University: Stretching the Student Budget

It’s coming to the end of the first term of university and my bank account (and probably most other students’) is looking a little empty I know that my own budget is normally really stretched at this time of year, espeically over the Christmas period, so I was really interested in this infographic produced by TransPennine Express aimed at helping students save money during term time. There’s some great money saving tips here!

 photo Stretching Budget_zpszl2yruee.jpg9 tips to keep your student overdraft far from red

I definitely agree with the railcard bit – being in a long distance relationship means a LOT of train journeys, so I’m pretty sure my railcard has saved me hundreds of pounds since starting university in 2012. I also never buy anything without checking for student discount (or another cheeky voucher code!), I eat out using a Taste Card (I get mine free with my student bank account), and I’ve found an excellent local cinema with £2.80 (!) tickets. Little things like this mean I am still treat myself without breaking the bank – like going to see Mockingjay Part 2 (so good, though the ending felt a little weak). I definitely miss Orange Wednesdays though!

What little tips do you have to save money? How’s your Christmas budgeting going? 

University: Things I Wish I’d Known Before Moving Out

I can’t quite believe I moved out of my parents home three years ago – the time has quite literally flown! Admittedly I haven’t properly moved out. I still go back for holidays or weekends where I just need a bit of looking after (c’mon, we all get those days where we just need our mums to make us a cuppa and a boiled egg with soldiers!), but for the most part I’m away from home.

 photo Before Moving Out_zpsy3zdt3fh.jpgI’ve been thinking recently about how moving out was for me, whether it was easy (it wasn’t particularly easy, but I wouldn’t say it was difficult either – just strange!), and what I wish I’d done differently. I’ve put together a little list of things I wish I’d known before heading off to university – thought it might come in handy to some of out. And potentially make quite an entertaining read…

How to Change a Lightbulb

Believe it or not, I hadn’t actually changed a lightbulb before I moved out to university. In fact I didn’t need to change one until a few weeks into my second year – and then I had to wing it. It didn’t help that the light in question was a dodgy fitting, above the bath, and we didn’t exactly have stable chairs to stand on! I managed it, the light still worked after and I didn’t kill myself, I just wished I’d known how to do it beforehand.
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How to Make a House a Home

Where you live has a huge impact on every aspect of your life, from your financial circumstances to your health and happiness. Whether you own your home or rent it, it should be the place where you feel most safe and secure. I don’t think I did too badly in making my halls a home (read about my university halls here), however I wish I’d known the importance about separating my life and study – I did far too much studying on my bed and my sleeping definitely suffered!

How to Pick a House

Whilst I’ve ended up with two lovely houses, I do think we could have gone about picking our houses better. The Rough Guide to Property has a great checklist for property viewing, though for students points I’d add would be to check for any mould in kitchen cupboards, and ask current tenants views on the property and property management. The other financial guides are pretty good too!
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How to Make My Mum’s Beef Stew, and Make A Boiled Egg

Something I’ve never quite got the hang of! Sure, I can make a pretty good beef stew but it isn’t a patch on my mums. I have no idea how she gets her gravy to be so thick and meaty!

It also took me until this summer to be able to boil a good dippy egg – pathetic right?!
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The Costs of Renting

Before signing a contract, it’s so important to check what is included in your monthly rent, as general running costs may or may not be included. Also bear in mind the initial upfront costs involved with renting, what part of your deposit is refundable and what you’ll never se again. Also make sure to check how is in charge of garden maintenance – I know several friends who have been stung by having to pay for the lawn to be mowed.

How to Downsize Possessions

Yep, I’m still failing on this one. I have a LOT of stuff and I really need to slim it down before properly moving out into a real flat (hopefully with W, permanently this time!) next summer.

How to Find a Single Room

Something more for graduates I guess, and luckily I experienced this when searching for accommodation for my placement year. I ended up using Spareroom, a site which lets you search for rooms in shared flats or houses, and lived with a lovely lady and her three dogs. Got to say, though, I was terrified trying to find somewhere as I didn’t know the area at all! It’s definitely more nervewracking searching for a place on your own, as if it goes wrong it’s all on your head.

 photo University Room Tour 11_zps5lkerh8w.jpgAnd now I’ve probably scared all of you who haven’t moved out yet! But in all honesty I’ve never found it overwhelming, I’ve enjoyed pretty much all of it. Bar some of my stew attempts…

*Disclaimer: sponsored post in association with Legal & General, as always all opinions are my own!

