University: Is A Degree Worth The Cost

This is something I’ve been pondering lately. Whether my degree, my single A4 certificate, is worth the approximately £38k worth of debt it’s cost me. Whether it was worth the tears and stress it caused. Whether, if I had the choice, I’d go back and do it all again.

 photo Is Uni Worth It4_zpsyehyblru.pngIn short, I’m not sure I would.

My Voucher Codes has been looking into whether a degree is worth it, with some quite interesting results! With nearly 425,000 students having started university this year, it’s clear it’s still very much the popular option for post-18 education. They’ve had a look at what are students are getting for this money and how best to approach University so a student can achieve maximum return on their investments – have a read here.

 photo 12565358_10153494959529541_4248232404245365900_n_zpszpriqbcz.jpgI did love my university experience, I made friends I know I’ll be forever close to, I gained a First in a subject I did (and indeed do) love. My degree is as relevant to my career as it can get, my placement year was a blast. But there’s still a little niggle at the back of my mind that wonders whether it was really worth paying 9,000 pounds a year for.

Back when I applied and began university, a degree was the only way to get into the career I wanted, the career I have finally just begun. The year after they started taking on apprentices, and that’s continued. Typical – I know for definite had that option been available I’d have taken it.

Then there’s the experience, the qualifications. I went for a very applied course, which hopefully has cut my time to being fully qualified in half. I also did a placement year in the exact field I wanted. All things I hoped would help me get a job. I actually heard “you’re too experienced” and “you have too many exemptions” after final-stage rejections more times than I care to remember last year. Turns out you can be (and I don’t want to sound like I’m blowing my own trumpet here!) “too good” for graduate roles…

 photo University Goals2_zpsrujei6ip.jpgIn terms of my actual degree, I enjoyed it. I felt like I got a good amount of teaching – 20+ hours pretty much every week in all three years. I did extremely well, with the exception of two modules. The majority of my lecturers were hugely intelligent, approachable and generally willing to help. I got exposed to specialist computer software that even most recent graduates don’t get near once on the job.

The university experience? Well as someone who doesn’t particularly like a lot of alcohol (more than one glass of wine sends me to sleep), I was never going to love it. I like my sleep, going out at 11pm isn’t really for me – that’s bedtime! Don’t get me wrong, I had some great nights in with friends, I don’t feel like I ‘missed out’ but I certainly wouldn’t have said the experience was worth it.

So yep, I have a piece of paper worth £38,000. I’ve gained two best friends, strengthened my relationship and learnt an awful lot of maths. At the end of the day I got my dream job, which of course makes it all worthwhile. But if you’re umming and ahhing about going? I’d strongly recommend looking into all other alternatives first!
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*Collaborative post.

Do you think university was worth it? I love reading about other’s university experiences (check out Amy’s experience here – it’s quite similar to my own!) so I’d love to know if you think it was worth the money/debt!

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?

Student Sunday: In Case of Emergency…

From what I gather, it’s quite unusual for a student to have a credit card. I applied and received one at the same time as opening my student card pre university, and can say I’ve feel some people automatically feel that just because I have a credit card I’m irresponsible with money. My credit card is purely for emergencies. Santander have recently asked me what I class as a financial emergency, and here’s my answer.

 photo cf2535da-84bb-400c-be9e-70c856300662_zps998a82de.jpgA financial emergency? Definitely not a pair of shoes, not even a MAC lipstick. My credit card doesn’t get used on nights out, it rarely gets used for food. The main reason I got it was so there would always be enough money for me to get home if needed. With a boyfriend halfway up the country, and being close to my family, I like the security of knowing that if I need to drop everything I can. I’ve never had to use it in a total emergency, though I came close this summer when W was rushed into hospital. Not sure my phone, credit card or railcard left my hand for a few days!

There are unexpected expenses that occasionally crop up which mean I’m always glad to own a credit card. My deposit on my room this year was paid on credit card, as I simply did not have the money to spare. As was the food shop when I first moved. I can say, with hand on heart, that I only buy things on credit if I know I can pay it off, in full, before the bill is due. I knew I’d have wages coming in, so I used it. Likewise, I’ll use it over Christmas because I know there’s January’s loan to pay it off; though I have to be careful as my minimum loan doesn’t go far!

 photo 64969157-57cc-44ef-a3f2-cbd22ffb7587_zps0e85cc8c.jpgThere are other reasons where I’ll use a credit card too. For big purchases it just makes sense, as it offers buyers protection. And I love having a credit card for an often overlooked reason; it will be building me a credit card. I know of an adult, very sensible money, who was recently turned down for a finance package to buy a new car. The reason? She had no credit rating as she hasn’t ever had a credit card. I believe there are other ways to gain a credit rating, but this is sure to help, and it gives me security knowing I have the “money” there if I need it too.

Now I’m not saying rush out and get a credit card. It is NOT free money, and if you haven’t got good control of spending I’d advise against it. But as an extra piece of financial security, as a means to get a credit rating, I find it useful. Perfect for emergencies.

This is a post in collaboration with Santander

What do you class as a financial emergency?

