Sunday, October 26, 2008

Of living on a student budget

Toothpaste For Dinner
Image courtesy

It's a hard life, being an international student. Cheesy but true. And if one didn't expect that to be so, the person doesn't deserve to be an international student in the first place.

After eight years of financial independence, my student life has been quite an eye-opener. All of a sudden, I find myself wondering about the cost of each meal. I hunt fervently for the local brands at super markets and am practically married to the 'reduced for clearance' aisle.

My homepage is . In our halls, we often have long and drawn out debates on how far we stretched the pound. Any one item that costs more than a buck is taboo. Social dos are practically non-existent.

If food is free, then it's got to be me! We have free dinners occassionally for some get-togethers sponsored by the university and those are the only sessions where people in come early. If an outsider saw the scramble for food, he would think it was a soup shelter rather than students at a top business school. Thankfully, the events are mostly attended by alumni who've been there before so they just look the other way.

This one year is somewhat of a penance for me; it demands extreme discipline and self-control. It hurts to see pretty things that I cannot buy. While I scrimp for penny savings, I know why and hopefully until when. Being on a student loan and eating into my family's savings makes me extremely guilty while spending on what I don't really need.

Some other students feel the opposite. A classmate spends close to 50 GBP every week on food (I spend 5-6). She lives in a separately rented flat ( finds it too hard to share bathrooms in a uni accommodation) and uses her mobile phone to make calls that are normally free from public telephones. There is another guy who will eat nothing but his native food and will spend anything to get it. And the best of all is the one who openly proclaims that his own company has a chartered jet (we all doubt it - the so-called company has no website).

I watched this video today that talked about how international students in Sydney are so hard up that they are 40% below the poverty line. It is ironic that people who are in pursuit of skills that help them to contribute to the wellbeing of society have to live in such pitiful situations; they are more worried about paying the bills than they are about studying. So much so that the university is giving the really poor ones free food.

Personally, I think money management is all about being savvy. It is possible to live on a spartan budget if one knows where to look. Most stores have food or other FMCGs on sale all the time. It might take extra effort to compare prices and find the best deal, but as the local supermarket chain so aptly says 'every little helps'.

In my penny budget, here's what an average day's meal costs.
Cereal : 10p
Milk : 10p

Pasta : 4p
Sauce, veggies, spices : 20p
Chocolate Mousse (1 small tub) : 7p
Coffee : 10p

Noodles/Baked beans/toast with peanut butter : 20p
Fruit: 15p

Overall: 94p.
(All these foods are perfectly yummy, healthy, unspoilt, of good quality and nowhere close to the expiry date.)

The official definition of poverty line is 'an expense of less than 1 GBP a day on food'. Whoever created that definition doesn't know squat about how far a pound can go.


Lost in trance... said...

unbelievable! wat abt beer?

Anonymous said...

All alcohol (beer included) is over a pound. Sometimes the local brands are on sale for 79p or so. The guys buy the whole carton of some 20 bottles, then it works out a little cheaper.