What do you wish you have known before moving out?

Lifestyle: A Good Nights Sleep

Sleeping is one of the things I’m not particularly good at. I’ve often struggled to drop off, spent the middle section of the night tossing and turning, waking up more tired than before I went to bed.

 photo 2015-08-11 18.42.54_zpsr9cxqlep.jpg photo A Good Nights Sleep1_zps6pclr4ha.jpgSince starting final year in September I’ve been determined to improve my sleep; I’m not going to let lack of sleep get in the way of getting what I want out of university. Pretty good timing really, as Silentnight recently got in touch encouraging a more mindful approach to sleep. They sent over a big box of goodies including this rather scary looking hippo (?!). Can’t say I’d want to drift off with that next to me…

 photo A Good Nights Sleep3_zpsxovetuvo.jpg photo A Good Nights Sleep5_zps2jxrmyoh.jpgThey are trying to encourage the ideas behind writing down and interpreting dreams – something that if I’m honest hasn’t really worked for me. I rarely remember what I dream! Other than being stuck in an Excel spreadsheet or battling with equations when I’ve been working too late into the night…

So whilst I haven’t really gotten the main benefit of the box, it’s definitely helped me sort out some of the bad habits I’ve gotten into. Here’s how I’ve slipped into a better sleeping routine – I’m getting around an extra two hours a night now which is so much better than a few months ago!

Bed is for Relaxing

I used to have the really bad habit of studying on my bed, blogging in bed, basically doing everything in my room. Last year it was the only living space I had, but when I was studying I had no differential between study and sleep. By keeping study outside of my bedroom (not difficult when my room is so small!) I’ve found it much easier to drift off to sleep.
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Warm Drinks Help

Avoiding coffee and tea of course, but hot drinks definitely help me drift off. I’ve been alternating between caffeine-free nighttime tea and fruit blends – Mango & Cinnamon is my favourite, but Twinings have been kind enough to discontinue it!

Fresh Linen

Is there anything better than slipping into a nicely made bed with freshly washed sheets?! I do miss having a cleaner who would iron them for me (the benefits of paying such an extortionate amount for our London flat!) but it’s still so relaxing to have fresh bedding. A bit of pillow spray finishes it all off nicely – though I use this on my curtains as anything lavender makes me break out horrendously!

Read not Watch

There’s nothing worse than sitting on a screen illuminating your room as you try to drift off. I’ve been making an effort to avoid watching or reading anything on my phone, but instead reading a chapter or two on my Kindle. Only thing is I’m so easily hooked into books so I can keep on reading for far longer than I should…
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Reflect on your Day

Spending a minute or two writing in my One Line A Day diary is something I need to take up again, but what I do try and do is think about my day, write a to-do list for the next (so I don’t lie and think about what I need to do) and generally just think happy thoughts. It ends my day on a good note, always important!

Following these steps have really helped me – they aren’t huge changes but I’m definitely feeling a little better. If only my dark circles would start to fade…

How do you make sure you get a good night’s sleep?

 

University: Reducing Bills

Bills are becoming such a bugbear of mine. I’ve previously lived in rented accommodation inclusive of bills so never really had to worry about accidentally leaving a light on, or the costs of having weekly baths (with several top ups of course!).

 photo Reducing Bills_zpscfoitbiy.jpgThis year we’re paying our bills separately so I’m more conscious of the energy I’m using. It’s only been a few weeks but I’ve already started picking up a few times that might just help save a few pennies.

Keep The Heating On

Might sounds strange, but I really do advise against turning the heating off completely! It takes more energy to turn the entire system on that it does just to up the thermostat if it gets chilly. Plus it prevents pipes freezing in the holidays. I always keep the heating on and have never received an overly expensive bill!
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Wrap Up

Rather than turning the heating up, I’d always put a few extra layers on first. Do this before you get too cold and you’ll find that you’ll notice the benefit more than heating up the whole house. I personally have to constantly make sure my feet are warm – with our kitchen tiles slippers are a must or I’ll never get warm!

