Lifestyle: My Budget & Money Tips

You may or may not have been an article featuring me in the news last week. I must say, it took me a little by surprise as I gave the interview to a PR agent months ago! Of course, the papers don’t exactly print the whole truth (and the headline is ridiculous!) so I thought I’d post a little something about my budget, how I try and stick to it, and why I try and cut spending.
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My budget is a lot lower than people assume.

I receive the minimum maintenance loan and my university town is one of the most expensive outside of London. Case in point: my room this year (commutable distance to London, and extremely nice) is costing me the same amount in rent as my student house was last year. Which was roughly the same as halls. I get a small amount of regular money from my grandparents (£10 a week – and the reason I get this is long, complicated and emotional, and not down to financial reasons), and my parents do as much as they can – lending me money for unexpected expenses and doing a big food shop at the start of term. I travel to see my boyfriend around once a month which costs between £30 and £60 on trains depending on where we are based. This all equates to my food budget being a strict £25 a fortnight, and my going out budget to be zero.

I do shop using vouchers.

My main point in my interview was that I don’t believe anyone should buy something without a quick google to see if there’s a discount..

Finances were a huge worry for me pre-university.

I very much have a tuition and maintenance loan. I wouldn’t be able to afford to go to university without this, and an academic scholarship that I worked damn hard to get. My criteria for choosing a university (after the course) was that accommodation was affordable (I was in the cheapest available) and the level of scholarship given.

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I am currently on a (well) paid placement for a year.

Hence the more ‘extravagant’ lifestyle posts that have featured over the last few months. I’m saving hard each month too, but have given myself a small budget to enjoy myself and see more of the country whilst I can. It’s also only in the last few months I’ve been able to really bump up my savings account again.

Even though I am earning a very good wage this year I’m still budgeting hard – I’ve upped by weekly food shop budget to between £15 and £20, mainly in a bid to gain more spices etc, and eat a wider variety. I’m generally spending close to £10 a week most weeks, with this upping to £20 when W comes to stay (he doesn’t appreciate more veggie-based meals!).

I’m also allowing myself a few more treats – buying Yorkshire tea instead of Aldi’s own, treating myself to a lipstick a month.

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Sticking to a budget is hard.

A few times recently I’ve had cravings for things that my budget just doesn’t allow for. Steak. I’ve love a good steak, but I just can’t justify the price – so this Asian Steak Salad using cheaper frying steaks is ideal. I’ve been craving Ben & Jerry’s lately, but I’ve discovered Sainsbury’s own brand of ice cream is pretty darn good – the salted caramel peanutty one is particularly divine.

And the shop for 6p thing is a huge exaggeration – and not what I stated. Nor what the press release stated either (because I approved it).

As a huge amount of people guessed, it was through clubcard points that had been saved up, and then used during the bonus exchange period. I highly recommend saving up points for big spends, rather than just little things like a chocolate bar. I find that stores actually send you better vouchers when you build things up – I quite often get 100 points for £5 spend from Boots for example. I do look for yellow-stickered items, but this is completely unrelated to the supposed “shop for 6p”.
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So, my top tips for sticking to a budget?

  • Know what your budget is, and be clear about it.
  • Don’t deprive yourself too much – if you are craving something, look for cheaper versions. I appreciate this may be impossible for some if your budget is really tight, but for students it’s generally fine.
  • Learn to cook – it’s far cheaper than ready meals in the long run. It might be more expensive first as you stock up ingredients, but the cost will level out.
  • Keep track of spending – I’ll be doing a post soon on how I do this.
  • I avoid carrying cash as I will spend it easier. If I happen to have cash (from unavoidable taxi journeys) I’ll immediately throw it in a jar or unused purse. The pennies mount up quicker than you’d think – in one term last year I saved nearly £50.

I hope this straightened up any questions arising from the article! Do you live on a tight budget? What are you top budgeting tips?

