'I keep a money log but still manage to overspend!'SAPPHIRE DEMIRSOZ FOR VARSITY

Welcome to Cambridge Money Diaries. In this column we ask an anonymous student to take us through a week of their expenditure; charting the trials and tribulations of saving and spending all against the backdrop of weekly essays and Wednesday Cindies. This week’s writer is a self-funding humanities master’s student. This is their first year at Cambridge – they used to attend another university with a student loan and bursary.

I admit that, without family funds, Cambridge would be out of reach

Master’s degrees are another kettle of fish financially. As a UK student, I am eligible for the government master’s loan, which is around £500 less than the cost of tuition for the year. In my college, there are some subject-specific scholarships and some partial needs-based scholarships, neither of which I receive. I am, like more students than one would think, self-funding, using family funds to see me through this period of my education. I also work during the holidays, full-time during summer.

It’s a shameful fact that if I did not have these funds a degree at Cambridge would be out of reach. In fact, any master’s degree would be a financial strain. I am lucky in that I don’t have to work during term time, as long as I keep my spending to a reasonable level.

General weekly budget aim: I aim to spend no more than £100, inclusive of college meals, groceries, entertainment and any extras.

Relationship with money: I keep a money log but still manage to overspend!

Monthly outgoings:

  • Mobile contract: £10
  • College rent: £470

Monday - £5.00

Unusually for a Monday morning, I’m staying at my girlfriend’s college, so she makes me breakfast and buys me lunch at the hall. I cycle into my department for a seminar and stay at the library to do a bit of work.

The lunch wasn’t massive, so I make myself an instant coffee and have some snacks I’d bought from home rather than getting snared by the vending machines or nearby cafes. Very proud of myself.

After a few hours of work, I go back to my room briefly then cycle to my girlfriend’s college for dinner. The only expense today was that I bought £5 of printer credit; I have an essay coming up and I’m quite a tactile reader, so I allow myself this indulgence. Sorry, The Environment.

Tuesday - £3.20

Again, I have breakfast and lunch at my girlfriend’s college before cycling to my department to do some work. I may seem like a freeloader, but we try to split our time 50/50 between each other’s colleges and last week she stayed at mine a lot.

I’m a bit stressed today as coursework, reading and job applications are all hanging over me. Instead of the library, I opt for my college bar, where I get a pint of cider (£3.20) before going back at mine and cooking dinner with ingredients I bought on Saturday.

Wednesday - £22.74

'Fuelled by cider and pad thai, I resolved to be more structured with my time'twitter/moderndadpages

Fuelled by cider and pad Thai, last night I had resolved to be far more structured with my time, so this morning I set out for breakfast at the college, rather than making it in my gyp. Since my girlfriend (with whom I tend to have lunch) will be in a seminar at lunch time and I’ll be tempted to go back to my room, I get us both a packed lunch – sandwich, crisps, fruit. All that’s missing from the classic primary school lunch is a Fruit Shoot. The hall is reasonably priced so a big breakfast and lunch for the two of us comes to £11.21.

I have lunch with a friend and then go to the gym as it will be quieter than in the evening. I cycle back to my college for dinner in the hall. Of course, dessert is needed to replace the calories I’d burnt exercising, so the total for dinner for the two of us is £11.53.

Thursday - £9.45

I’d prepped some overnight oats, so have them in the morning with bananas, orange juice and coffee. Not feeling caffeinated enough, I go to Iris Café to do some work and/or get distracted on my laptop. A black coffee (in a reusable cup) comes to £1.30.

After doing some work, I head back to my college for lunch; I’ve learnt how to get the most for my money, so I opt for an ample cooked lunch that comes in at £4.15.

Later in the day, I get some more work done and have a job interview. As a reward, I head back to Iris and get myself a coffee and cake (£4). I call my mother and do a bit of reading.

It was too late for dinner at my girlfriend’s college, so I re-heat some curry I’d pre-made.

Maybe I am a bit of a freeloader, after all

Friday - £43.80

Breakfast and lunch at my girlfriend’s college, again. Then to a friend’s college to work on a project. She buys me a coffee (maybe I am a bit of a freeloader, after all).

It’s the night of a formal back at my college (for which I have paid £39) so I go back via the library. The formal is lovely; they provide prosecco but that seems a bit heavy; I opt for cider instead and end up drinking a pint and a half over the course of the night, coming in at £4.80.

Saturday - £7.44

The morning after the formal, we go for a carb-heavy brunch at my college (£7.44) and then head off in our separate directions while I get on with work and she heads back to her college.

I stay in the library for too long, fuelling myself with snacks and black coffee (what else?) and then head to hers for dinner.

Sunday - gained £35

My fridge is a sore sight

Breakfast and Sunday lunch at the girlfriend’s college. Then I work the library until I get kicked out, then to the gym and back to mine for the night.

My fridge is a sore sight. It occurs to me that I haven’t been grocery shopping for over a week; between the soft vegetables and slightly rancid curry, I manage to cobble together something vaguely nutritious.

Nothing was spent today; in fact, I’ve sold a bag on Facebook Marketplace, which I will post next week. I don’t use this bag anymore, so being able to get £35 is a result I’m happy with.

Total weekly spend: £91.63, or £56.63 with money made

Looking back at this has made me think that perhaps I should be planning ahead more; eating at the college all day isn’t sustainable, so perhaps I should prepare lunches and cook dinner at home. My spending this week wasn’t too bad, but it can become extravagant when I get into the habit of eating out all the time, like on Wednesday.


Mountain View

Cambridge Money Diaries: Part One

I don’t mind spending money on the basics, but due to my financial position I am often forced to reconsider extras or entertainment. Cambridge provides a solution for this in the form of hectic terms that provide very little time for going out drinking, especially compared to being an undergrad. In fact, going to see a film or a play once a month rather than every week makes it more special.

In summary, I'm actually fairly pleased! Through a combination of monk-like austerity and entrepreneurial nous, I have been able to stick well within budget, which should allow me some financial slack for enjoying myself in Easter. But first I need to restock my fridge – badly.


Mountain View

Cambridge Money Diaries: Part One

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