Monday, 20 November 2017

The delights of budgeting

When I received my student loan in October, I felt on top of the world. All that lovely money, just sitting in my bank account, waiting to be spent! Imagine the shoes, dresses, books, music, biscuits, I could buy! I was rich and it was delightful!

Fast forward a month, and my illusions of endless spending sprees are sadly well and truly shattered. The first time I went food shopping I was astounded by how quickly even the most basic items started to add up to a fair amount of money. And with money for going out, endless books, memberships to societies, the (occasional) hot-dog on the way to a lecture, my student loan was fast diminishing before my very eyes.

I realised I needed a strategy for managing my money. Before uni, I hadn’t really thought about budgeting, but now that I’m here, I realise it is pretty essential. So here are my top tips:

1. Don’t overbuy. Perhaps this seems obvious, but you are only going to be cooking for one person: yourself! So don’t buy a family amount. From experience, I found that the way I wasted the most money was by not being able to eat the food I’d bought, as there was far too much of it, and it was off by the time I wanted to use it. 

2. Charity shops and second-hand book stores are good. Doing an English degree, I obviously need a lot of books, but this can be expensive when you buy them all new. My solution? Buy the books I need second-hand. Charity shops normally have a good selection of classics and if you are really lucky, you can get an annotated version! Saving money, giving to charity, getting annotations, what’s not to love?

3. But libraries are better. Sometimes you may desperately need your own copy of a textbook/key novel, and obviously buying is the only solution. But if you are only going to be looking at something for a week, why not just borrow it from the library?

4. Look for bargains. When I’m looking at what pasta etc. I want to buy, I think about the weight given for the price. The ideal is to get the most for your money, but be careful not to overbuy!! And always give supermarket-own brands a go. They’re often cheaper but taste the same. 

5. Always, I repeat, ALWAYS ask for a student discount. I mean, what do you have to lose? 😊

Of course, there are other ways to save money and if you can get a job whilst doing your degree, that can be a good way to help your finances out. The main thing, though, is that with careful planning, you can still have money for the fun stuff, whilst not spending a fortune on the essentials!

Enia x

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

The importance of completing your own personal statement

Writing your personal statement is one of the most important things you’ll do when applying to university – it should be personal, engaging, and most importantly, written by you.
It’s extremely important to write your personal statement yourself. This might sound obvious, but you shouldn’t rely on websites or other people to write one for you.

Remember, your personal statement is all about you, so you should use it to showcase your personality, experience, achievements, and future ambitions. Universities want to get to know you, and why you’d be an asset to the course – they don’t want to read something that’s written by someone else.

While it’s good to get inspiration from previous personal statements, make sure you don’t just copy and paste someone else’s work. We put all personal statements through our Similarity Detection Service to test for similarities or plagiarism.

During an interview or audition, universities might want to discuss certain aspects of your personal statement, so you don’t want to be caught off-guard or end up being stuck for an answer. Imagine you’re having an interview about an English literature course, and the interviewer asks why you like gothic fiction – if someone writes your personal statement for you, you’ll have no idea what they’re talking about! This could ruin your chances of getting a place on the course, so make sure you know your personal statement inside and out.

If you’re stuck or have no idea how to start your personal statement, we have a huge number of resources available – you can use our personal statement tool and personal statement worksheet to start jotting down some ideas, or you can watch our personal statement video for top tips and advice.

While there’s lots of helpful advice and information on our website, you can also ask your teachers, parents, and friends for help if you’re stuck on what to write. Tell them why you’re passionate about studying a specific course, as it’ll help you to write down your thoughts and ideas, and create a brilliant personal statement that you’re proud of. 

Monday, 13 November 2017

Budgeting on a student loan

It’s always a nice sight to see your bank account full of money. Money that you’ve never had before, and more than three digits long. Student loans are designed to help you get through your year at university. With help from your student loan, you’re expe
cted to be able to pay your accommodation rent, your bills, and buy your every day essentials.

Truth be told, however, that sometimes a student loan may not be enough, and so a part time job comes in handy. Saying this, a student loan can last you as long as you budget properly.

