This post is written by a member of the Debut Student Publisher Network. Read on for Char’s reflections on how her work in retail shaped her:
There are few things that test your self-control more extremely than receiving an installment of your student loan. There you were, living in near poverty for what felt like eons. Then behold! The SLC gods deign to bless you with a saving grace. A hefty sum of cash lands in your pocket, and threatens to wipe your memory of the humbling experience of living off Supernoodles for two weeks.
I’m here to bring you back to reality and remind you that sometimes you need money for important things. You know, like rent? Groceries? Living? Luckily, I’ve whipped up some steps to help you budget and ensure you don’t perpetuate the cycle of exorbitant spending that rapidly descends into self-loathing destitution.
Step one: Put your rent aside first
For some inexplicable reason, landlords and accommodation services don’t like it when you don’t pay them your rent. It’s a harsh world we live in, having to offer financial services simply to avoid perishing in a field somewhere, but what can you do.
Having a savings account with a direct debit to immediately transfer your rent upon your installment saves you a lot of hassle, and it’s out of the way so fast it won’t even devastate you that much. Then you just pretend that your savings are guarded by a ravenous dragon, and if you touch them, all of your friends will perish. Like in The Hobbit.
Step two: Put away emergency funds as well
THAT’S RIGHT, MORE SQUIRRELING AWAY! God, isn’t this so fun? Bills are different from rent in that they loom over you more ominously; you know you’ll be slapped with one at some point, but you don’t know when or for exactly how much, and every time you hear the post come in you’re consumed by fear of the bomb waiting for you inside an envelope from Scottish Power.
It’s best to be prepared for the worst, so think rationally about how much you’re realistically going to be charged, safely place it away, and guard the heating with totalitarian dedication.
Step three: Calculate how this can last you
This step requires a bit of math, something we all vowed we’d never need upon leaving secondary school. Unless, like, you’re doing a Maths degree or something, in which case go you.
I know the excitement of one installment is almost too much to bear, but find out when your next one will be, and calculate how much you can spend per week with the remaining amount you have. No matter how abysmally tiny this amount may seem, I promise that you will manage, which leads me nicely onto the fourth step…
Step four: Set yourself a food budget
It’s so easy to just follow all your hedonistic impulses when food shopping and sweep everything that looks vaguely delicious into your basket. But honestly, following a food budget is just as satisfying, if not more so.
Dedicate a reasonable amount of your weekly allowance to food, and don’t go overboard when you’re in the store. Plan meals beforehand. Go for basic instead of name-brand. Eat more fresh food. It’s surprisingly rewarding following some sort of structure. Your blood sugar will thank you alongside your wallet.
Step five: Write things down
Okay, I’m an obsessively organised person, so I don’t know if this is a weird habit or not, but I write down everything I spend. It’s easier to adhere to my weekly allowance if I do so, and I can loosen or restrict my spending habits per day depending on how I’m doing.
Too many of us fall into the habit of thinking that debit payments don’t really count, that the money’s only gone in an abstract sense, so this is a way to cut down on excessive splurges since you can physically see the effect of your actions.
Step six: Treat yo self (to an extent)
Even if you only have £3 left of your weekly budget, you should always try and do something nice for yourself. It could just be getting something from Starbucks, or maybe even a pair of shoes. As long as you have enough leftover at the end of the week, you should totally treat yourself.
Budgeting doesn’t have to mean sacrificing all material pleasure and living the life of a monk. Being conscientious with your money is hard work, so you deserve a reward every now and then. Prepare for the moment, and don’t think about the crushing debt you’ll be saddled with one you graduate.