Monday, 30 May 2016

HERE we are again. Another month's gone past. There are so many assignments to write and songs and it's all a tad overwhelming at times. However, not as overwhelming as the big bad BUDGET. I thought of dedicating this month's post about finance and how I have indeed survived 8 months living the one of the most expensive cities in the world, without starving myself and ending up homeless. If you're looking to move this should be an important read for you.

I can't really sugarcoat it. It's not easy. It's tough. London is expensive. Coffee is expensive, grocery shopping is expensive and most importantly, transport is expensive. I'd mention rent but that's something obvious and let's not get into that. For me, finding a job was a must. Thankfully, as explained in one of my earlier posts, I bagged myself employment within the first week of moving - that's only because I sent dozens of CVs and applications whilst I was still in Malta. So these are a few methods I have adopted that save me loads of £££.

1. Work

Since I am a full time student, I can only work 20 hours a week. Luckily for me, my school hours are not too straining, so I split my time between work and school. Needless to say, as many reading this will know, juggling schoolwork and a job is not the easiest of tasks. Alas, it works out, and my school results have been extremely satisfactory (so far). Unless otherwise, work is super important. If you've also got a student loan (highly probable if you're studying), pay can help with the cost of living.

2. Save up (or try to) via savings accounts

I think one of the most important things I did was to open 2 bank accounts and not one. This enables me to save up something small every month. I try to stick to what I keep in my 'main' account for the duration of the month, so I try to get grocery shopping, travel expenses and any other expenses (ex. bills) out of the way first so that I will know how much I have to spend.

3. Get a budget book, app, anything to keep note (and receipt) of everything!

Okay, this is important for numerous reasons. The first being it's fundamental if you need to do your taxes, and also keeping receipts keeps you on top of your spendings. I have this cute budget book and receipt file that I got from Kikk.K Stationery. I write every single thing I buy and let's just say that you're much more aware of what's going out of your pocket. Furthermore, it asks for a set budget every month so it really helps to try and abide by it.

4. Student Discounts + Travel cards = Lifesavers!

Thankfully, the UK offers a variety of companies where they offer special student cards promising discounts from LOADS of different shops/restaurants/etc. I'm currently using UNiDAYS, which can also be found over at the App Store and it's super easy (and free) to sign up! Some shops I get discounts from are Paperchase and online shop Missguided. Another popular one is the NUS Extra Card from the National Union of Students. Plans start from just £12 for a 1 year membership up to £32 for 3 years of insane discounts! This can save you THOUSANDS. I'm not even putting it mildly. If you don't want to get one of these plans, you can always keep your eye out on any sign marketing student discounts on shop doors, so carrying around your student card is essential on your shopping days. Some stores also hold special discounts for a limited time, so keep your eyes peeled!

Also if you're a student living in London, make sure you sign up for an Oyster student photocard. You can get an 18+ one or a 16+. It saves you around 30% from adult season tickets. This means that pay as you go is still the same amount. So if you don't travel via tube very often pay as you go is actually cheaper. I usually top up my card for weekly travel if I will be using it on 4+ days in one week.

5. Non-Student Discounts

If you're not a student, it's not the end of the world! Vouchercloud is possibly the best thing to happen to your bank account. Just download the app or visit their website for a free sign up. If you've got the app it gives you various notifications on new discounts. Best part? It's also available in other countries, so go on!

6. STOCK UP! (Especially if it's on offer!)

I think I had fear in the back of my mind when I was still in Malta that I'm going to be so poor that I won't afford food. The reason I assume so is because the first thing I do when I get my pay is buy food. LOTS of food. So much food that sometimes I struggle to find space to put it away. I don't do this every month, because usually I have enough food still. I obviously buy daily or weekly necessities such as milk, ham, bread and fruit; but it saves me the struggle of using that food money on other things during the month leaving me with not enough money to buy food. This way, if I do run out of money, I at least am able to feed myself. Moreover, most of the time when I go grocery shopping (lately I'm doing that online) I go round every aisle as at times things I usually go for are on offer so I buy two of that item because it won't be that cheap next time! This also applies for places like drugstores. 25% off my shampoo and conditioner range? Two of each, please!

7. Food Markets are your new bestfriend!

First thing you should do when you move is find out if there is a food market close to you. Thankfully there is one just a mere 10 minute walk from my flat. I go there roughly every week so I can buy fresh fruit at an INCREDIBLY cheap price. And it IS fresh. Fruit and veg you find at supermarkets? Yeah, not as fresh and tasty as the ones at the food market. A big full bowl of fruit or veg costs £1 and lasts. It's beautiful. Also, I found an affordable butcher selling fresh meat. I didn't like the chicken and meats found at supermarkets. I had a bad experience with them actually and also almost £3 for 250g chicken breast? No thanks, not when I can buy 1kg of FRESH chicken breast for £4.99 from an actual butcher.

8. Loyalty cards. End of.

I feel funny saying this, but they work miracles. I once didn't have enough money to buy painkillers, but instead I used my loyalty card points at Boots. No kidding, I've got so many advantage and loyalty cards from so many different points. Some stores offer few points for every transactions, others are more worth it. Boots also has an app which helps you track your points and always offer special points bonuses and offers so it's good to check this out before a shopping trip. Restaurants have it as well such as Nando's. You get free food with every 3 points acquired, the higher the points the more food you get. I once got a free chicken butterfly and it was never so tasty. Also Starbucks Membership is just amazing.

9. Know where to go!

I think this is rather simple and don't need to sign up anywhere. Maybe a Google search would help, though. Make sure you know which restaurants offer the most affordable prices (ex. Wetherspoons, obviously!). Sometimes they could be hidden above a train station. Victoria station has some great ones, including a £7 buffet. Just because you're a student doesn't mean you shouldn't treat yourself every once in a while, and if you can still save when you do, it's even better! Also... Poundland is worth all your time.

10. Know HOW to get there

London travel works around zones and there are at different costs. It's the zone that counts, not the distance. I live in Zone 2, but it still costs me £1.50 to cross London to travel to another location in Zone 2 via the tube. Also if you're travelling via overground to the borders of London, try and avoid leaving from Zone 1, as it does cost more. It's more cost effective if you leave from other zones such as 2 or 3. So know where the nearest national rail and overground stations are. Midlands and Southern trains still give you the opportunity to travel via oyster card, just make sure (and this is VITAL) to tap your oyster card on the cute pink interchange stand as otherwise you have to pay the full capped amount - and we don't want that now, do we?

That's all from me. That's basically how I make my way around. Lots of calculations, planning, loyalty cards and being wise. You soon learn what's worth the value and what's not. I hope this has helped someone. Feel free to share your own tips and tricks.
Below are some pictures from my eighth month in London.

Maria x
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WHAT HAPPENED IN MONTH 8: Cute dog at the park, launched my FB page,
healthy breakfast, cheeky Starbucks, beautiful weather, fruit at £1

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