Third Year Thrift: getting around

Apologies for missing the post last week – the first week of third year had my full attention!

 

This week I’m going to give a few tips about a cost I forgot about initially when budgeting for college – transport. I’ll start with the basics; walk, cycle, or carpool if at all possible. It’s cheaper and it’s way better for the planet.

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Every college has different placement sites, some fairly close to campus and others a fair distance away. My college has placement sites all across the northeast and even the northwest of Ireland – ranging from ten minutes down the road to almost the other side of the country – so the costs can be variable.

 

Before you buy a ticket, check out every option; buses, trains, whatever you can find. Don’t forget to look at the multi-trip tickets and go for the student prices. Students in Ireland, it’s well worth getting a student Leapcard. Students in other countries, I honestly have no idea what the good value deals are for ye, drop me a comment if you know of anything! Bus Éireann offer student discounts on top of the existing reductions as well for different months of the year (I’d imagine Irish Rail do too).

One of the most useful things that I found was asking other students who have already been to the placement site. Someone will have found a good value way of getting there or they live there and know a good company. This is where your Student’s Union or Midwifery Society come in really handy.

 

The same idea goes for getting to college; check out the options and ask around. Don’t be afraid to ask people who live in the same area as you if they’d give you a lift sometimes – giving them cash towards fuel will probably be cheaper than any bus or train ticket and you’ll be helping them out.

 

If you have any tips that I’ve forgotten or suggestions on what else I should talk about, leave a comment or send me a message!

Third Year Thrift: how to not starve

The title might be a bit on the nose, but the stereotype of students living on noodles and pizza isn’t entirely untrue. I’ve heard of students in my own college only eating once a day because they couldn’t afford anything more than that. Not eating properly or often enough will lead to a lack of energy affecting your performance academically and on placement. It’ll also make you feel like pure shit.

 

Like I said last week, planning is a solid way to saving money. I know that I’m back in Dundalk for five weeks before I head away on placement, so I’ve done my best to plan for those five weeks. Being honest about bad or counter-productive habits helps as well. I have inherited a horrible habit of over-buying food if I don’t plan out my meals, so I’m reducing my food waste now as well.

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I’m definitely not an expert in meal planning but it’s all that difficult, and you can make it flexible. I’m on a somewhat limited diet (thank you, IBS) so I try to make a couple of different meals out of the same ingredients in a week. Sometimes I have to sit with a food pyramid to make sure I’m actually getting what I need out of my meals. Once I have a plan, I’ll prep as much of the meal as I can at the start of the week so that I’m not tempted to just order takeaway. It’s so much easier to stick to the plan if all that you need to do is pick out what you need and throw it together in a pot. So I’ll chop veg on a Sunday evening, freeze half to throw into meals with something later in the week and cook two or three portions of something else with the other half. I try to bake something like banana bread or oat cookies to stop myself buying treats in the college canteen as well.

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The key for me is shopping around rather than floating around one shop (Tesco, I love Tesco so much) and grabbing things pretty much at random. I discovered a few weeks ago that my local Asian food shop does noodle packets for a euro cheaper than the other shops. €1 doesn’t seem like a huge saving until you realise you buy a lot of something. Now I keep a rough list of things I buy regularly and how much they cost in different shops, and I check shop websites for deals and discounts whenever I remember.

The biggest saver is probably that I have zero brand loyalty. None. I couldn’t care less that Andrex toilet paper is the only brand that my mam might ever have at home – I’ll be using the Lidl version because it’s cheaper until something of similar quality but lower price comes along. Dolmio sauce and Dunnes own brand tastes the exact same to me. I’m not saying buy the cheapest version – buy the best value version.

Third Year Thrift: Budgeting

Thank you so much for the suggestions on what I should cover for my #ThirdYearThrift series! Please keep them coming, I’ll keep going until everything is covered.

This week I want to start with the most basic step – budgeting. I know budgeting is done to death on posts like this, but I’m going to briefly explain a bit about how I budget for placements and course costs at the start of the academic year. I’ll write in focus on some of what I cover quickly in this post.

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When you boil it down, budgeting really only requires three things

  1. Planning ahead – which I think I’m quite good at
  2. Honesty about your spending habits, needs, and wants – which I’m not great at
  3. Prioritising – having enough food to keep myself healthy and full of energy is more important than me having a mocha from the Costa in my building in college

👉 First step is to work out your income. I split mine between regular income like my student grant, and irregular income like the spare few euro I get from doing online surveys.

 

👉 The next step is your essential spending. I divide these into categories as well

  • regular consistent spending – like rent and phone bills
  • regular varying spending – utility bills and groceries
  • predictable spending – gifts for people’s birthday and placement costs

This is where it can get difficult for healthcare students as sometimes we need to travel for placements and rent a room nearby or pay for more expensive transport. Try and organise this as far in advance as you can so you know what you need to spend. For example, for my UK placement I know that I need £75 a week for rent on top paying for my room in Dundalk. I have a sticky note with bus ticket costs to each placement area. Finding that out in mid-August means I can plan to keep money aside for that much easier than if I found out mid-September.

 

👉 Then there’s what I can “keep me sane” spending. These are things that I could probably live without but it makes me happy to spend money on them when I can afford it. For example, skincare makes me feel like I have my shit together. I have no idea why, it’s just one of those things. I splash out on Lush if I can afford it, otherwise I still to Boots own brand or another generic.

👉 Finally, I look at a saving goal. In 2016/2017 I focused on getting enough money to pay the €7,231 college fee and to use for my living costs (read all about it here if you haven’t already). The picture below is the visual I made in August 2016 to keep myself on track. Right now for me it’s all about surviving third year without letting worrying about money destroy my mental health.

 

Preparing for a new semester

It’s not long at all until I start back in college for my second year. I’ve been getting organised, in between work and seeing friends and family, and I thought I’d share my routine with you!

 

First thing I do is organise my notes from the previous semester. After exams, my notes are in a total shambles, so I have to put everything back in order before I do anything else. It’s good for refreshing my memory on what we’ve already covered as well.

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Next, I get my big binder. You can buy them new but there’s always a local office ready to throw out a pile of them so try asking around. They’re usually happy to get rid of them, you don’t have to pay for them, and in the end you’ve managed to save something from the dump which is great for the planet!

 

My college has a website which lets you browse through the modules on different courses, I think most do. I use it to look ahead and see what modules I’ll have, what kind of assessments there are for each of them, and what kind of content there is. It gives me a rough idea of what the semester will look like. If you can get chatting to someone on the course, definitely do it! Their first hand experience is really helpful.

 

This one is fairly important: find your uniform! Every little bit – fob watches, shoes, ID cards, whatever you need. Anything that can be washed, give it a wash. My uniforms sit in a bag for months when they’re not used so I like to freshen them up and make sure I have everything.

 

I also check things like my backpack and food containers for any sign of damage or wearing down. I bought a new (cheap) backpack during first year and didn’t check it but found a big tear in the top of it on a rainy day – not ideal. So throw an eye over your everyday pieces and make sure they don’t need repair or replacement.

 

Next, I get out my planner (I always buy from the Happy Planner Company). Any dates like study breaks, placement blocks, birthdays, deadlines…they all go in as soon as I can write them down. I am one of those people who can’t function without some kind of diary and I always recommend people use one whether it’s a big paper one or an app on your phone.

 

One of the last things I do is look at stationary. I make sure I have all my bits and pieces for college and for placement before  go to the shops. Usually all I have to buy is black pens and refill pads. I’m a really visual learner so I try to have a good stock of colourful pencils and markers for my notes.

 

How do you get organised?