Avoid the Overdraft: A Guide to Living on a Student Budget.

Why is budgeting important? Student bank accounts are great as you can get fee-free overdrafts but that shouldn’t be an excuse to blow your loans and grants.  Budgeting means that you won’t have to go into your overdraft in the first place and you won’t have to sacrifice little luxuries.

Budgeting isn’t as difficult as it sounds and this blog will show you just how easy it can be.

Is there anything I should do before going to University?

YES. The first thing you need to do is apply for Student Finance. For Welsh students, you are entitled to £9,225 each year of study – the split between loan and grant depends on your parents’ income.  This is an invaluable sum of money which will cover your living costs but there are other things you can do which will help.

Getting a part-time job during that long summer between A Levels and University will make your life a lot easier come September. Last summer I made around £3,000 over the summer – I worked hard but it now means that I can put some of it away for something special, like funding a placement abroad.

The most important thing about budgeting is making sure that you actually have money in the first place which means that if you’re trying not to rely on your parents to keep you afloat, you may want to reconsider those private luxury halls.

Before you go away, grab a notebook, slap a big bold ‘FINANCE’ sticker on it and start calculating your living.

  • Start with your income – any loans, grants, summer earning, and savings if you have any.
  • Subtract cost of University halls and other payments such as phone bill (unless you’re like me and have managed to get your parent to foot that one), Netflix, Spotify etc.
  • Set aside a maximum average weekly spend of around £40.
  • Allocate some money for Freshers and for 2ndyear deposit (£500 max.).

What to do during Freshers

Freshers can be quite an overwhelming time since you’re constantly meeting new people and figuring out friendship groups.  The problem is that everyone want to go out, all the time. The FOMO syndrome is at its prime but you will have to exert some restraint and either say no or suggest alternatives.  You need to remember that most of you will be in the same boat and so if you suggest a cheaper alternative to something such as getting to know each other by going to a GIAG or a picnic in the park, you might be surprised to find out that others will want to do the same to avoid the dent in their bank account and the hangover that lasts a week.

It may sound unfair but just a little restraint can go a long way and it can mean that you can treat yourself on little things throughout the year without feeling guilty.

What can I do throughout the year to help my finances?

Your weekly grocery shop is something that you need to figure out how to do very early on in the year.  My tip is to learn how to cook and make a meal plan.  I will have blogs coming up on quick and easy recipes to try but for now I cannot stress enough how important it is to make a meal plan and make your shopping list from that.  It’s so easy to just go into Tesco or Lidl and fill your basket with everything you think you’ll need but at the end of the week I’ll guarantee you that you’ll have food going to waste.  The saying that eating healthy is expensive is a myth – having roasted vegetables and salmon is actually surprisingly cheap and is also so much healthier than ready meals which have are high in salt and saturated fats.

Top tips:

  • Take out ~£40 in cash each week and only use that money.  Your food shop shouldn’t cost more than £30 at an absolute maximum and so any spare can go into a pot in your room where you can dip into when you want to go out for a meal with our friends or want to buy a new pair of jeans.
  • Try to look out for student discounts.  UNIDAYS has great offers from technology, to clothes, to restaurants.
  • Those delicious looking sandwiches in your course building café are nibbling their way through your bank account. Get creative with your own lunchbox everyday.
  • Say goodbye to daily coffee/tea runs and hello to flasks. £2.10 per cup of tea at a chain coffee shop is an overkill. Stash some tea bags in you bag and take a flask with you.

Why choose Cardiff University?

As MPharm is an accredited course with no optional modules to choose from the choice of Universty depended on grades needed and factors other than the course. Cardiff University Pharmacy required AAB-ABB with a B required in Chemistry.  I didn’t achieve the grades needed but they allowed me onto the course – which may be due to a strong personal statement with experience in community pharmacy.

