The Penny Letters: "I would be the only one who didn't want to split the bill evenly"

Updated: Mar 14

Age: 28

What industry do you work in? Student

What city do you work in? Swansea

What is your experience about? Being a student

What do you study? Medicine

Do you live in halls or at home? In a rented flat with my partner

Tell us your story: One of the biggest struggles I have had since returning to education after 4 years of working is adjusting to having a different level of income to my friends. Last year I calculated a weekly budget, but I hadn't accounted for the fact that there would be weeks where I would spend more than others. I would be taking a trip back home to see friends with the same amount of spending money as I would have during an exam week where my only expenses were coffee. During the weekends with friends I would be anxiously watching what I spent, and navigating awkward situations where I would be the only person who didn't want to split the bill evenly. Sometimes I would just think ""fuck it"" and then spend more than I had planned for and deal with the guilt on a Sunday evening. My goal this year was to find a better balance between enjoying myself, feeling less money anxiety but also being financially responsible.

At the start of the year I made a list of all of the fun plans I have coming up this year; friends's weddings, hen parties, buying birthday presents etc. I then estimated roughly how much each occasion would cost (including travel, food, drink). The total added up to a little over £1000. My initial reaction was that I would have say no to some of the events, or agree not to do birthday presents with my partner. However, when I broke this down week by week across the academic year, I realised I would need to save about £25 per week.

I then set up a Monzo pot that I now transfer £25 into every week. That leaves me with about £30 to spend on food / social / anything else. It's not a lot, but when I am tempted to spend more than I can afford I remember that my Monzo pot is slowly building up, allowing me to afford the things I really care about. Taking the time to consider a budget for each event has meant that when I am there I can relax, be present and enjoy myself. To me this is worth the sacrifice of mid-week meals out or online shopping that I would have mindlessly spent my money on.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to a student who was struggling with their money or someone who is about to become a student?

Here is a list of things that have helped me:

  • Bring a packed lunch every day, but prepare something that you will look forward to eating. I usually roast a load of vegetables on a Sunday, then have this each day with hummus and falafel. I'll also bring nuts, fruit and chocolate to uni.

  • Make a list of all your essential spends (rent, food etc) , your high priority spends (gym, books etc) and events/holidays/social stuff throughout the year. Calculate the total costs. If your costs are more than your income then you'll need to re-prioritise, or find a way of earning extra. In my first draft, I initially planned to have my hair dyed every 8 weeks at the hairdressers, I have now switched to a box dye as I couldn't make the numbers work

  • If you have an unplanned splurge, don't bury your head in the sand. As soon as possible, look at your bank statement, work out how much you have overspent and then adjust your budget accordingly!

Written by You