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How to Manage a Student Budget

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Volunteer, Meg Jocson Ong, brings us into the New Year with tips on how you can keep an eye on what you spend this year, while still having fun.

 

The first few months of university can be challenging, especially when you have to start acting like an adult and learn to manage your own expenses. Through experience, I have 7 tips to help you get through the big hurdle that is the student budget!

1. List out your monthly expenses
Expenses like your phone bill and rent are easy to tackle, but your shopping allowance and ‘extras’ can be a little unpredictable. Something I learned the hard way was setting a budget for myself on how much I should, and can, spend on nights out. This way, you won’t let loose so easily when having fun. However, being on a student budget doesn’t mean you should cut out everything. One just needs to be mindful of his or her expenses.

2. Don’t be scared to check your balance
Make time and learn to check your account balance. I’m sure we’ve all been there – where you tell yourself that “it’s just £3”, and the next thing you know, you have £15 left. Again, I’m not saying you should stop buying things you don’t need, but just think twice about how much you’ll use it and be realistic!

3. Use your loyalty cards
The points you collect from shops like Tesco and Boots can be used as store credit or ‘cash’ (if you collect enough) to buy things you need. Another card you should have with you at all times is your student ID, you can get good discounts with them! Most stores offer student discounts, so you never know when they will come in handy!

4. Avoid the discount trap
Don’t be fooled by the big red SALE sign outside the window. 20% off shouldn’t be the reason you’re buying the item. Only when it’s 50% or more should you consider; even then, think about how much you really need that item. Unnecessary buys dent budgets!

5. Eat in instead of take-out
This has to be one of the simplest tips to follow. Turn your weekend trips to the restaurant into a nice home cooked meal with your flatmates where you can all pitch in on the cooking. You save overall on your dinner and can use the leftovers as meals throughout the week.

6. Get sustainable and high-quality clothing
Avoid unnecessary shopping of clothes by not falling for the fashion trends. Besides, classic and basic clothing will always be timeless – especially with good quality. In my first year I bought sustainable, high-quality trousers and tops; I’m now on placement and I am still using them! You may spend more now, but you’ll save later!

7. Utilise your university’s resources
One mistake I made in my first year was buy a brand new Spanish textbook, costing a hefty £35! I only used it for 3 months and found out after the module that there were 5 unborrowed copies in the library for free. Make sure you use the library! While it’s there for you to study in, it also keeps the widest reading resource materials.

Being on a student budget doesn’t mean you can’t live a little. It’s there in the title – budget. I think being on a student budget is one of the first few steps towards adulthood and the responsibility that comes along with it. Just find a good balance between needs and wants. YOU CAN DO IT!

 

Featured image by: Amie Woodyatt

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Student Struggles: Wellbeing

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University is hard; there’s no doubt about it. Everybody always tells you how it’ll be the best years of your life and how much fun you’ll have and, while it is definitely those things, it’s also extremely difficult. You never expect the sheer quantity of reading that is thrust upon you, and it turns out that getting a degree actually really does involve a huge amount of work. On top of that, you also have to work out how to budget and make friends and feed yourself. Feeding yourself really is quite tricky and Dominos being open until 5am really doesn’t help you stay on top of your budget.

So with so much to handle, wellbeing becomes very important to a student’s survival. And while we may self-administer alcohol or copious amounts of chocolate to help us feel better, it can’t always mend us – only patch us up.

Almost 80% of students have experienced mental health problems in the last year, and this is hardly surprising as mental wellbeing is one of the hardest things to maintain whilst at university. You’re thrown into a completely new environment and have to settle in, make friends and find your way around a seemingly endless campus. After that stress is over you then begin the battle of trying to juggle work, sleep and your social life. Invariably, sleep loses the fight (and getting enough sleep is crucial to maintaining a healthy mind); so naturally, mental health issues run rampant in universities.

Any doctor you go to for most mental health issues will encourage you to exercise, get those endorphins going. At Loughborough surely nothing could be easier, right? Wrong. Although we may attend a university with world class sporting and training ground that cater many professional athletes, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to get some exercise in. Sure, we’ve got all the facilities, but it’s almost more daunting to think that you could run into someone famous when you feel like crap. And as undefeated BUCS champions, there’s also the element of competitiveness to take into account. It’s great in matches (and maybe even in drinking games) but for someone whose mental health is taking a hit, it’s the last thing they need; the sports scene isn’t exactly the best place to examine your life choices if you’re being screamed at by an Amazonian, endorphin-filled Lufbra lass.

A doctor might also tell you to talk to someone you trust, but this can seem like a huge challenge. You’re at university with thousands of other people and you might be scared to talk to your friends about it, in case you push them away. Your family are most often quite far away and all your childhood best friends are scattered across the country. And that’s only for the UK students, it must be so much harder for all of the international students here at Loughborough.

So it then becomes a question of finding what helps you best, because everyone is different and what works for some people won’t for others. Maybe we should all try something new to help us feel happy; mental wellbeing is important, whether you have a diagnosed mental illness or not. Try picking up a book or taking up drawing; play video games or join a society.