Going out is fun, but not all the time.
A part of university life is being able to take part in freshers. Loads of places host student nights and special events to help you get to know people and learn the local area. Costs for drinks are usually a bit cheaper, and entry is either free or priced at a concessions rate. This is great at first, but going out every weekend, or even during the week, is a quick way to burn through the money you’ve been paid. I don’t want to be a spoilsport on this topic, because I love going out, but unfortunately, they can be costly! Try finding clubs that offer two for one deals. Find out the clubs that have free entry. Some clubs only start charging after 10pm or 11pm. Little hacks like this will help in saving essential pounds.

The food shop.
Turns out, when you have to buy your own food, it becomes quite pricey. Gone are the days when Mum and Dad bought you branded products. To save money on your food shop, try looking elsewhere than what’s on your doorstep. Most supermarkets offer delivery, so you’re able to shop at a market that have the cheapest offers. Try buying market own brands: they’re a lot cheaper and taste near enough the same. Try and cut down on eating out at restaurants often.

The canteen.
Whilst the canteen on campuses offer the best-looking meals, it’s a shame the prices aren’t quite cheap enough. Occasionally, why not treat yourself to a full course meal? After all, we have to eat properly. But why not look at making your own meal back at home and bringing that in, instead? You’ll save a whole lot more, and if you get a group of you together it’ll be good fun. Eating every day in the canteen will soon drain that loan.

Takeaways are super convenient, and they’re everywhere. You can barely walk down a street these days without seeing an outlet offering easy food. They can be cheap, but getting a takeaway every other night is not only bad for your health, it’s bad for your bank balance, too. With the savings you’ve made on your food shop, whip yourself up a meal just as good!

Student Discounts.
Take advantage of your student discounts! Download the apps StudentBeans and UNiDAYS and see what they have on offer. Their discounts range from 10% to sometimes 30%, and those discounts are on clothing retailers, supermarkets and beauty products. Honestly, it’s a great money saver!

Find yourself a part time job.
If you are coming to the end of your student loan, and realising that it doesn’t last forever, then you may be worried that you’re not going to be able to live for the next few months, until your next loan comes in. Don’t worry about it! There are plenty of part time jobs out there that would work perfectly along your studies. You could even be in charge of your hours, too, so you won’t miss out on socialising as a student. Many uni’s offer a careers fayre, where you can meet employers and find part time jobs. Try asking your local bar if they need help, or maybe even see if your university campus needs help.

Sacrificing the non-essentials.
True, we always need to have fun in life. We need those things that keep us going, to take a break from the stresses of study. But sometimes, overindulging drains your bank balance, and you need to cut back. If there are any subscriptions you had before uni that you find you’re not using anymore, then try and cancel them. There’s nothing worse than a direct debit leaving your account with a hefty sum of money that you could use for something else. It may be a hassle to get the problem rectified, but once it’s done, you’ll be glad!

Use the library.
Instead of buying books upon books that you may not even need to read, try and visit the library and rent out a book from the campus. You’d be surprised at the selection, and that is what the library is there for.

Of course, it’s up to you how you spend your money. After all, it’s paid to you. But if you do budget and work out what works for you, then you’ll be glad when it comes to the week before our next installment, and you find you’ve still got a comfortable sum left over! 

Friday, 10 November 2017

Getting ready for Christmas on a student budget

Christmas can feel quite stressful as a student and when you’re a bit strapped for cash it’s easy to panic and get into expensive debt. Here are some top tips on how to spend less this Christmas.

Create a budget
Look at your bank balance then decide how much you can realistically spend on Christmas without breaking the bank. Ideally, you’ll have saved a little bit over the previous months, but if this hasn’t happened remember to be realistic. It’s the thought that counts not the cost of the present and people will understand you’re having to cut back this year – students aren’t known for having loads of money.

Make a list
Write down who you need to buy for and try to keep it as concise as possible. Rather than buying individual presents for everyone consider buying something for a couple together. If you’ve got a large group of friends suggest everyone does secret Santa rather than having the pressure of buying for so many people. Once you have your list and budget, assign an amount to each person and try to stick to it.