  • Jessi

    This article has completely passed me by. I feel like you should at least link to it now you’ve mentioned it. 😉

    I’m so glad I’m not alone in spending cash more easily than when I use a debit card! Lots of people seem to think that flashing the plastic = more detachment from the money = more likely to spend, but I actually find spending a pound here and a pound there adds up far more quickly as I’m so much less bothered because “it’s only a pound”. I keep a change jar, too – for either 50ps or 20ps and under, depending on how flash I’m feeling. I use it as treat money: it’s a great feeling paying for a new bit of make up or a takeaway without any extra money leaving my account. 🙂

    I’m also an Aldi gal for 95% of stuff. There’s a few things – such as Sainsbury’s organic feta – that are not worth scrimping on, but I actually prefer their pasta, rice and bread. I’m also a total loyalty card obsessive. I don’t go somewhere just for the points (I can spend a scary amount in Tesco without even really thinking about it) but I do always use my loyalty card when I’m there. The naughty meal deals I’ve been buying from Tesco (I really should get back to making my own lunches…) have added up to quite a few pence a litre off petrol. And I save all my Boots Advantage card points. It’s kind of useful that you can’t use them to part pay for things, because it means I really do hoard them and time my shopping to coincide with store points events. I “bought” Marc Jacobs Daisy in the 2014 January sales!

    I also share Amazon Prime with my boyfriend. Obviously, though, this only really works if you can share with someone you trust completely, because you have to link your payment details to someone else’s account, or have someone else’s payment details on your account. I don’t use it for Christmas and birthday presents for obvious reasons, but it’s a good solution if you’re too impatient for delivery like me. It’s not technically a money-saving tip, really, since Prime isn’t really essential to anyone’s existence, but if you want it, it makes it a lot cheaper. I also make an effort to ask for no-rush delivery if I’m not in a hurry for something, because it gives you a £1 Amazon credit.

    Money Saving Expert is also really good for finding vouchers. A lot of the time the deals are exclusive, too. We’ve just got Sky broadband for less than £17/month and a £100 M&S voucher!

    I’m not in the best paid job in the world (understatement of the century) and I’m already pretty frugal, so I’ve switched to trying to earn more money rather than save. I worked all the way through uni and have lived at home for the past few years (moving out next week…!) so I’ve saved up a bit of a nest egg. It was earning a truly pathetic interest rate with a blue, nameless bank (47p a month!) so I’ve opened a couple of high interest current accounts and spread most of it between them. It takes a bit of setting up because they both have minimum monthly deposits, but you don’t have to keep the money in there and you don’t have to set up any direct debits, so I cycle the money between them. They get taxed at basic rate, but the interest rate after tax is still a lot better than many ISAs – and obviously they’re instant access. If I had my student days all over again, I’d definitely find a good current account that pays interest monthly to pay my loan into. Even if it’s just in there for a while before it gets swallowed up by rent and food, the interest can add up.

    The rest of my money is in a Santander 1|2|3 account. It’s definitely something to consider if you’ve graduated and/or have moved in with a boyfriend/girlfriend. It gives a nice 3% interest rate and, even more excitingly, gives cash back! It gives 1% on water and council tax, 2% on gas and electricity and 3% on phone, internet and tv. There is a £2/month fee, but you’ll probably find it pays for itself easily if you have two people’s phone bills coming out. I also use a 1|2|3 credit card (I clear the balance religiously) for 3% back on petrol. I don’t work for Santander, btw – just a very happy customer! I earn £400+ a year for doing nothing.

    • ninegrandstudent

      I would, but I feel it really represents me so badly! I’ll definitely look into that bank account when I graduate – I’m currently stuck with RBS and my student account BUT I’d love something which offered cashback! x

    • emily

      I do the same thing as you for my credit card-it’s set up to automatically pay off its entire balance every month out of my checking account, so I know that I can’t overspend on it, and it gives 1% cash back. So if I only use it for things that I would buy anyway but can’t use a debit card for b/c buying online, then it works out to my favour as I’m never paying interest.

      • ninegrandstudent

        I think if you are careful about paying it off then there’s nothing ‘wrong’ with credit cards at all. Plus it’s there if there’s really an emergency – I know people should have a safety net but that’s not feasible as a student! x

  • I think that one of the hardest parts about making a budget is actually doing just that – making it. Like what is a reasonable amount to spend on groceries? It really does vary drastically from person to person and depends on your diet. I think that I spend more money on groceries than my friends, but I also don’t feel like I spend too much. For a while, I just tracked all of my receipts and added up costs in different categories at the end of the month – and from there I was able to come up with a realistic budget and identify things that I could cut down on.

    x Kathryn
    Through the Thicket

    • ninegrandstudent

      I hugely agree – I’ll be doing a post on it soon! x