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Diary of a student: money burns a hole - Guardian

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Throughout the academic year the Guardian's anonymous student blogger will be writing about managing their money, coming to terms with a student budget and seeking advice from Guardian readers on how to best make ends meet

The day after the Welcome to Warwick party was my first real day at university – 3 October. The calendar on my phone also informed me it was my mother's birthday, but more importantly my maintenance loan came through.

However, the "buzzing" feeling I should have had at the prospect of more than a grand sitting in my current account vanished when I remembered I had to pay off a credit card bill. Furthermore, waiting in a queue at Warwick's only NatWest bank for almost an hour to do so was really not how I imagined my first day at university to be. I wanted to be engaging in Freshers activities and meeting other students.

During my first week I encountered further expenses and managed to spend more than £400 of my student loan – and not even that much of it on alcohol or going out. Rather, I was spending money on things like my gym membership, which was £99. This sounds decent for the whole year, but the Warwick University offer has a catch: you can't buy gym membership until you have purchased a Warwick Sports membership at £49. "Hang on," I thought, "that wasn't mentioned on the website …" But, of course, state of the art gym equipment has to be funded somehow.

The same dilemma occurred with joining societies: an initial "Federation fee" had to be paid before I could sign up. I managed to spend £50 on a number of them, ranging from academic ones such as the Politics Society, to cultural ones such as the Asian Society. What is frustrating is that I still haven't been to any of the events they have organised because I don't want to spend any more money.

However, my most necessary expense has been textbooks. Each one is ridiculously priced (even the used versions on Amazon are still rather pricey), and it's annoying how I only need to read a few chapters from each book.

The library rarely accommodates for 250 or more politics and international studies students, so I feel the need to buy the books myself. The Globalisation of World Politics book I had to buy was £24, and that was a used copy. I never anticipated spending more than £100 on books, and that only bought a 10th of the ones on my reading list.

Obviously, I can't forget weekly food shopping. Warwick halls are self-catered so I have to cook all my own food. As a vegan, the bulk of my diet is fruit and vegetables coupled with pasta or couscous, so I expected my visit to Tesco to be relatively cheap. Unfortunately, I cannot resist buy one get one free offers, or 2 for £3 deals. Fair enough if it's on dry goods, but I ended up taking advantage of deals on fruit, such as fresh pineapple chunks. It was as if I had forgotten that I am feeding one person, not a family of five. So my fruit perished and I had to throw it away.

My student loan is dropping significantly by the day, and I feel as though I should resort to Tesco value food like some of my peers. They have truly budgeted, buying four Tesco Value chocolate mousses for 26p, for example. They are literally on a mission to search for bargains and I wish I could be satisfied with budget food, but I am set in my ways.

Thankfully, my expenditure on alcohol has been at a bare minimum having purchased my first bottle of alcohol ever – Smirnoff Ice – last week. Despite receiving a round of applause from my friends in halls I couldn't help thinking what a waste of money it was.

It seems as though my expenditure is slightly going out of control, and I would really appreciate some advice on how to spend less in every aspect of university life – from books to spending a small amount when going out, but particularly on food shopping.

Thursday, 27th October 2011

Tags:   guardian  /  student  /  budget  /  university of warwick  /  student loan  /  cash  /  cash
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