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.

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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?

 

 

 

 

How I stay organised in college

One of the most frequent questions I’ve gotten in the past few weeks is how I organise my notes for college. This is just my own little way of organising things, it’s what has worked for me personally. It might be totally different for you. Trying a few different things will help you figure out what works for you. This system might even change for me in second year, change again in third year..it’s all about adapting to what you need.

 

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So first thing I look at is my main folder. For now, I use one giant ring binder for each semester. Within that folder I have a few dividers to keep my notes for each module separate.

 

 

In each module section I have the module descriptor, so I can keep track of what exactly I should have done and what’s coming next. It’s especially useful for figuring out which topics I need to revise at the end of the semester. I print off almost all of my notes (I swear I do love the planet but I just can’t read off a screen), pop them in each section, and try to make one page summaries of each piece as we finish covering them in class to make revision easier.

 

As well as all these sections for each module, I keep a calendar at the very front. I buy a pack of week-to-week sheets from Flying Tiger (see the picture on the right below). Because our timetable is constantly changing it’s a much easier way for me to keep track of where I need to be. I write in the topics we cover in each class at the end of the day. I keep track of my placement hours, extracurricular activities, and study plans in these weekly charts too. I also have the full year plan at the very front, so I can look ahead to placements, exam weeks, breaks, anything.

I put together all of my assessments in one document which I keep near the front of the ring binder. It reminds me of the assignments every time I open the folder, and lets me keep track of deadlines and learning objectives.

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For my every day notes, I try to keep things as small and light as I can. It saves my back and leaves more room for snacks in my bag too. I bring one plastic envelope folder, which I aim to sort out the night before so that I can enjoy those extra few minutes in bed instead of pulling apart my ring binder looking for the right notes. In writing this post I’ve had the idea that maybe I should keep my weekly planner pages in that folder too – I’ll try it out and see if it makes any difference.

 

We only have one or two written assignments per semester, so I keep those in separate folders. I always end up printing heaps of research for assignments so I prefer to keep them out of my regular class notes. If I need to refer back to them for something it’s a little easier to pull out the right part.

 

And then I have my giant placement folder. I keep copies of my placement evaluations and learning objectives in here, as well as copies of my clinical skills book. I have a record of every day that I attended placement, the hours I worked, and the names of my preceptors, as well as the guidelines for my scope of practice for every placement. If I get any handouts or take any notes I keep them in here as well. The folder is pretty full already after just one year so I might need to take a few bits out and store them somewhere else. Remember, it’s all about adapting to changes during your course!

I’m going on an adventure!

If you follow my facebook page or my instagram you’ll know that after years and years of dreaming, I have booked to go on an elective midwifery placement in Cambodia for six weeks in the summer of 2019.

 

I’ve been dreaming about this for as long as I’ve been dreaming about midwifery. I’ve looked at multiple companies and locations. Ultimately I decided to go with Work the World. They have no age limits, a good ethical history, and were so helpful with all my questions (of which there were many) before I actually dived in and booked.

So in March, just before my second placement block, I went ahead and booked my dream. I don’t think the reality of booking it really hit me until a few days later, then I started crying and literally hopping around the place with excitement! I think my parents still don’t really believe that I’m going but there is absolutely no stopping me now! Especially as one of my loveliest classmates has booked to come along with me on this amazing journey.

 

I feel incredibly lucky to be in a position to start this adventure off. Booking alone cost €350 and with extra costs like vaccinations and flights I can easily see this tipping into €4000 by the time it’s all added up. So I’ll be doing a lot of fundraisers over the next year to earn as much as I can. I’ve already done the 2018 Women’s Mini Marathon, splitting what I raised between my fund for this trip and the Rape Crisis North East centre. I’ve set up a GoFundMe (link here) where anyone and everyone can vote on whether I should shave my flame hair or save it. And I’m hoping to make use of my self care hobby – cross stitch!

Cross stitch was something I detested in Junior Cert Home Ec, but I’ve learned to love it. It’s methodical, it’s routine, it’s hard to make a mistake. And it’s not an expensive or messy hobby, which is a bonus. A few girls in my class have asked me to make similar pieces for them so the little bit of extra money I make from them goes straight into my adventure savings!

 

I’ll keep updating as things develop but for the short and sweet versions make sure to follow our facebook page here