Hello there!

First of all, apologies for my random absence from the blogosphere last week. I’ve been having a series of bugs and colds one after another. This week I have another one, and this morning I suddenly lost my voice, but fortunately technology means I can still talk!

My time is composed pretty exclusively at the moment of two things – wedding planning (2 months to go!) and driving lessons. I have my driving theory test a week tomorrow, so I’m living in that book and CD-ROM a little bit right now! Since I don’t have much student-y stuff to narrate for you, I thought I’d start a series of posts with advice about student life, starting with everyone’s favourite – budgets!

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If you’re receiving student loan like I did, I had a system that while it didn’t always work exactly to plan, at least it meant I had a plan.

You’ll receive a loan timetable that tells you when Student Finance will pay you your loan and how much it will be each time. To create yourself a budget term by term, first write out a list of expenses you know you’ll have to pay – things like rent or subscription services, like a phone contract – things that go straight out of your bank. Subtract those from the amount of your first payment. Now count how many weeks there are between Payment 1 and Payment 2, and divide the amount of money you’ll have by how many weeks there are to stretch it across. Boom. You now have a budget per week to stick to. Repeat for each period between payments.

You can use that info however you like, but if you have a number in mind it’s a lot easier to stick within your means.

If you tend to spend impulsively when you have a card on you, perhaps try taking out a set amount of cash at the beginning of the week and promising yourself not to withdraw more until next week, and not to fall back on spending by card. You could even hide your card in your room if you really want to discipline yourself, though I generally preferred not to in case of emergencies.

A personal trick for avoiding unnecessary luxury spending is that I don’t buy something first time I see it – if I go away and remember it, and can think up more than 3 reasons it’d be useful, I might go back and get it. A more fool-proof trick of course it just not to go into shops unless you’re looking for something specific, but I’ve never been very good at resisting a browse!

In terms of keeping costs down generally, look out for student discounts – nus extra is the usual student card stores ask for, and Unidays often have great offers on. While this is fun for shopping trips, the thing to remember (especially when you’re coming to the end of Uni life…) is to keep an eye out for things that will be useful after Uni which you can get cheaper while still a student.

In the very beginning of course it’s important where you choose to set up your student bank account – often banks will offer freebies with the account that can end up being worth a lot. When I got mine I got free nus extra membership for three years, which while it only saved £11 on the card each year, it saved a lot of other money on other stuff.

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At the very basics, always check through your bank statements to see what you’re spending where. If I know I haven’t been very good at budgeting, I’ll go through my statement with a highlighter and mark things that I know I could’ve done without – which means next time round, I’m less likely to do it again.

As with anything, it’s all a learning process, and very few people get it right straight away.

There is loads of advice available online for student budgeting and there’s help on campus too. The union can help with money advice and if it all goes wrong, the Financial Contingency Fund is there to get people back on their feet.

I found the process of applying for student finance quite simply daunting especially with the little knowledge I had at the time about the cost of daily living (Water, Gas & electricity included). Once I recognised my new found responsibilities, I learnt to appreciate my parents a lot more. Luckily if you live in halls; bills are inclusive; but these will come into play during 2nd year. Being asked to provide P60’s and Bank statements;  seemed surreal because to me these documents had no importance. However preparing myself to have an actual income was the easiest part, I’m a shopaholic.

When I received my first instalment of the almighty ‘Maintenance Loan” I felt like I’d hit the jackpot. Subconsciously planning nights out, new outfits and trips to visit my boyfriend. However the end of the semester came and I hit a complete wall, I had never been so skint and was completely unaware of the financial support available to students here at Aberystwyth University.  It wasn’t so long and I was having to rely on bailouts from my parents for rent & food. It is essential to ensure that your application is completely done on time with precision to avoid and minimise the likelihood of delayed payments.

However in case of an emergency Student Support (located across from Cledwyn) do offer advice and financial support. Contingency Funds and Temporary loans can be awarded to students who are struggling with living costs. The contingency fund does not have to be paid back as it is a university fund given in order to get you to your next loan payment. whereas small sums of money can be borrowed and paid back if you don’t qualify for the contingency.

My advice to you (especially freshers) is to be wise with your spending, be disciplined and ensure that your application is done in time. Complete it with precision to avoid delays and be honest with yourself about your financial position. You may have friends with a larger disposable income and possibly much more support from parents therefore make sure you keep track of your spending. No one likes to be the broke one turning down a trip to the pub because you squandered most of your loan in the first few weeks of term.

Here are my top 5 rules of spending 

  1. Have a budget, limit yourself now and live like JayZ at the end of term
  2. Do a big food shop at the start of each month, and don’t be a glutton
  3. Ensure money for phone, bills is separated, to reduce temptation
  4. Treat yourself a couple times a month, a new pair of shoes KERCHING!!
  5. Save some money for 2nd year, the expenses will double when you’re living privately

It does seem like a lot of money but the fact is that Student Finance will reap much larger dividends from their investment in you. So ensure that you get the education you’re here for with a little stress (be it financial, or socially) as possible.

Exams are over with. Term is about to start. Sadly, if the noises going on outside are anything to go by, so is the weather.  This is the calm before the storm on all fronts I think. There is much excitement amongst my fellow students as various grants and bursaries are finding their way into people’s accounts. My own bank account stays sadly neglected. The world of academia and funding despises postgraduate scriptwriters, it would seem.

This week saw me celebrating the final handing in of my last assignment, more in hope than expectation but never mind. I celebrated with some friends by having a picnic up by the old castle ruins. At eight o’clock at night. We had champagne. It was cold. So were we. However, the pay off for the chills was the clearest skies I have seen in a very long time and the constellations out in force.  I even saw a shooting star and made a wish. I won’t go into details but it involved something warm and ginger. The reflections of the stars in the puddles and the sea, the lights of the Old College and the castle shining up to meet the heavens and Aberystwyth and the World, and everything in it stretched from here to heaven and became infinite.  It is in moments like this, that you understand, how very insignificant you actually are on the one hand. Tiny, compared to the spinning, exploding, unknown space we occupy. And yet so very unique and made from the same atoms forged in the heart of those same burning lights, billions of years ago.  Really, everyone gets to be a Timelord!

I am ready for the new term, and am up to the tune of one Leopard. Lucius has a new friend. His name is Lazarus he arrived on Thursday. A new batch of International students arrived on Friday. This may or may not be a coincidence. I apologise in advance and refer all International and home students to the emergency Leopard survival protocols:

1)      Under no circumstances spill sauce of any kind upon yourself.

2)      Always have some form of snack handy as a distraction. (Sausages work well, as do Jelly Babies).

3)      If cornered in an attack, try offering the Leopard the limb you mind losing least (i.e. If you are right handed, offer your left arm).

So a big welcome to the new International Students. I believe they have been taken for tours of the town by volunteers as part of The Students’ Union Buddy Scheme. I have already been privy to a hilarious conversation with a friend of mine trying to explain to some American Students what Argos was. Which if you think about it is quite an existential question.  We concluded, independently that Argos is “Kind of like internet shopping but real…” (We may have to work on that one.)

And finally I will leave you with the very wise words of Isaac Asimov, mostly because this is the best quote I have heard in a long time: “Education isn’t something you can finish.” Blogs on the other hand…

Leopards prepare for a new term!
Leopards prepare for a new term!

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