Find Alternative Heating Sources

Our house this year has a lovely conservatory, perfect for studying in. Only problem is it gets bloody cold! Rather than upping the heating up to try and warm it up, we’ve gotten hold of a little electric radiator. While electricity is more expensive per unit than gas at the moment, it certainly is cheaper than (over)heating the whole house! Turning it on for five minutes every hour or so keeps it cosy enough – though I’m beginning to like studying with a blanket over my lap!
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Warm Lunches

I find that if I’m at home all day, eating a warm lunch keeps me a lot warmer – saving me upping the heating! Making a batch of soup to blast in the microwave is my favourite, with this lentil one being super-cheap anyway. And I’m loving a good egg and soldiers too (and turning the hob on warms the kitchen up nicely)!

Use A Slow Cooker

Some of my favourite winter-y meals are stews and casseroles, but it can get expensive to have the oven on for four hours at a time. A slow cooker makes it possible to cook up these meals whilst using less electricity, and it also means I can leave things cooking whilst I head off to lectures. There’s nothing better than coming in to the smell of dinner already ready to be eaten!

 photo Report Done_zpsftdrj8vk.jpgFollowing these tips has already begun to save a few pennies – fingers crossed it continues as the lure of Christmas party dresses is starting to take it’s toll…

Do you have any tips for saving money on bills?

University: Making Extra Money as a Student

As a cash-strapped student, I know just how tough it can me to scrape up enough pennies to join your housemates when they’re heading out. There are few worse feelings than being skint and unable to join in with the fun, so it’s worth considering ways to make some money on the side to help pay bills and fund your social life. Newcastle-based letting agent Letslivehere have put together some great tips on making extra money as a student.
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Blogging

Starting with the most obvious method to readers of the site, blogging can be a good way to build a future portfolio for those who want to work in marketing, communications, journalism or anything writing-related. It can also be lucrative if you start attracting good viewership, as you can monetise your blog with advertising and PR requests. I will say however that it takes a lot of time and dedication – it’s not an easy option, and ‘making money’ is not a good reason to start a blog!

eBay Selling

Anything you have that you don’t use can be sold on eBay. Whether it’s for a few pounds or gadgetry that fetches more, it’s all profit from items you no longer touch – so get them listed and pocket a few extra pennies a month.
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Editing

If you’re a strong writer with a severe case of grammar-fever, you can land a role as an editor for self-published writers. Besides setting up your own blog, you can advertise your services on freelancing websites like PeoplePerHour and Fiverr.

Freelancing

Whether you’ve got some skill with graphic design, writing or photography you can turn your talent into a money-making venture while you’re at uni. Getting started can be tough, but once you have your name out there you’ll see more offers coming in.
To begin with, register a website and try to get some examples of your work on it – if this means working for free it’s a small sacrifice at first. However, you should never agree to work for free once you have a portfolio – it undervalues the creative sector.
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Tutoring

Depending on your subject of choice, there are plenty of tutoring opportunities that are available to students. You can either independently get CRB-checked and then head out advertising your services by knocking on doors or posting leaflets, or you can use a website such as First Tutors, which is an open marketplace that you can advertise your services on.

Promoting

We’ve all seen people stood on the high street getting drenched by rain as they hand out leaflets that you don’t really want to take. You can be one of those, if you can stomach the experience. It’s a paid job and doesn’t take much effort. Done in pairs, it can even be fun. Ring up your local nightclubs and ask if they have any promotional jobs.

Alternatively, you can promote a brand by becoming a brand ambassador. Brands like Red Bull and Smirnoff have representatives who help promote and sell their product in bars and clubs and accept students for roles. If you’ve got charisma, you’ve got a good chance.

*Disclaimer: post in collaboration with, all opinions are my own!

I never knew just how many options there were for making a few extra pennies – I wish I’d had this information sooner!

What are your top tips for making a bit of extra cash?

