University, as I’m sure you’ll come realise for yourself, is a whirlwind experience. I’ve found myself to be so busy over the first six weeks of term that I’ve barely had time to think, but budgeting is an important part of life here and no matter how busy you are cash flow has to be considered. However, have no fear; hopefully this blog post will provide you with a little bit of information about my observations thus far when it comes to making your student finances go as far as possible.
First of all, let me put you all at ease; I’m not bankrupt yet. Living in the Quads on campus has been a real life saver as we (along with a few other residences on campus) get money put onto our library cards each semester. We can spend this money on food at any of the food outlets on campus and there's quite a range to choose from so you can easily get whatever you want at any particular time whether it be a sandwich or a hot cooked meal. During Fresher’s Week in particular, this was a popular topic of conversation as many of us didn’t think we’d spend the considerable amount of money we had been equipped with. How wrong we were – the food on campus is both varied and tasty (perhaps too good!) and I’ve found myself spending money on my card at least once a day.
Meals on campus range from around £2 in the Fountain Canteen up to around £10 for steak in the Parade and for proper sit-down service in the Wessex Restaurant on campus. This option to buy food with nothing but your library card in your pocket makes life a lot easier after a busy day of lectures when you can’t muster the energy to cook for yourself. Similarly whenever I’ve managed to finish labs early and there isn’t enough time to go back to the room; it’s nice to be able to grab a guilt free coffee on the way to a maths lecture.
From time to time everybody on my floor in the Quads gets together and heads out for a proper meal which is a really great way to spend an hour or so away from the madness of partying and coursework that is university. We can all use our library cards and meet up in one of the eating places to socialise over some food that we haven't had to cook ourselves in the communal kitchen. This is a bonus if you are like me with limited cooking skills and you need a bit of a break from pasta and toast! You have to remember that everyone here at the University of Bath is in the same boat, everybody is worrying about budgeting equally and I’ve found that this makes things a whole lot easier when it comes to keeping the costs down. Everyone has limited resources and everyone is juggling to get the most out of their money; everyone has to think about food, laundry, equipment, books, gym membership and of course saving enough cash for some essential socialising. I’ve never felt pressured into spending money I haven’t wanted to spend, and saying no is both accepted and understood by everyone.
In addition to this, I have found that the best way to budget effectively at university is to stay organised. Although I haven’t had the time to note down everything I’ve spent every day as I would have liked to, making time to organise your room and your food cupboard in the kitchen ensures that you frequently check up on supplies and are able to plan for the week ahead. This way, I’ve managed to make sure there’s always something in the cupboard to cook if need be (survival rations if you will), and I’ve never been short of clean underwear or clothes either! Organisation really is paramount to success both academically and in day to day living at university – my life here is so full that before I know it another week has passed by and I'm down at the boathouse for weekend training!
Another worry of mine before I came was whether or not a bus pass would be necessary in the first year. The majority of first year students I’ve met so far haven’t bought a bus pass and seem to be getting along just fine. Despite the fact that due to rowing commitments I have to travel into town every weekend not having a bus pass has still paid off. Day passes are less than £3 and the majority of first year students I’ve met only pop into the beautiful city of Bath once a week – not having a bus pass is entirely justified. It’s also completely possible to walk to and from the city centre and I’ve even walked to the boathouse on occasion. When the weather’s good and you find yourself with a couple of hours free on a Sunday afternoon a walk into the city is therapeutic and relaxing. There are many shortcuts through the fields which enable you to get into town surprisingly quickly. The scenery in Bath isn’t too bad either; living in perhaps the most picturesque city in England there really is nothing to complain about. You really do not have to have loads of extra cash in your pocket to enjoy it....