Money. Finance. Neglect. Terror. Starvation.
These are all words a newly fledged student might ascribe to the infamous student budget, that forbidding topic that is mercilessly rubbed into our university aspirations from day one. Being vaguely sensible is always a good idea, pre-planning, and a shaking of realism. I admit, it’s easy to forget this in your exciting maiden voyage of independence, but it will reap dividends and your future self will thank you for it.
My personal experience with budgeting for freshers began several terrifying months prior to even getting my A Levels, where a justifiably worried parent laid out my exact allowances and reasonable advice. In a not so appreciated addition, an elder sibling then informed me that if I strayed even a penny over my monthly budget, I would die of starvation or (in a more likely case) fits of alcohol withdrawal. With that not-so-cheerful instruction in mind, I inched gingerly into my halls with a terrible sense of foreboding that if I even sniffed in my wallet’s direction I would surely spiral into the dark depths of pennilessness with no hope of return. However, when I found myself still with a good deal of weight on my hips by the third day, not to mention a purse that wasn’t decomposing, I began to realise fresher survival isn’t as daunting or perilous as one might expect.
Everyone knows it; the big and preordained spend of freshers is that admittedly not so healthy hobby that your liver will never forgive you for. However, with a modicum of common sense, it’s not impossible to have a good time (as in, get utterly plastered) and not break the bank. The University of Southampton is comfortably swaddled with pubs, bars, clubs and all sorts of exciting venues that cater for students with deals, discount nights, and Facebook perks. After all, as the student body, we are their main source of income in term time. Monday at Voodoo Lounge, Quids In Tuesdays at the Orange Rooms, Student Therapy Wednesdays at Oceana, Chocolate Factory Thursdays at Café Parfait, Sobar Fridays and Saturdays, and Sin Sundays at Revolution. Sorted; who doesn’t love a £2 pint of Sex on the Beach?
Not to say I didn’t have a few issues. Since I hadn’t actually forked out every day, I had some very pretty-looking savings and thought I might order a nice outfit for Freshers Ball, for £29.99. However, a dress I’ll likely only wear a few times versus food? Pressing that ‘PROCEED TO CHECKOUT’ button online is as easy as drinking, but the grumbly feeling of a hollow stomach isn’t so easy to be blasé about. It turned out to be an ugly thing anyway, so back it went and hello that gorgeous £29.99, and hello Dominoes Two for Tuesdays (see, more useful and nifty deals.) I recommend becoming a coupon queen (or king) and keeping a folder of vouchers; my particularly obese folder is a godsend.
I’m not by any means encouraging thriftiness; that’s no fun and not a good habit to have. Just don’t ever forget that money isn’t limitless, and doesn’t leap from the cash-machine whenever you feel like the newest Assassin’s Creed, or that shiny leather jacket. Be practical, as tiresomely familiar as that sounds. Go for the cheap; sheer simplicity often beats expensive complexity. Going for a Coffee Nation tastes just as good as an equivalent Starbuck’s, but doesn’t bite half as hard. Learning to manage finance is a skill that everyone must learn; but it’s not so hard, or even frightening.