University: The Effect of Social Media

As someone who is currently looking for a graduate job, I’m interested in anything and everything job-search related right now. Whether it’s a CV Writing Guide or How To Ace Interview Questions, I’m taking all the help I can get.

 photo Social Media amp Careers_zpspp7s6bze.jpgBut no matter how good your CV is, how flawless your interview technique is, there could be one thing stopping you from getting a job. Bray & Bray have put together this infographic on social media and the workplace – and it’s a really interesting read.

Bray and Bray - Social Media In The Workplace (1)I personally have (I hope!) a really clean online presence. My Facebook is private bar a few posts I’ve deliberately set as public, there’s no drunken photos (a benefit to hardly drinking!), and my blog shows me in a good light. Whilst my blog doesn’t necessarily list my (rather unique) name, it is relatively accessible thanks to a few campaigns – so I make doubly sure my posts aren’t overly controversial. I know from experience that employers will and do have a google of names, so it’s really best to have a clean up every now and again to make sure you’re not sharing something that could damage your career…

Disclaimer: this is a sponsored post, all opinions are my own as always!

Have you altered the way you appear on social media due to employment prospects?

Lifestyle: A Little Update & 5 Happy Things

A bit of a cheat post today – I’ve been really stretched for time over the last few weeks, my scheduled posts have dwindled down to nothing and although I have lots of photos, lots of half-written drafts, time just seems to be running away with me. So here’s just a little light-hearted update about what I’ve been up to…

 photo 2015-10-03 17.53.50_zpsybe56gpz.jpgSo, why have I been so busy? Well, I definitely underestimated the stress of both final year and applying for grad roles. I’m in the situation where taking a gap year really isn’t feasible, so I’m concentrating on job applications in every scrap of time that isn’t spent studying. I’ve ever worked constantly on my train journeys up to W, whereas before a copy of Glamour was definitely on my travel must-have list! I’m finding it all a bit stressful if I’m honest, coupled with my horrible flu-virus has caused a fair amount of tears over the last few weeks. I’m feeling a bit more clear-headed this week, so fingers crossed it will all work out soon!

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Bonfire Night

I just love Bonfire Night – there’s something so magical about fires and fireworks. We celebrated with an overload of sugar (W made smores brownies – gooey whiskey brownies, a buttery biscuit bake, topped with grilled marshmallows), and worried about the rain. Luckily it held off, we watched a lovely display before heading back to catch up with the Apprentice.
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London

I’ve been travelling in to London quite a few times over the last week for interviews, and it’s really made me realise just how much I love and miss the city. It’s where I’m aiming to be working after I graduate, I have a list of areas I want to live in, so now I’ve just got to make it happen!

Dippy Eggs

Comfort food has very definitely been on the menu over the last few weeks – and dippy eggs with buttery toast soldiers is always one of my top choices. It’s taken me until this year to crack boiling an egg and now I’m taking full advantage. Runny yolks all round!

My degree is so cheery… #mortality #studying #notes #uni #universitylife #finalyear

A photo posted by Chloe Ellen (@ninegrandstudent) on

Neat Notes

Bit of an odd one this, but hear me out! I’ve had to change my writing style completely due to recurrent repetitive strain (yep, I’ve written this way all my damn life, and it causes a problem at the age of 21…). It’s meant I’ve had to say goodbye to my pretty cursive style (though it was a bitch to read!) and go plain – and I’ve been hating it. I’ve finally either started to get used to it, or just made it look slightly nicer, but my notes are finally starting to inspire me into studying for final year. Better late than never I suppose…

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Oversized Scarfs

One of the biggest pros to Autumn is that its appropriate to cover up in scarves, the oversized the better. I feel so much more cosy in a scarf, and I love layering them with a leather jacket on more milder days – though I can imagine I’ll be pulling out my big winter coat in not too many weeks now!

And now I’ve caught up with you all, it’s probably fair to say that you can expect a few less posts per week for a little while. I don’t want to risk my degree by blogging too much, I don’t want to miss application deadlines because I’m plugged into social media. I love blogging, I’ve missed it over the last few weeks, but for now something has got to give. Sorry guys!

Did you find final year tough – tell me I’m not the only one?!

