and affordable to make. A large loaf of bread and fillings can go a long way. Add fruit and yoghurt to your packed lunch. Drink water in your own bottle which you can refill at uni. Juice and fizzy drinks are unnecessary calories, your waistline and your pocket don’t need them.

6. Please don’t buy ready made meals. They’re high in calories firstly, and they’re expensive. Learn to cook! Cook in bulk: refrigerate some to have for the next day as well, and the day after. Freeze the rest in containers and that saves you some cooking.

7. Food is good, but eat to live, not the other way round. Eat what you need, don’t over eat. That’s an expensive habit. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE food, but unhealthy eating habitts are not only bad for you, they cost money.  Healthier choices are cheaper choices. E.g. Beans are cheaper than meat. A lot of my tips are based on food, and that’s because a lot of your money can go on this if you’re not careful.

8. Buy supermarket brands. For food, they honestly taste just as good as non-supermarket brands. E.g. ASDA cornflakes is just as good as the Special K but half as expensive. For everything else, like soap, they’re also just as good! Don’t be a snob.

9. Get a job. You need it.

10. Don’t go clubbing every weekend. You will go broke. When you do go on night’s out. Withdraw your budget for the night e.g. 15 pounds and leave your credit card at home. This will prevent you spending more on drinks when you’re drunk and aren’t thinking clear.

11. Get in where it’s free entry, and pre-drink before you go out if you must.

12. Find one-off jobs with your uni. For example, my uni does this thing called uni temps which have temp jobs they advertise. They’re a one off, but may give you a money boost (They definitely gave me one)

13. When you have money, don’t spend it all in one go. There will be rainy days when you will regret it.

14. Open up a saving’s which you DONT touch and put a little money a side every time you get some income. It will save your ass one day.

These are my tips. I din’t just google them, they are thing’s I have been doing for a long time which have helped me. If I wasn’t such a shopaholic from the start, my bank account would be obese right now. It’s been tough learning to spend wisely but I’m getting there. I wanted to finish this post by saying that even though you need to be wise with your spending, money comes and money goes. When we die, we will never take our money with us. So spend wisely, but If you have the money, don’t make your life harder than it already is. If you can afford to go out with your mates for lunch every now and then, do so. If you’ve been thirsting over the latest Zara shoes, then buy then if you’ll still have money for essentials left after. It’s all just about being conscious and being in control of what you spend. Being broke is not fun.

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Thank you for reading, I will chat to you in the next one 🙂

-Sandra xo


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