Things that makes Cardiff stand out:

  • Cardiff university offer free language learning lessons for students which take place weekly or a a week crash course. I’m thinking of applying for a course next year and there will probably be a blog about it in a few months.
  • Global Opportunities provide students with opportunities abroad for students as part of their degree or during the summer. They also offer grants to fund your time abroad – I have a seperatre post on this as I applied and received a grant to help pay for my time in the phillippines.
  • Paid Summer internships offered by each department.
  • The pharmacy department gets emails from local pharmacies about part time job opportunities.
  • Maths support available.
  • Give it a go scheme during freshers which allows you to try your hand at clubs and societies before joining.
  • SU organizes trips throughout the year to places such as Stonehenge, Oxford, Cambridge, St Fagans, Christmas markets, etc.
  • Jobshop advertises part time jobs such as during the rugby or on open days.
  • Skills Development service – courses and session on transferable skills such as dealing with exam stress/anxiety, leadership, communication.
  • Mentoring Scheme – all first years in the pharmacy course (I’m not sure how many in other courses) are allocated a student mentor which is a student from the years above to help with the transition to university life. It also means that you can apply to be a mentor in the subsequent years and is a hugely popular.

CARDIFF

Cardiff is a lovely city and for someone who has moved there from a farm in the countryside its not a scary jump. There are plenty of ways to get around the city from buses to bikes. NextBike is a bike rental company that has stations all around Cardiff and is a popular choice for students due to Cardiff being a relatively flat area and it having and many cycle paths. During my first year I resided at Talybont Court which has a cycle path going right behind it leading to the city centre and is right next to Pontcanna Fields. Recently I have started jogging in the morning and Pontcanna fields/Bute parks is the perfect place for an early morning run for absolute beginners – flat, great views along the river to distract you, and very few people to see you sweating and red in the face after a minute of jogging! Having a park on your doorstep is also a good break during exam season when you want a break and a bit of sun.

The city has something for everyone – clubs and pubs for the outgoing fresher, a trip to the opera at the millennium centre, a workout day with gyms spread out around or a bike ride to ICE arena wales for a shaky first time ice skating…and lets for forget the rugby.

TALYBONT COURT

I moved into my room at Talybont court on the earliest possible day and thought that everyone else would be doing the same, but I spent 2 days by myself in the flat meaning that just because that’s the ‘moving in’ date, you don’t have to go there that day. The accommodation only allows visitors a 45 minute window to drop things off – and this is the rule throughout the year. If you have parents coming to see you during the year then be prepared to have an annoyed voice at the intercom telling you that they can’t stay for long. However, if they want to avoid paying ridiculus amount that multistory car parks overnight then they can leave their can in the Talybont North car park for a £1 if there is space.

Talybont Court is one of the most sought after accommodations at Cardiff University and for good reason – its spacious, clean, and comfy.

  • Kitchen – everyone gets a cupboard under the counter, and a wall cupboard, a shelf in the fridge and in the freezer. 

Something that I definitely don’t regret is buying flat plastic boxes. They can be placed under the bed. Before going down my parents had brought a whole box of storecupboard foods – pasta, pasta sauce, curry jars, tins of soup etc and it realy does help and saves you some money.

Pyrex Casserole dish (small) its great for making spag bol, meatballs, oven baked risotto. You can just leave stuff in the oven to cook and get on with your work.

Small tiered steamer – get healthy and get your 5 a day veggies.

The bedroom is spacious – a single bed, bedside cabinet, a huge desk, wardrobe, and a 3 drawer chest (x2 – a small one as part of the desk for stationary etc and a larger one for clothes), wall storage area for all your files, and has an en-suite. I’d recommend an investment in a god thick matress topper – I have always struggled to sleep in beds other than my own (which includes hotels) but getting one has allowed me to sleep easily. In the warmer months it gets quite hot in the room, and cold in the winter so id also recommend a duo duvet (which has two duvets which you can attach together allowing you to be cool in the summer but toasty in winter)

  • Make sure that you have enough files – you’d be surprised at how quickly they fill up, especially if your course prints off the lecture slides for you.
  • A printer isn’t necessary if lecture slides are printed off for you as you have printers in the library and in your course building.
  • Bring a small extension cable just in case.

There is no TV in the flat so either bring your own (remember to get a TV license) or get a subscription to Amazon prime, Netflix, or nowtv for your ipad.

Talybont is right next to tesco Extra which is where I make my weekly shop or you could opt for Lidl on the way from from your uni building.