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.

 

So I shaved my head

It’s been a while…things have changed a little bit…

All my life I’ve had super thick long red hair. And I absolutely loved it. It was my favourite part of myself. But over the years I got this kind of itch to see what it’d be like if I didn’t have it.

I always depended on my hair a little. It’s a good conversation starter – “is that your natural colour?” It’s a nice safety blanket – literally almost a blanket, it was down to my hips at one stage. I placed a lot of my value and self worth on my hair.

And then Cambodia came along. My dream coming true – at a cost. I needed a fundraising idea. I had raised money for charity before by donating my hair, why not do it again? Why not go further and shave my head after I donated the plaits? It does make sense – Cambodia is a fairly warm country and I am not a human that works well in heat.

So I started fundraising online and with sponsorship cards. Everyone had the same look of disbelief on their face when I told them what I was planning. Time kept ticking away, my hair kept growing, and (very) suddenly it was time to chop!

I was terrified in the half an hour beforehand but once I sat down in the chair and they started brushing out my hair, I was strangely at peace. Like I said to people all along, it was just hair. It grows back. It’s strands of protein hanging from my scalp. My plaits measured an amazing 18.5 inches – all of which was posted off to the Rapunzel Foundation. The team in Cortex Hair Designs Dundalk looked after me so well, I felt so supported by them. They chopped away at my hair and then buzzed at it until we got to this:

And I feel amazing. I feel so free, I feel like myself. I do keep forgetting that my hair is short and thinking I can just let my hair down to get the breeze off of my neck. I own more hats and scarves than I have in a long time. But I feel fantastic. I might never grow my hair back! And I’m closer than ever to my dream because I took a leap (or a chop) and people have been wonderfully generous in support of me.

So what do you think? Is this brilliance or weirdness? Should I keep it short or let it grow out again?

 

 

I’m leaving the link to my GoFundMe here

and the trip facebook page here where you can keep up with our preparations