For university newbies or returners to Portsmouth, we all know how difficult it is to settle back into a routine. Summer was a chance to stretch your legs, forget about essay writing, the exams and enjoy yourself. The months seem to have flown by and suddenly we are starting to buy our essentials to get us through this year in higher education, no longer taking selfies by a beach in Spain without any worries.
Although many of us may have had jobs over the summer that did require some form of a routine, we have settled back into home life, being given cooked dinners and lifts by our doting parents on nights out and now the focus is on change once more. First year at university is difficult and challenging. You are learning to juggle your social life, work life and remembering to cook and clean for yourself – all without having mum and dad to catch you if you fall. It’s daunting but everybody is in the same boat as you and you will learn this during your first few days. Although, you can get one up on them if you’re organised enough. Remember, planning is key.
“Bank cards are dangerous and can be your worst enemy after a few drinks.”
People tend to ‘wing’ their first year of university and hope that everything falls into place but many of us have spent our student loan by the second week with no idea on how we are going to be able to eat for the rest of the term. Of course, we all make it out the other side eventually but there are ways to help you feel more secure and comfortable, and most importantly, in a position where you can enjoy the university experience without worrying about having the money or time to do all the things you need/want to do.
Rule One: Preparation
Whether it is about food or time keeping, planning your week is an essential. On a Sunday night, create a day-by-day plan of what is happening and what you need to do. Do a shop for the week ahead and plan each meal in advance, giving you more time for social activities and work demands.
“As a student, Aldi and Lidl will become your best friends throughout your years in higher education.”
Rule Two: Budget
One thing that people seem to forget is that although we are lucky enough to get ‘free money’ in the form of our student loans, it is not infinite and it can run out quickly if you aren’t careful. Try to give yourself a budget for the week for your weekly shop, transport and fuel costs if your lucky enough to have your car with you and for social activities. Set yourself a maximum on a night out and only take out the cash you want to spend. Bank cards are dangerous and can be your worst enemy after a few drinks. We may say we need them in case of emergency but we all know that emergency tends to be more alcohol! If you really can’t leave your debit card at home, consider asking someone you trust to hold onto your card for you while you’re out. That way, you get the best of both worlds – an emergency option in the case of an actual emergency and a sensible barrier between you and bad decisions.
Rule Three: Keeping Costs Low
As a student, Aldi and Lidl will become your best friends throughout your years in higher education. They are worth the extra travel for the saving on your groceries and the quality is just the same, if not better. Go shopping with a list of everything you want to eat that week rather than going and picking up items with no plan to make meals with, resulting in you making more unnecessary shopping trips and ultimately spending more money. Alcohol is also fairly cheap from these supermarkets, saving you money even before you have gone to the pub or club.
Rule Four: Extras
The socials on Wednesday nights are great fun but don’t feel pressured into buying a whole new outfit just for one night. There are ways around this and if you feel uncomfortable with a theme for the social and don’t feel like you can afford the extras but still want to go, have a quiet word with your society’s leader as they were once, or still may be, in the same boat as you. Domino’s pizza is lovely and can really be a great way to end a night out but is it really worth it when funds are low? You could spend £20 on a deal just for yourself at the pizza specialists whereas you can buy one just as good that will take ten minutes in the oven from the supermarket for a tenth of the price. It’s all about planning ahead and making sensible decisions.
These tips aren’t just for first years but for those who may have struggled in previous years and have been sat tearing their hair out at when inevitably forced to confront their finances, adamant that “next year will be different” but nothing seems to ever change. It only takes a small amount of your time to plan your week in advance. The savings may not seem like much at the time but over the course of the academic year, that can save you a huge amount of money and make your year far more stress-free financially.