 

University: Importance of Entrepreneurship

My degree and it’s aim are very straight-cut. It’s a very specific degree aiming at a very specific job. I’m perfectly happy with that, as it’s the career I’m aiming for in the sector I want to be in. But I know a lot of people are put off by universities pushing employment opportunities at them, at failing to recognise the importance of working for yourself.

 photo Entrepreneurship_zpsvnb811o1.jpgIn a time where more and more people are looking at self-employment options, it’s important for graduates to be able to make informed decisions. As someone who has definitely been feeling the pressure of obtaining a graduate job I found this study and infographic by PolicyBee really interesting.

Policy Bee INFOGRAPHIC - finalI was shocked that such a high number of universities never mention freelancing at all. I fully admit I’d not heard it mentioned in my course, but assumed that as it is aimed at a specific profession it was an exception to the rule – but apparently not!

*Sponsored post, all opinions are my own as always!

What was your experience at university? Were you pushed towards traditional employment? 

University: Study Success

There’s so many different ‘keys to success’ when studying it can be hard to know what to do. Don’t do this, don’t do that, and half the time this and that are the same thing.

 photo Study Success_zpsj8nxvhfw.jpgIAB sent over this fab infographic with their tip tips for study success, and I think it’s great. Everything’s in one place, nothing seems to contradict another, and they are all very sensible and easily-used suggestions;

IAB Top Tips for Study SuccessI’m particularly pleased that organising your notes is in there – that’s the thing I most often advise to new students. I know I for one would be forever behind without keeping my notes organised, taking half an hour to sort them each week really does make a difference.

Disclaimer: Post sponsored by IAB, all opinions are my own.

What are your top tips for study success?

University: A Bunch of Essentials

I’ve written a few times about what to take to university, I’ve written about my tech essentials, and now it’s time to share what other students feel are essential.

 photo 2014-09-03 18.21.39_zps9rmvxmji.jpgWay back in the summer Currys PC World asked me to contribute to a mini-guide on tech essentials for students. It’s now finally available for me to share with you – here’s the free download.

I thought a little outside of the box for my contribution and went kitchen-based. I’m not a huge user of tech within the kitchen (I don’t even use an electric whisk – beating eggs is a tough job in my house!) but there are a couple of things I think of as essential for me.

The first is a slow cooker. For me this is essential in creating stews and so on – things I actually eat an awful lot of. It’s not exactly economical to have the oven on all day, but slow cookers are much more efficient. I find them far easier to clean too!

 photo Homemade Pesto Recipes 8_zpsxiez5qm0.jpg photo Homemade Pesto Recipes 7_zpsbswpjwom.jpgThe second is a mini food processor. Now I’m not claiming either of these things are essential for most students, but if you like to cook then they are pretty cheap items that I reckon you’ll get a lot of use from. I use my mini chopper at least a couple of times a week – more so now my new version also acts as a mini blender (it’s perfect for one-person smoothies). I’ve also discovered it makes turning biscuits into crumbs a ten second job, perfect for making a chocolate fridge cake… It also allows me to make my own pesto, whizz up a curry paste, even blend up nut butters. Not bad for such a tiny machine!

Of course there’s other techy essentials too.

I couldn’t live without my portable hardrive, especially now my free unlimited Dropbox has ended. And of course there’s the laptop issue – and getting one that’s the right combination of light-weight and heavy-performance. I also have a Chromebook as well (perfect for weekends at W’s as my four-year-old laptop is SO heavy), an ASUS tablet and the mobile.

 photo 2015-10-07 16.39.29_zpsrx2kogfr.jpg photo University Room Tour 1_zpsy3lofhfl.jpgThe less obvious, smaller bits of tech are just as important. I’ve found having at least two extension leads is crucial at university, as you can guarantee plugs are in the most difficult of places. A kettle is pretty much designed for students – how else would I survive on tea?! And a microwave means you can make mug cakes and scrambled eggs. Speakers are pretty important for those pre-drink evenings, and having a HDMI cable means you can attach your laptop to a larger screen before jumping onto BBC iPlayer.

I found when I first moved to university I concentrated on the more practical things I needed – the kitchen bits, the bedding, the study materials. I know I definitely overlooked needed an extension cable!

What do you think are essentials for students? What couldn’t you live without at university?