What’s Occurring Wednesday: Charitable Acts

I’ve always had strange opinions of giving to charity. I have charities I actively support and donate to regularly, I put change into collection boxes at tills, at least 3 times a year I cart donations off to various local shops, I’ve helped organise events for particular charities, and if someone is doing something to raise money I’ll gladly support them. What I don’t particularly like is people shaking buckets in the street, and what I absolutely despise is the charities that have people stopping you in the street trying to get you to start a direct debit. It’s not going to happen. Cold calling is also an issue. I rang one notable charity to report a case of animal cruelty a few months ago. Since then I have had daily calls from them asking me to donate. “No” was apparently not a word featuring in their vocabulary.

 photo 2014-10-27094604_zps57fe405a.jpgWhat I find most admirable is people taking advantage of their talents and pushing themselves out of their comfort zone in order to raise some funds. My dad pushed himself to do 12 long runs in 2012 in aid of Alzheimer’s – he’s a natural athlete, but he chose obstacle courses that were slightly different to the usual half-marathons. It raised money (and he got hooked), and most important it also raised awareness for Alzheimer’s.

 photo 2014-10-27094545_zps2682de4d.jpgI also love it when companies get involved with charities. Which is why this Thursday I’m swapping my dual-screen computer for a till, Excel for bric-a-brac, and my professional voice to my dealing-with-children tone. Half of my team are taking over a charity shop in Teddington for the day. We will be running the shop as normal volunteers, as well as trying to create fun Halloween themed events for children. We’ve also been baking for the last few weeks to start money rolling in. Hence the mini Victoria Sponges you’re seeing dotted around this post. And we’ve collaborated with a local cafe (that does THE best hot chocolates) to form a sponsored coffee run in the mornings. Granted it doesn’t raise the most cash, but its put a smile on people’s faces and it’s something different.

So I’m all for donating to charity, I’m all for doing my bit. But I like it when there’s some effort behind the fundraising. I don’t like being pressured into anything, and donating money is the same. I always feel hard-hearted when I say no, but I’m not exactly well-off, I do my bit for charities close to my heart, and I spend time supporting their causes.

I’m not going to ask what you think of donating to charity, because (in case you haven’t guessed) I feel its a highly personal subject. So all I’ll say is – have a good day!

Blogger Link-Up: Managing Your Money At University

Another Saturday, another link-up post! I hope you are enjoying these? Anyway today we have Emily from Good Girl Gone Brum, who normally blogs about a whole host of topics – today she is talking all about money and university. I’ve found it a really helpful read, so I hope you will too! 

 photo IMAG0817_zps07bc9903.jpgMy mum bought me this purse from France. ‘I have more than a radish’ would be the opposite of ‘I don’t have a bean’ in English.

As a student, the world of loans, grants, rent and bills can feel like a bit of a minefield. Unlike having a job, your money comes in at irregular times in irregular amounts, making budgeting confusing and hard, especially if what is coming in won’t exactly leave you rolling in it.

There are however ways to manage our money and get the most out of the little we do have. So if you’re the type who dips into their overdraft a little too often, grab a pen and a notepad and use these tips to get in control of your cash.

Set up a student account and a savings account

  • Setting up two bank accounts will help you keep more control of your money, and now with internet banking it is super easy to swap money between them.
  • A savings account is useful for, er, saving – but it’s also good for unexpected expenses, like a friends birthday or having to replace the toaster.

Know what’s coming in and how long it will last

  • Student finance money should go into your account at the start of each term. Know how much this is going to be; if you’ve lost the original letter you can log in online.
  • Next, know how much your rent and bills will cost you until your next instalment. Put this amount aside mentally by writing it down –  don’t touch this money, treat it as if it’s not yours.
  • After you’ve taken this money away, a lot of us are left with very little. If you have a part time job, write down the realistic amount you expect to earn until the next instalment of student finance and add this on to the money that you have left to spend. More often that not, students have no other option than to rely on their parents to tide them over. The most important thing to do in this case is to make sure this money is planned. Work out with your folks how much you realistically need each month, and set up a direct debit – that way you can budget and you won’t need to call them again asking for more money towards the end of the term.

Make a weekly budget

  • You can do this by adding up all the money you will be getting, minus rent and bills, and dividing the total by the number of weeks between each instalment.
  • Once you’ve got this figure you can work out if it’s realistic – if it’s only £30 a week you might need to either find a job or get more support from your parents, but usually between £50 – £70 is a good amount, depending on how tight you’re prepared to be.
  • You don’t need to assign the money to what it will be spent on down to the last pound, but it’s a good to have a rough idea of how much you spend on your food shops, how much you need for a night out, how much it costs to do your washing if you use a laundrette and if you need to spend money on travel to uni.

Keep an eye on your spending

  • Be aware of keeping to your budget. This is especially important if you pay for things on card as often the money doesn’t get taken from your account on the same day, and you might forget how much you’ve spent.
  • Each week, grab a brew and sit down with your internet banking account. If you’ve got money left over from your budget, even if it’s just a fiver, transfer it to your savings. You’ll be surprised how quickly it can build up if you transfer a little bit each week. Likewise, if you’ve overspent, transfer the amount you overspent by from your savings into your current account to make sure your budget still works for the remaining weeks.
  • Every now and then, do some sums to make sure you’re still on track until your next student finance chunk comes in. By having a check every now and then, you can notice if you’ve somehow overspent, before you get to the end of the term and realise you have to use your overdraft.

So good luck with your budgeting—it is boring, but it’s all part of moving into the big bad world of adulthood. Having a budget isn’t meant to stop you having a life – in fact having your money in control is the thing that will mean you can still afford to go to the end of term ball when everyone else has run out of student loan.

Thanks Emily for taking the time to contribute a guest post on my blog! Be sure to check out Good Girl Gone Brum, and remember I’m still looking for people to write posts, so if you are interested please email me at [email protected] with some ideas!

What’s your best money-saving tip?