Make your own
If you want to make the most of the long Christmas holidays, get creative. Use sites like Pinterest to get home-made Christmas present ideas. Not only will this save you money but it’s also a really thoughtful way to let someone know you care about them.

Set a limit
If you can, try to get everyone you normally buy for to agree a spending limit of £5 or £10. Ultimately, it’s the thought that counts and finding meaningful presents for as little as a fiver can be really fun – it will save you a lot of cash too.

Bail on brands
If you’re buying for children, they’re very unlikely to be brand snobs. You don’t need to splash out on the best-known make, get a cheaper alternative they will find just as fun.
This can be the same for adults too – especially for smaller presents, bargain shops can do just as good a shop as a posh one.

Pay smart
The last thing you should do is get yourself into debt over Christmas. You’re in a really expensive stage of your life, your friends and family are going to understand if you don’t spend quite as much as them on presents – and frankly they probably won’t want you to... Don't go into an unauthorised overdraft or use a high interest credit card unless you know you can afford to pay off the balance fully at the end of the month.

If you’re really struggling, look into a 0% purchases credit card which allows you to borrow interest free for a number of months. Just make sure you make a note of when the interest free period is and be absolutely sure you can pay off your balance before the interest kicks in. You can check if you’d be likely to be accepted here.

Get money off
Black Friday is just around the corner and in the run up to Christmas you’ll find a lot of retailers offer big discounts so keep your eyes peeled. You might not be able to do all your shopping on one day but you’ll get it for cheaper. When shopping online always do a quick google to see if any online retailers are offering any discount codes and signing up to newsletters will often mean you’ll get discounts sent to you too.

Look for seasonal work

Lots of retailers, pubs and restaurants are looking for extra staff in the run up to the busy festive period. Keep your eye out for a temp job which will help you cover the cost of Christmas. Don’t sign up to so many hours that you won’t get your revision done – but if you could spare a few evenings a week then this could be a great way to have a very Merry Christmas. 


Monday, 6 November 2017

Of Muses and Memes

I have submitted my first assignment. My desk is littered with a combination of notes, books and snack debris and it’s possible that new life forms have evolved under there. It feels as if I have been sitting here forever, waiting for my Muse to arrive (preferably Calliope the goddess of epic poetry given that it’s the subject of my essay). But it is done, oh yes.

For many students, this is a watershed moment. We are told from the first day that writing for an undergraduate course is different to writing for ‘A’ Levels. As a (very) mature student the last thing I wrote before starting University was a business report, and this first assignment has been looming large for the last 5 weeks. So, what do you need to know to survive your ‘first time’ and thereafter?

Number one: no matter how time consuming your new social life is, go to the library and find out how it works. Book yourself onto the seminars that they offer, such as note taking, referencing and essay writing. It’s not nerdy and you will thank me for this advice many times over. A university essay has particular requirements and you need to find that out much earlier than the 24 hours before your deadline. Plus, you can save yourself a lot of money on books by getting in there early.

Number two: read (yes, seriously) or at least have a passing knowledge of your course handbook. They tend to have course-specific guidance on writing and referencing essays. If it’s not there, ask someone where to find it. Again, this is best done ahead of the red-hot terror in the last few hours before that first essay is due.

Number three: Be on the group chat for your course. It will motivate you to start working (there’s nothing quite like Group anxiety and the questions asked by really keen people to get you going) and it will keep you sane once you have started. Yesterday I found myself crying with laughter at a time when I was bogged down in the detail of my essay and needed cheering up. The chat that did that? “I want to die and a hippo eat my carcass”. You had to be there (thanks, Kate).

Number four: Make your motto “Do it now”. As I sit here a group of my classmates have found themselves stranded at Euston Station because their trains have been cancelled. Imagine being there and having not finished: not started: not thought about the assignment that is due tomorrow. And no, a cancelled train does not count as mitigating circumstances. You want to be the person who submitted his essay a week ago, you really do.

Number 5: Go easy on the Memes. Focus on your essay, at least until the thing is done. After that, the world is yours. Until next time.