Saturday, 14 May 2011

Beating the budget blues

This isn't really anything I've made. It's more something I'm forcing myself to do. When my student loan came at the start of the month (WOOO!) I knew that this time I was going to have to be better with my money. As young people go, I think I'm pretty good with my money. I don't spend it on lots of nights out, I don't buy a lot of new clothes, I cook for myself instead of eating out etc, but I need to be better with it. Why? This year I got a huge financial leg up from the Wondrous Bank of Mum and Dad. Because they'd done the same for my brother, they offered to pay my rent for the first academic year of university.

Well now it's nearly the end of that first year (EEEK) and I'm looking for somewhere else to live in the city. Got a roomate lined up, need to get a flat sorted. And then it dawned on me. I haven't been bad with my money, but I haven't been great either. I needed to make a budget.

So I drew this up:

  • £20 a week for food and drink
  • £15 a week for travel
  • £15 a week for fun
Giving myself a £50 a week budget for the last 7 weeks of term, totalling £350, leaving myself a good chunk left over from my student loan to help me afford rent while I get myself employed.

I let myself go over budget in the first week and then overspent on travel this week (I had to travel to the suburbs for a job interview) leaving me with 80p for the entire weekend. Yes, 80p.

For those of you not in the UK, here is what, approximately, 80p will buy you in London:
  • 4 copies of a rag newspaper
  • 1 button from a fabric shop
  • 2 apples (if you're lucky enough to find a shop that sells apples for 40p rather than 45)
  • a copy of Take a Break or equivalent awful magazine
  • 4 missiles in the spaceship game in the Namco Arcade
  • 8 chances on the 10p falls in the arcade of your choice
  • a small chocolate bar
  • 2 Mini Milk ice lollies
I decided to stay in today, do laundry (praying there was still money on my card) and sulk. I ended up handwashing a load of underwear because I needed to do 2 loads of laundry and only had enough on my card for one.

And then I started reading something that stopped me sulking.

Down and Out in Paris and London is Orwell's account of his life in the slums in the late 20s/early 30s. It didn't sound like a hoot and a half. I'm only 6 chapters in, but so far dearest George has been robbed by another lodger, pawned all of his clothes except the ones he's wearing, been living off bread/margarine/booze/tobacco for about a month, hasn't washed for 3 weeks, lost his only source of income, and had to sell his overcoat to buy food.

And even George admits that he's not the poorest around by a long shot.

I think every young person who feels perpetually broke should read this book. We may not be as well off as we'd like to be, but chances are we have a roof over our head, spare change to buy food with, and a few fancy gadgets we could sell if the situation really divebombs. I'm probably not going to be particularly rich for the majority of my life; I'm getting a degree in ceramic design FFS. But hey, if having 80p to live off for the whole weekend means that next month I have a flat sorted for next year, I think I'm willing to put up with it.

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