Keep happy guys!

– By Meg Chastney

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Mess, Mess and more Mess. The struggles of student living

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Yes, I love living in a house with my best friends from Uni. Yes, it’s fun, exciting and the freedom and escape from nagging at home is amazing. BUT, it doesn’t come without it’s stress and frustrations. In the form of mess.

Perhaps it’s because most of us are well looked after at home, our parents keep the house tidy and we don’t have to make that much of an ‘effort’. Maybe we’re just not used to it. But why is it that, as soon as we come back to uni after being at home, washing your own dishes, picking food packets up and wiping surfaces seems to become mission impossible!

The bins don’t get taken out until they’re overflowing, the floor doesn’t get cleaned until your feet can physically stick to it and you can never find a fork ANYWHERE when you want to eat, despite bringing enough for a small village when moving in. Don’t even get me started on the lack of toilet roll and beer bottle collection on the living room window sill that have slowly been building since fresher’s last year.

What I want to know is, will the house ever be clean? Will I ever feel like I can wear bare feet when walking around and will I ever feel like I don’t have to wear flip flops when showering. I hope so. The thing is, I’m not one for confrontation. I would rather just clean the mess myself, but this hasn’t seemed to work too well. The house is free from dirty dishes for a while, but then it just starts to build up again. I’m not saying I’m perfect, I have left dishes in the sink before. I think it’s a collective mess that builds up over time, but dishes and glasses around the house don’t help. What do I do?

One thing is for certain, University living definitely makes you appreciate everything your parents do for you and the home comforts. So university living is bitter sweet. It’s fun, exciting and makes you appreciate home life, but it can be a struggle and a bit of a stress. I spend my days longing for a clean house that stays clean for more than a day.

– By Lucy George

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Student struggles – Feelings about the upcoming January exams

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Examinations are the struggle of every student. We may feel a whole range of emotions during the assessment periods and we, usually always, tend to question our preparation (and regret the time spent not studying) but, at the end, we tend to do well or at least ‘not as bad as we thought we did’.

Strangely, I am calm about exams this year. Of course, the pressure and anxiety always increase closer to the examination dates. However, this year, I think, I will be just fine. I am a final year student, after all, I have sat enough exams and completed enough assessments to acquire that calmness. Also, as a final year student, I understand life much better than I did two years ago. University is more than examinations, grades or academic performance – university is just being here, in all the entirety. All the things we do and experience, while at university, is what makes us. So, while we are told to study, read, research, practice and so on, ‘the university’ happens outside the lecture theatres and examination halls.

Examinations are important and they should be taken seriously but, during assessment periods, we forget that there is more to (university) life than desperately preparing, reading and researching specific questions. We may get so focused (or distracted) with university work to the point where we reach a negative state of mind. And, all for what? University teaches us valuable life skills and prepares us for the ‘adult lives’ but the majority (if not all) of these skills are gained outside examination halls and lecture theatres.

I understand, it’s nearly impossible not to worry, panic about and dread the upcoming examinations, but I want to ask you to relax. There are so many things to worry about in our lives and examination worries should be pushed down the line. University is much more than what we can produce in the 2 (or 3) hour exam. So, let’s relax, let’s study in peace and calmness, because, come next semester, we will forget about all the anxiety and pressure we felt… until next semester examinations…

By Aldas Krūminis

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Student Struggles: Sleep, Sleep, Sleep

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I suppose sleeping is one of the most therapeutic acts in anyone’s routine, I mean what’s better than sleeping after a hard day’s work? I would agree, but my friends and I are suffering from something created during this glorious time period – the terrifying “information age” – staying up all night watching YouTube.

It’s difficult to imagine a time that didn’t involve instant entertainment, a time when we weren’t privileged with being able to watch what we want whenever we wanted. I’m not sure about everyone else, but one reason why I could spend all night re-watching the same videos over and over again until my eyes ache as if I’ve spent all night in the frozen tundra is that at one point I couldn’t. I remember I had to make I slept, back in the good old days, when I had to wake up at half 6 to make sure I get to school before 8. I had to discipline myself to make sure I didn’t go to sleep after 10 o’clock, and having the individual power to pry my eyes off the computer monitor.

But look at how the mighty has fallen, I suppose exercising power is rather cathartic and being able to consistently grant yourself the treat of sleeping late and watching YouTube is rather gratifying – at least for the first time. Now I’m yawning every ten minutes and staring at a computer screen is the equivalent to staring into fuzzy mist that’s drifting my eyes downwards. The point I’m trying to make is that, it’s not fun anymore. I feel like a little kid who’s eaten too much candy before bed and is now suffering from rotten teeth. My eyes are like little balls of acid searing into the back of my skull and I just want to sleep, but naps are out of the question since my afternoons are so busy and at night I feast upon the succulent nature of YouTube.

So I guess my next move is controlling my YouTube habit every night, No more YouTubing after 10. I suppose any moment of reclamation comes from a brave step, and the right thing is always the hardest option. Wish me luck

-By Leo Li

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